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Category:    Home > Reviews > TV Situation Comedy > Politics > Liberalism > Counterculture > Feminism > Maude – The Complete First Season

Maude – The Complete First Season


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: D     Episodes: A-



All In The Family was such a watershed hit that all TV could eventually do after its run and influence was regress.  However, long before that decline, the series innovated and broke ground all over the place and that was further extended by its spin-offs and imitators.  The show was a remake of a hit British series, but its spin-offs were all originals.  Of all those great shows, none ran with those innovations with more wit, energy, humor and edge than Maude.


The show was never planned in advance, but when the great stage actress Bea Arthur appeared as Edith’s formidable cousin Maude when everyone in the Bunker household becomes ill and took on Archie like no one ever expected, she was an instant hit and a show about her went into pre-production.  Now in most cases, you would get an adequate show that was predictable and a secondary extension of the original, but freed from the Situation established in the British series, the show tackled even more issues and took a bold new look at Americana that fired up the show and its great cast.


Arthur first played Maude as a bit more serious in her All In The Family debut, but in the second semi-pilot for this series on that one, she quickly expanded the character and by the beginning of the series formally in this DVD box, she was in full swing.  Playing the lovable bleeding heart liberal before extremists made it a thought-crime, Arthur’s work here is nothing short of genius in a way she never gets enough credit for.  Her instinct is incredible, comic timing stunningly flawless over and over again, ability to go from victim to aggressor on the turn of a time without fail and dialogue delivery a case study of excellence in diction and results.


Instead of being another Archie, or the anti-Archie, Maude Finley becomes one of television’s all time great women and as Mario Thomas’ Anne Marie was succeeded by Mary Tyler Moore’s Mary Richards, here was an older woman as vibrant as most of the younger women in film or TV.  The show was very groundbreaking, especially this first season, including its masterwork two-part show Maude's Dilemma where Maude and her husband Arthur (a terrific Bill Macy) go into shock that she is pregnant and contemplate abortion without all the histrionics the debate unnecessarily carries.


The classic theme song’s lyrics place her with all the suffragettes, women’s liberators and women who dared to challenge male domination but the show’s consistently brilliant teleplays backed up her credibility.  The 22 episodes of the first season are as follows:


1)     Maude's Problem (a.k.a.) Maude & The Psychiatrist  9/12/1972 (Ed Begley Jr. guest stars)

2)     Doctor, Doctor  9/19/1972

3)     Maude Meets Florida  9/26/1972

4)     Like Mother, Like Daughter  10/3/1972 (Caesar Danova guest stars)

5)     Maude & The Radical  10/10/1972

6)     The Ticket  10/17/1972 (Vincent Gardenia guest stars)

7)     Love & Marriage  10/24/1972 (Frank Aletter guest stars)

8)     Flashback  10/31/1972 (Van Johnson guest stars)

9)     Maude's Dilemma  11/14/1972 & 11/21/1972 (Robert Mandan guest stars)

10)  Maude's Reunion  11/28/1972 (Barbara Rush guest stars)

11)  The Grass Story  12/5/1972 (Frank Campanella guest stars)

12)  The Slumlord  12/19/1972

13)  The Convention  1/2/1973

14)  Walter's 50th Birthday  1/23/1973

15)  Maude & The Medical Profession  1/30/1973 (Tom Bosley guest stars)

16)  Arthur Moves In  2/6/1973

17)  Florida's Problem  2/13/1973

18)  Walter's Secret  2/27/1973

19)  Maude's Good Deed  3/6/1973

20)  The Perfect Marriage  3/13/1973

21)  Maude’s Night Out  3/20/1973



Another plus was Adrienne Barbeau as Maude’s daughter Carol, a role she did not have until the series began.  She was more like an Anne Marie or Mary Richards, yet more politically conscious like a Gloria Bunker with less emotional troubles.  There was their conservative neighbor Arthur (Conrad Bain in his best role) who was more formidable than Archie in his views and therefore more formidable to Maude.  Esther Rolle was soon added as the maid Florida Evans, who worked out so well that she eventually found herself in the great spinoff Good Times.  That leaves Rue McClanahan as Vivian, Maude’s best friend, whose name intertextually references the greatest of all TV Sitcom best gal friends Lucy and Viv from the first Lucille Ball/Vivian Vance TV shows.  This worked so good here that they hit the jackpot again on The Golden Girls with the same chemistry.


It is an exceptional, remarkable cast and thanks to the writing, directing, chemistry and courage to take on all issues, the show is arguable as important as All In The Family and is a relevant now as it was 35 years ago when it first arrived and became an instant classic and ratings smash.  Besides the personal stories, Maude’s naïve approach to serious issues is a hoot in itself, like holding a charity event at her house like a Tupperware Party for a “black militant” or when she protests a drug arrest a few decades older than the usual protester.


But that was part of the great craziness of her character and the show, which had these great highs while staying very, very grounded.  That is not an easy thing to do, but it was squarely in the tradition of female TV comedy set by Lucille Ball (who Arthur soon remade Mame with) and was a sing of changing times as well as an excellent portrait of the peak of Classical Feminism in the mainstream.  Maude proved that liberation was multi-generational and that could easily include marriage and family without restrictions and the pretense of the family-as-phony we have had since the 1980s.  The world still has not caught up to Maude, but fortunately, DVD finally has and that is why this is one of the most important TV DVD releases of the year.


The 1.33 X 1 image was recorded on 2” professional reel-to-reel analog NTSC tape and they have done a decent job of transferring the materials to DVD, except the opening credit images, which are slightly degraded for whatever reason.  This was a nicely shot show with memorable sets and a feel to it that is richer than you might first consider.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is good for its age and clean too, with the great theme song performed by the talented and late Donny Hathaway, And Then There’s Maude.  Unlike the phony Black vocal/all-white match-ups on TV starting in the 1980s, this is a natural match and not racist or excluding in the least.  Compare to dribble like Family Ties.  There are sadly no extras, but they would be highly welcome in future sets.


Even with just the episodes, this is outstanding TV that never gets boring, is always funny and smart.  Right on Maude!!!  And Then There’s Maude!!!  Right on Maude!!!



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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