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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Maude: The Complete First Season

Posted on Thu, Mar 29, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Maude: The Complete First Season
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Rated: NOT RATED
Release Date: 2007-03-20
Cast: Beatrice Arthur, Bill Macy, Brian Morrison, Conrad Bain, Rue McClanahan
Director: John Rich
WorkNameSort: Maude: The Complete First Season
Of all the shows that Norman Lear birthed in the wake of All in the Family's revolutionary template, Maude was the most hamstrung by its success. The idea of putting a thoroughly 'liberalâ?� and 'independentâ?� woman at the center of a sitcom was interesting enough, but to make her an upper-middle-class grandmother on her fourth marriage seemed to be Lear's way of demanding that viewers not accept her as a simple post-'60s archetype. And indeed, Maude was as typical as she was unique. As often as she propounded progressive ideas ' usually in the form of arguments with her moralistic, conservative neighbor, but sometimes in more dramatic fashion, such as when she got a pre-Roe v. Wade abortion ' she showed her old-school roots. A meddling mom, a housewife who needed a maid, a limousine liberal with an unintentionally patronizing attitude toward the few blacks she encountered (her interactions with housekeeper Florida ' Esther Rolle, Good Times' Florida ' provide for the sharpest banter of the entire show), Maude was far from perfect. In this compilation of the first season's 22 episodes, Maude is seldom the hero; in fact, she's often the least sympathetic character. Though Maude would continue for five more seasons, the high bar Lear set with the first was hard to match. The compelling combination of a ideologically appealing lead character who happened to be a fully formed personality with inclinations both admirable and obnoxious eventually gave way to a more flatly drawn Maude who would occasionally wrestle with tough, made-for-TV issues. Here, though, as the Donny Hathaway'sung theme song burrows its way back into your brain, it's easy to remember how remarkable this series would seem on TV today, much less back in 1972.

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