Writer-producer Norman Lear had a string of hugely successful and influential sitcoms during the 1970s and '80s, most notably “All in the Family,” “Sanford and Son,” “Good Times,” “The Jeffersons,” “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” “Diff’rent Strokes” and “The Facts of Life,” among others.
And then there’s “Maude,” as the theme song says. It's now available on DVD.
“Maude: The Complete Series” (Shout!/Sony/DVD, 1972-78, 19 discs, 141 episodes, two “All in the Family” episodes, featurettes; 40-page booklet). Feminist, liberal and combative Maude (Bea Arthur) is a more upscale cousin of Edith Bunker, and she initially appeared on a second-season episode of “All in the Family” as a foil for Archie. And she proved to be so popular that the pilot for her spinoff series became that season’s “All in the Family” finale, and by fall “Maude” was on the air.
The show focuses on Maude (for which Bea Arthur won an Emmy); her fourth husband Walter (Bill Macy), an appliance dealer; her divorced daughter Carol (Adrienne Barbeau) and her son; and their widowed neighbor Arthur (Conrad Bain), who eventually marries divorced Vivien (Rue McClanahan).
Though primarily a comedy, “Maude” often delved into serious topics and wasn’t afraid to go fully dramatic. Sometimes that resulted in controversy, as with the famous episode where 40-something Maude gets an abortion, but the show also took on social ills, such as alcoholism, which evolves here from social drinking. And Maude’s own liberal predilections were often challenged, especially early on by her outspoken housekeeper Florida (Esther Rolle, who eventually had her own spinoff series, “Good Times”).
“WKRP in Cincinnati: The Complete First Season” (Shout!/DVD, 1978-79, three discs, 22 episodes). This hilarious workplace sitcom set at a Cincinnati radio station populated with eccentrics was released earlier in a complete-series set, but this is the first time individual season sets (uncut and with original music) have been made available. Utah favorite Gordon Jump and Gary Sandy lead that cast, which includes Loni Anderson, Howard Hesseman and Tim Reid. (Season 2 is also available.)
“Star Trek: The Original Series: Captain Kirk’s Boldest Missions” (CBS/Paramount/DVD, 1966-68, two discs, eight episodes, featurettes). This sampler of the original “Star Trek” series features Capt. Kirk (William Shatner), Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and the rest of the crew in fan-favorite episodes, including the Hugo Award-winning “The City on the Edge of Forever,” and “Space Seed,” the episode with Ricardo Montalban that eventually led to “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.”
“Revelation: The End of Days” (History/Lionsgate/DVD, 2014, two episodes). History cable channel docudrama miniseries about a biblical apocalypse is a sort-of disaster “what if” exploration of possible end-of-days scenarios.
“Dexter: Most Shocking Episodes” (CBS/Paramount/DVD, 2006-12, three discs, 10 episodes, featurettes, episode of “Penny Dreadful”). “Dexter,” in case you are unaware, is a serial killer who kills serial killers, the subject of this popular Showtime cable series. And being Showtime, it also has the expected R-rated excesses. This sampler includes the pilot and six additional episodes.
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." He also writes at www.hicksflicks.com and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.