Tue, 06/09/2009

"The Norman Lear Collection" Released on DVD

Comprising the first seasons of seven of Norman Lear's classic TV series, plus such extras as the newly-discovered All in the Family pilot "Justice for All," Sony releases "The Norman Lear Collection." Among the "season ones" included in the set: All in the Family; Good Times; The Jeffersons; Maude; Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (first 25 episodes only); One Day at a Time; and Sanford & Son. There are over six hours of bonus materials, including featurettes on all the shows.

"I was a part of a giant collaboration. That's the best thing I do, collaborate...." says the now 86-year-old Lear on the brief introduction to the set ("Don't Miss This"). In the first All in the Family featurette ("Those Were the Days: The Birth of All in the Family" [TRT 27:00]) Lear discuses how he and his father were the models for Archie and Mike and outlines the making of the pilot including the casting and characterizations of the leads. In the second All in the Family featurette ("The Television Revolution Begins: All in the Family Is on the Air" [TRT 30:40]) Lear talks about how the network wanted to air the second filmed show first (worried that the pilot script was too inflammatory), plus, in new and vintage interviews, we hear from from Lear, Carroll O'Connor, and the rest of the cast on the acceptance and popularity of the show, its characters and themes. Each of the series on the set have corresponding featurettes that similarly discuss their approach to social themes— a hallmark of all of Lear's shows.

The best part about the set is to compare the two pilots and the premiere episode of All in the Family— all of which used the same script, with some changes. The most significant difference was the re-casting of Mike and Gloria, until Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers got the parts for the series premiere. PHOTO: Norman Lear (at the DVD launch party held at the Paley Center for Media) speaks to Dan Wingate, Technical Specialist at Sony Pictures Entertainment, who uncovered the lost original pilot to All in the Family.

Watch the trailer for the DVD here.

Norman Lear discusses his thoughts on what constitutes the best of television, in his Archive of American Television interview: