Thursday, July 12, 2007

"And, Then There's Maude!"

Longtime readers of mine know that The Golden Girls sitcom is one of my most favorite guilty pleasures. Next to my collection of Lil' Kim fat comments and my various quips on the Huxtable Kids' multiple hues, there's probably no pop culture reference I beat into the ground more than the show about four white women coming of (old) age in 1980s Miami.

So, imagine my surprise when I found out that Bea ("Dorothy Zbornak") Arthur's seminal '70s show Maude was finally being given the season set DVD release it long deserved.

If you've read this far, then you probably know the premise: Maude was a spin-off of All in the Family (both produced by Norman Lear) and featured Edith Bunker's liberal cousin, Maude Findlay. She originally had a role as Archie Bunker's foil and was so well-received by viewers that a spin-off (which was what "prequels" are to the entertainment industry today) was the obvious next step.

Highlights - The chemistry between Arthur's character and her husband, Walter (ably played by Bill Paxton Pullman Macy) is off the charts. I'd argue that a more authentic married couple has rarely been seen on TV. The first season is a fascinating reflection of the times as several long-standing television taboos (sharing a bed, saying the word "God", just to name two) are often referenced as part of the storyline. Along the same lines, and as trite as this will sound, there's just no way a show like this could ever be made today.

Lowlights - The "political humor" isn't nearly as prevalent as you'd think (at least in season one). Most of the themes are standard sitcom fare ("Walter's Secret" is a 30 minute misunderstanding about an affair that could've been resolved in 1/6 of the time). The Adrienne Barbeau character "Carol" serves no purpose other than wearing short skirts and boobalicious blouses, with a level of acting that might've gotten her the role of The Invisible Girl in Fantastic Four: '72!. The DVD set doesn't have even one "extra"…just the shows.

Notable Episodes - "Maude's Dilemma" is probably the most famous episode of the show's six season run. It's an edgy, borderline dark look at the subject of abortion with a comedic element that's never forced or contrived. "Maude Meets Florida" introduces the viewing public to Good Times matriarch Florida Evans, while "Florida's Problem" marks the debut of John Amos as her husband, "Henry". "Maude and the Medical Profession" is a brilliant satire on hypocrisy and the Hippocratic Oath. Finally, "Maude and the Radical" deftly balances both sides of the political debate on "Black Power".

A Lot Has Changed in 35 Years - Maude's initial reaction to the news that she's pregnant was fixing herself a double scotch and gulping it down…Walter is choking on a piece of chicken, clutching his throat and gasping for air, and his best friend (a doctor, played by "Mr. Drummond" of Diff'rent Strokes fame) gives him a piece of bread "to get the food down"…John Amos' "Henry", exasperated with his wife's desire to work outside the home, threatens to punch her in the mouth…Throughout the first season, characters often mix tranquilizers with alcohol…In the first episode, there's an extended paranoid rant on the downfall of society by the token conservative character that could've doubled as the keynote speech at the 2008 Republican convention…In the season finale, we get several (several) shots of Maude in her underwear.

Hey, Isn't That… - Ed Begley, Jr. and Tom Bosley have notable one-shot cameos. Future Golden Girl Rue McClanahan has a recurring role as Maude's best friend, Vivian. She appears two or three times and her hair color magically turns from gray to brown to six shades of blonde. There's also a pretty funny scene involving Maude's reaction to finding out that Betty White will be on that night's Johnny Carson Show.

TBG Sez - Fans of All in the Family, The Golden Girls, Norman Lear or, especially, Bea Arthur, should add this to their Netflix queue. It's obviously a little frayed and dated around the edges, but not nearly as much as you'd think. Grade: B+


Mathan said...

I can barely type because the thought, no, the reality of Aaron, a guy who watched the Ocean's 13 bootleg in his barbershop is doing a write up of Maude.

Aaron, you've got no excuse. At least my mom's from Iowa. Consider yourself on notice.

Seriously. Maude? Really?

I mean really. I may have a certain instrumental cd in my collection, but I never advertised it. But Maude? And you don't even try to cover up by saying that you're a Good Times completist.

Way to put yourself out there.

That Bootleg Guy said...


You, of all people, I thought would understand. There was no way I was passing this up.

And, if ABC ever collects the short-lived "I Married Dora" and "The Charmings" series into DVDs, I'll be reviewing those, too!

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure that Aaron's cred jumped the shark around the time that he gave Jay-Z's Black album a 6.5.

Or, when he admitted to still watching WWF. One or the other.

Tom said...

I thought it was the Baseball thing?

overton said...

OK, this has the potential to be the greatest thread in the short history of TBG. When did Aaron "jump the shark"?

It WAS a DVD, but it wasn't "Maude". Did I just read that you watched the "Living Single" DVD on your way back east?

Kim Coles, Queen Latifah, Erika Alexander and Tootie?!

Why not slice off both nuts and tell me that you own the Girlfriends Season 1 DVD, too.

(On an unrelated note, I wouldn't mind a review of either when you have some free time.)

That Bootleg Guy said...

Anon: I stand by my Black Album rating. Call it "epic, but disposable".

Tom: That would've been my guess, too.

Overton: Not only will you be getting a review of Living Single, Season 1, but that "Martin", Season 1 DVD set is sitting atop my shelf just begging to be mocked.

Mathan said...

Overton: How dare you slander Girlfriends. I proudly watch that show as I'm fan of anything related to Kelsey Grammer.

Aaron: How can I put this? Half of my understands why you'd be a fan of show, while the other half can't understand why you'd announce it to the world.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a sucker for shows that would be me kicked out the barbershop (I'll forever mourn the passing of Ed), but the difference is; I've got that whole Derek Jeter/Tiger Woods thing to fall back on.

I mean in all honestly I'd have put money on you copping the DVDs. I even pondered it when I saw the write up in Entertainment Weekly. I just never thought it'd be made public.

For the record Living Single wasn't a jump the shark moment, because it's a reminder of a time when FOX had use for Black faces in it's programs. Maude is something completely different.