"The Jeffersons" ran for -- good heavens! -- 11 seasons, from 1975-85. My memory tells me it was a funny show, but I see from my perusal of the Season 4 (1977-78) DVD set that my memory has done me a disservice. It's not funny, per se; it's more amusing, and by today's standards, quaint.
This is a very standard, live-audience sitcom, written, acted and directed very broadly. The setup lines are spoken in a way that says, "Why, here is a setup line!," and the punch lines are barked out in response.
FLORENCE: Is there something you don't like about my cooking?
Isabel Sanford, as Louise, the sandpaper-voiced wife of the Napoleon-complexed George Jefferson (Sherman Hemsley), does particularly broad work as a comedic actress, at least in this season. Every line is over-sold, over-delivered, over-done. For this she was eventually nominated for seven Emmys (every year from 1979-85).
I'll tell you who's funny, though: Marla Gibbs as Florence, the back-talking maid. (Why did the Jeffersons need a maid for their average-sized one-bedroom apartment? Discuss.) Most of my chuckles while watching Season 4 came from her, with her tart delivery and general impertinence. She, more than any of the other regulars, seems to know the material ain't exactly comedy gold and gives it the right twist to make it feel effortless and smooth. (She earned five Emmy nominations, though not for this season, either.)
Season 4 continues the show's already-established formula: hot-tempered George does something to upset Louise; they bicker; he makes fun of Florence; she returns the favor; George's ancient mother and Louise clash; and so forth. The plots are pleasant and familiar. George schemes to get the dry-cleaning contract for a costume shop in "The Costume Party"; George has a bust of himself made in "George's Legacy"; Florence's parents come to visit in "The Visitors." There are no Very Special Episodes in this season, nor any major breakthroughs in the characters' lives (except that Jefferson son Lionel finally joins the family business).
I guess there must be rabid "Jeffersons" fans out there, but for the average person -- someone who remembers the show with mild fondness and no more -- it's merely an undistinguished distraction, not something you'd sit down and devour.
All 26 episodes are here on three discs, in more or less their original form. Technically, there were 24 episodes that year, but one of them was a 90-minute "retrospective" (read: clip show) that was subsequently split into a three-parter for rerun purposes, and that's how it appears here.
VIDEO: Pretty standard full-screen '70s television presentation. It's been polished up a little, but not much.
AUDIO: It was broadcast in mono, and that's how it's reproduced here. They could have at least put the opening theme song in stereo if they'd wanted to, since it was recorded that way and has been digitized for TV theme song compilation CDs. But they didn't. I'm just sayin'.
EXTRAS: Nothin', jive turkey. Extras cost money to produce, which drives up the cost of the set, which means only the most devoted fans will buy it. And since shows like "The Jeffersons" don't really have a lot of hardcore fans, it makes financial sense to keep things cheap.
While the theme song might be the only part of the show that still sizzles in 2005, there is a certain comfortable charm about "The Jeffersons." It's not a very smart show, but it is smart-mouthed and consistent, and a friendly burst of nostalgia to boot.
So do I recommend it? That's the tricky part. It's a good enough set to have lying around, to play an episode here and there for background amusement while you're folding laundry or something. But to have it lying around, you'd have to buy it, and I don't know how much value there is in actually owning it. This is a show where catching the occasional rerun on TV Land is probably sufficient.