Sony // 1979 // 646 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // November 30th, 2005
"Is there something you don't like about my cooking?"
"Yeah. eating it! Ha!"
-- Marla Gibbs and Sherman Hemsley, The Jeffersons
Everybody knows who George and Louise Jefferson are. They've "moved on up" to "the east side" and they've "finally got a piece of the pie." One of the 1970s/'80s seminal comedic sitcoms, The Jeffersons took two African-American characters out of the usual ghetto/urban setting and threw them into a high-rise building among rich white folks. Bigoted, cantankerous George Jefferson (played with sharp timing by Sherman Hemsley) is a successful dry cleaning shop owner, and his long-suffering wife, Louise "Wheezie" (the late Isabel Sanford), finds herself having to deal with George's short temper and sarcastic barbs traded with their equally witty housekeeper, Florence (Marla Gibbs). Get ready for laughs and hi-jinks with the groundbreaking The Jeffersons!
Included on this three-disc set are the following episodes:
* "The Grand Opening: Part 1"
George's plans to celebrate the opening of his new office are put on hold when two thugs who overhear him bragging about his success decide to kidnap Louise.
* "The Grand Opening: Part 2"
George scrambles to come up with Louise's ransom money. But when she walks through the front door, everybody learns that the kidnappers have the wrong gal.
* "Once A Friend"
George's excitement over seeing an old Navy pal quickly turns to shock when he discovers that his buddy has undergone a sex change.
* "George's Help"
Louise's work at the Help Center leads to a street kid getting a job with George, who blows his top when he finds out that an expensive jacket has gone missing.
* "George's Legacy"
In his quest to be immortalized, George has a bust made of himself, which immediately becomes the butt of endless jokes from family and friends.
* "Good News, Bad News"
Louise has her heart set on a new job opening at the Help Center, but ends up hurt and jealous when it is given to the more experienced Helen.
* "The Visitors"
George and Louise have their hands full when Florence's parents come to stay with them for a little visit, but end up bickering with each other the whole time.
* "The Camp-Out"
To escape a weekend visit from his mother, George takes an unplanned camping trip with Marcus, leaving Louise behind to deal with a mess.
* "The Last Leaf"
Louise gets superstitious after losing her lucky wedding corsage, causing George to do everything he can to convince her that their marriage isn't cursed.
* "Louise's New Interest"
Louise is so passionate about her new work at the museum, she winds up getting invited by her handsome supervisor on a cozy archeological dig for two.
* "The Costume Party"
George tries to mix business with politics when he hatches a scheme to attract new customers by attending a costume benefit promoting interracial harmony.
* "Florence Gets Lucky"
In order to close an important business deal, George has to submit to Florence's insults because the uptight man he's negotiating with gets a big kick out of it.
* "George Needs Help"
Sick of spending such little time together, Louise pressures George to hire a general manager to help run the family business.
* "The Jefferson Curse"
Marcus tries to impress a girl he likes by telling her that he's George's son. This lie leads George and Louise to believe that real son Lionel is cheating on Jenny.
* "984 W. 124th St., Apt. 5C"
When Louise catches George secretly sending gifts to an unknown address in Harlem, she follows him and is totally surprised by what she uncovers.
* "George and Whitty"
The Jeffersons invite their landlord, Mr. Whittendale, over to persuade him to renew their lease. Their discussion is cut short when Harry drops his ant farm.
* "Lionel Gets The Business"
When Lionel finally joins the family business, George's joy quickly turns to horror as his son makes some radical changes that could send them to the poor house.
* "The Blackout"
George is mistakenly arrested along with Marcus while trying to prevent the looting of one of his stores during a blackout.
* "Florence's Union"
George agrees to let Florence's maid union meet in the apartment, but cancels after Mr. Whittendale protests. Louise and Florence plot to do it behind his back.
* "George & Jimmy"
George calls the White House to invite President Jimmy Carter to stay at his home, but comes off as sounding threatening and gets a special visit from the Secret Service.
* "Thomas H. Willis & Co."
Helen's elation over Tom's plans to launch a publishing firm turns to anger when she fights with George, only to find out he's the one co-signing Tom's loan.
* "Uncle George And Aunt Louise"
George and Louise have a little trouble on their hands when George's young misbehaving nephew, Raymond, comes to stay with them for an extended visit.
