DVD Review: Groundbreaking TV Pioneer Featured in ‘The Norman Lear Collection’

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CHICAGO – Sony’s “The Norman Lear Collection” is a gorgeous collectible DVD box set that will make an amazing gift for parents this upcoming Father’s Day. With 19 discs, hours of spectacular television, and never-before-seen special features, how can one complain about “The Norman Lear Collection”? Well, what if you already own 17 of the 19 discs?

HollywoodChicago.com DVD Rating: 4.0/5.0
DVD Rating: 4.0/5.0

If you don’t know the name Norman Lear, then you don’t know television. The same man produced over a dozen classic TV shows. I would be willing to bet that something Lear was involved in is playing somewhere in syndication 24/7.

How amazing is Lear’s resume? Sony chose seven series to include in “The Norman Lear Collection” and didn’t include “Diff’rent Strokes,” “The Facts of Life,” “Silver Spoons,” “Who’s the Boss?,” or “227”. (Maybe those will be in “The Norman Lear Collection 2”).

The collection starts with Lear’s early career and features the first season of “All in the Family,” “Good Times,” “The Jeffersons,” “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” “Maude,” “One Day at a Time,” and “Sanford and Son”.

The Norman Lear Collection was released on DVD on June 9th, 2009.
The Norman Lear Collection was released on DVD on June 9th, 2009.
Photo credit: Sony

The two-disc special features set - the real highlight of the piece - includes “Those Were the Days: The Birth of All in the Family,” “The Television Revolution Begins: All in the Family Is on the Air,” the first two pilots for “All in the Family,” “And Then There’s Maude: Television’s First Feminist,” “Everything But Hemorrhoids: Maude Speaks to America,” “Movin’ On Up: The Jeffersons,” “Ain’t We Lucky We Got ‘Em: Good Times,” “The Legacy of a Television Revolutionary,” “Everybody Loves a Clown: Sanford and Son,” “This Is It: The Story of One Day at a Time,” “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman: Inside the Funhouse Mirror,” “Mary Hartman: On the Verge of…,” and “Mary’s Breakdown: Part 1 & 2”.

I have to admit when I opened the package that contained “The Norman Lear Collection,” my jaw dropped a bit. I have reviewed hundreds of DVDs and this set is one of the most beautiful that I’ve ever seen. It is gorgeously packaged and can stand as a beautiful centerpiece for anyone with a serious TV on DVD collection.

But that’s the problem. Don’t you think most TV on DVD fans already have the first season of most of these shows? You would think that Sony would make the special features available to their most diehard supporters, but if people want to see this amazing new footage than they will have to buy an expensive, 19-disc set.

The special features include new interviews with Lear, Rob Reiner, Bea Arthur, Adrienne Barbeau, Rue McClanahan, Jimmie Walker, Bonnie Franklin, Mackenzie Phillips, Mary Lay Place, and Louise Lasser. The set also includes both never-before-released pilot episodes from “All in the Family” entitled “Those Were the Days” and the 1971 “lost” pilot, “And Justice For All,” which was originally turned down by ABC, only to be later picked up by CBS.

Let’s say you’re a HUGE fan of one of the best shows in the history of television, “All in the Family” and you’ve already spent a lot of money on the six seasons that have been on DVD for a few years. Should you really have to shell out the high purchase price to see the special features and unaired pilots? Of course not.

This is spectacular, ground-breaking television, but Sony should have made the special features available separately in a stand-alone release. The box set would have still been a great purchase for serious TV fans without the stink of double-dipping on the ones who have been devoted to Norman Lear for years already.

‘The Norman Lear Collection’ was released by Sony Home Video. The set was released on June 9th, 2009. It is not rated.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

Content Director

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