Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > TV Situation Comedy > Political > The Jeffersons – The Complete Fifth Season

The Jeffersons – The Complete Fifth Season


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C-     Episodes: B+



Except for a few rare exceptions, the TV situation comedy on U.S. television died by the mid-1980s and it has not recovered since, no matter what airheaded, self-absorbed, idiotic hits managed to take.  At one time, when U.S. TV grew-up, the sitcom became smart, sharp, clever, funnier than ever and even brilliant.


Spearheading this movement was Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin when they launched All In The Family, a series ABC turned down and CBS barely picked up.  A huge hit, it led to several spin-offs and none were more critically or commercially successful than The Jeffersons.  To date, it is still the most successful spin-off of all time and overall one of the hugest TV hits ever.


For the 1978 -1979 season, The Complete Fifth Season, the show was on a creative roll and continued to come up with some of the strongest teleplays TV ever saw.  With Zara Cully’s Mother Jefferson gone, Mike Evans’ original Lionel Jefferson “elsewhere” and Marla Gibbs’ Florence Johnston a permanent live-in maid, the show had not lost anyone that left a noticeable hole in the show like so many contract disputes had caused in other shows.  This is also the sole season in which Jay Hammer took over as Allan Willis, the white son of The Willises (The late, great Roxie Roker as black mother Helen and recently deceased Franklin Cover as white father Tom) who has devoted his life to a commune, but has returned to take care of family matters.


This spin-off was created by the power trio of Don Nichol, Michael Ross and Bernard West, who had worked on All In The Family, then moved on to this series, Three’s Company, The Ropers and even had their names on Good Times, Chico & The Man and the little-seen The Dumplings.  Their sensibilities transformed TV sitcoms with through work of Lear and a handful of ambitious talents (Danny Arnold on Barney Miller, David Susskind, Bob Carroll Jr. & Madeline Davis on Alice, Paul Junger Witt, Tony Thomas & Susan Harris on Soap) remains a peak of TV comedy with the deepest heart, soul and conscious.


Several dangerous dichotomy that have developed since, such as liberal bad/conservative good, comedy and drama don’t mix, entertainment and anything about anyone or social relevance do not mix and other big lies that have ruined the sitcom.  There is also the argument that certain ideas (read liberal) peaked and only lasted briefly in any form of popularity.   The Jeffersons proves all that wrong through its endurance and the fact that it’s season-by-season DVD releases have sold so well that they are up to this fifth set.


The show slowly portrayed the growth of bigoted George (Sherman Hemsley) and tolerant Louise Jefferson (the late Isabel Sanford) from their salad days left behind as a major component of All In The Family to their transition to increased wealth, prosperity and the conflict between making it and not selling out.  No show addressed the American Dream so boldly and it became more potent since the African American characters were less likely to hold back about the issues of the day than potentially in-denial White America.  Besides the as-relevant-as-ever Allan Willis storyline, there is the issue of Louise and Helen running The Help Center which in itself would today be idiotically labeled as socialism or something equally stupid in the reactionary vernacular, mental illness and its stigma surface when George’s ventriloquist accountant (complete with wooden dummy) turns out to have needed help in the past or when Florence’s pretending to be other women to interest a man she likes goes haywire when he is a mental health expert and George is the only one who could foil a corporate takeover of a city block in a story more relevant than ever.


At the same time, those shows were hilarious and others went for outright comedy, including the first Billy Dee Williams appearance, Louise’s painting class shocks everyone with their subjects, George dreams of the future without him, Louise is about to win an award for her Help Center work until George ruins it, George has impotence problems, Louise’s sister Maxine returns, George gets Disco fever, Florence Finds Mr. Right but he’s is all wrong, Tom lands up with a bombshell on a business trip that could ruin his marriage and an outrage in the building has the Jefferson Apartment hosting everyone else since it is the only one with heat.


There are a few more, but even those are more than entire hit series seem to generate these days.  Then there is the classic Gospel-styled theme song that spoke volumes about the show and the one kind of progress that cannot be denied: personal and financial success.  The font for the opening credits are synonymous with the show in a way very rare for TV of any kind, in  a way only The Avengers and The Mary Tyler Moore Show could boast.  But most of all, there is one of the best casts in TV history, with unbelievable chemistry, comic timing, pure talent and rapport that has never been surpassed and rarely equaled.


Recently, the show has come under attack for being stereotypical in some strange revisionist history partly coming from the Politically Correct Left.  Even director Spike Lee bashes the show in interpretations of the show that are nothing short of bizarre.  Attacking the show outright instead of appreciating what it achieved, including an ideologically Left viewpoint that was so wildly popular, that the show’s success was being purposely ignored in the early 1980s is a mistake.  After the disaster that followed Hurricane Katrina, does he now realize the trashing of such progress of any kind only makes such nightmares more possible?  The Jeffersons greatest strength was foiling conventions of the sitcom, expectations, predictability, melodrama and confines of the half-hour TV form itself.  It painted human nature vividly, tinged with the better things people secretly always want in their lives and defined the idea of “family” more honestly than any ignorant, sorry propaganda that has surfaced since in the 1980s to date.  It is an all-time TV classic and will remain so permanently, even if TV ever catches up with it again.


The 1.33 x 1 image looks very good from the original two-inch analog NTSC master tapes, with good color and detail for their age.  Once again, as we have seen from some variety shows of the time, there is more picture quality to get out of such tapes than many would think.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is also clean and clear for its age, with the combination making these often seen shows very rewatchable all over again.  It is also comparable to Warner’s single DVD release of a show CBS always scheduled with this one, Alice.  The DigiPak foldout has a brief episode guide page inside and booklet about other Sony TV on DVD.  Hope we get more extras next time.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com