* "George & Louise In A Bind: Part 1"
George and Louise are tied up and held hostage by a burglar. As they await their uncertain fate, they reminisce (via flashbacks) about their lives together.
* "George & Louise In A Bind: Part 2"
Still held prisoner by a burglar, George and Louise continue to remember the past, recalling hilarious times with Mother Jefferson, the Bunkers and others.
* "George & Louise In A Bind: Part 3"
George and Louise keep reminiscing through their hostage ordeal. Florence frees them, and the Jeffersons discover that being tied up has brought them closer together.
* "Jenny's Thesis"
When Jenny picks street gangs as the topic of her school thesis, George and Tom secretly wind up following her all the way to Harlem just to watch over her.
Much has been written about The Jeffersons, which can be looked at as the opposite side of the Archie Bunker coin. Originally introduced on creator Norman Lear's sitcom All In The Family, George Jefferson was a chip off the old Bunker block: though he may have been a minority, George had no issue with prejudice against whites, Asians, gays, and anyone else different from him. Finally, it wasn't just the whites with angry men in their midst: African Americans now had their own racially angry character to identify with and/or loathe.
Norman Lear guessed George Jefferson -- with his obnoxious strutting and cracking insults -- would make an endearing character to center a show around. He was right, and when The Jeffersons premiered in 1975 it become a hit for NBC and lasted an entire decade (ending in 1985). Why was the show such a success? I'd like to think it's because, much like Lear's other groundbreaking hits, it dealt with social issues and taboos that had never been discussed on national TV before. But, I think the answer is much simpler: the cast of The Jeffersons was a likable group with wonderful chemistry and funny scripts.
Sherman Hemsley is George Jefferson: I can imagine no one else in the role but him. A short, plucky actor, Hemsley brought just the right amount of anger, bigotry and cuteness to Mr. Jefferson. Much like his counterpart Archie Bunker, George could have been a stereotypical jerk who oozed little but venom and hate. In the hands of The Jeffersons's writers, Geroge is a man who often learns from his mistakes and misjudgments, and we know in the end he's madly in love with his patient wife, Louise.
As Wheezie, Sanford is the perfect fit to George's grumpy demeanor: Mrs. Jefferson is often caring, kind, compassionate and loving -- i.e., all the things George seems to shy away from being (unless he's forced to own up to his shortcomings). In the middle is the maid, Florence (played with acidic zeal by 227's Marla Gibbs), the perfect sparring foil for George. Throw into this mix one of television's first interracial couples, the Jefferson's neighbors (Franklin Cover and rocker Lenny Kravitz's mother, Roxie Roker), and a befuddled doorman (Paul Benedict, whose lanky body and goofy face was made for comedy), and you've got a grade-A cast.
Now, while it may sound like I'm lavishing unbreakable praise onto The Jeffersons, the fact is that this fourth season is wildly flawed. There are laughs to be found here (one episode, where George discovers an old Navy buddy is now a woman, finds just the right tone between humorous intolerance and acceptance), but the show comes close to "jumping the shark" by including two plot lines involving kidnapping the Jeffersons (involving three of the episodes) and no less than three -- three -- separate episodes involving George and Louise reminiscing about their lives together (which means the viewer endures an hour and a half of Jeffersons retrospective). Both main actors are at the tip of their game, but the flashback episodes smack of desperation.
The ratio of good/original episodes here outweighs the bad, making for an often raucous and funny affair. If you're in the mood for some classic TV comedy, you've come to the right spot.
Each episode of The Jeffersons is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame. The good news is that this television show has never looked better! The bad news is, better isn't all that great. Though the image looks slightly clearer on DVD, The Jeffersons was never a show that was crisp and clean. That fuzzy '70s haze remains, which isn't such a bad thing since it brings back a nostalgia during each episode. The slightly muted colors and black levels are in decent shape.
The soundtrack for each episode is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono in English. Well, woo-hoo, and I say "woo-hoo" in a very sarcastic manner. Much like the video portions of this set, the soundtracks are nothing to write home about. Each is well heard with only a bit of hiss in the mix. Otherwise, these are flat, uninteresting mixes. No alternate subtitles or soundtracks are available on this set.
Extra features? Ha! You'd have more luck finding one of Mr. Jefferson's dry cleaning stores in your vicinity than getting commentaries or featurettes out of this set.
Review content copyright © 2005 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 646 Minutes
Release Year: 1979
MPAA Rating: Not Rated