Judge Patrick Naugle gets a pleasant feeling of well-being from sniffing perchloroethylene.
"Is there something you don't like about my cooking?"
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"
• "The Grand Opening: Part 2"
• "Once A Friend"
• "George's Help"
• "George's Legacy"
• "Good News, Bad News"
• "The Visitors"
• "The Camp-Out"
• "The Last Leaf"
• "Louise's New Interest"
• "The Costume Party"
• "Florence Gets Lucky"
• "George Needs Help"
• "The Jefferson Curse"
• "984 W. 124th St., Apt. 5C"
• "George and Whitty"
• "Lionel Gets The Business"
• "The Blackout"
• "Florence's Union"
• "George & Jimmy"
• "Thomas H. Willis & Co."
• "Uncle George And Aunt Louise"
• "George & Louise In A Bind: Part 1"
• "George & Louise In A Bind: Part 2"
• "George & Louise In A Bind: Part 3"
• "Jenny's Thesis"
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.
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