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Archie Bunker's Place - The Complete First Season
I've spent the last 20-some minutes trying to get the exact reason that All in the Family turned into Archie Bunker's Place between the 1978 and 1979 TV seasons, and I've been able to come up with a few good theories:
1. Carroll O'Connor, the hilarious character actor who protrayed Archie Bunker, wanted even more screen time than he was getting in years prior. (All in the Family was a true ensemble, and it seems that Mr. O'Connor was trying to star in a one-man show.)
2. Jean Stapleton, the always-adorable actress who played Edith Bunker, had grown tired of the series and wanted to head back to the stage.
3. Sally Struthers and Rob Reiner, who played daughter Gloria and "meathead" son-in-law Mike, had other assignments on the horizon.
4. Series creator Norman Lear quit the show.
Oh sure, there's still plenty of rascally old Archie, that adorably clueless bigot who always seems to learn a few lessons every week ... but never seems to remember them in subsequent episodes. Indeed Archie Bunker's Place represents a much kinder and gentler rendition of the classic character. Perhaps in an effort to smooth Archie's rough edges and give O'Connor a chance to show off his acting range, Bunker's become kind of a softie in his old age.
The changes between All in the Family and Archie Bunker's Place are mostly surface-level, but I'd be willing to wager that a whole new writing team showed up during the switch-over, too. The setting is Bunker's bar/restaurannt, an establishment shared between Archie and Murray. Yep, Archie's business partner is a Jewish guy, as played by Martin Balsam. Needless to say, Murray's religion is often mined as comedy material; not in a nasty way, but in a pretty obvious one.
Quietly supporting O'Connor's vehicle is little Danielle Brisbois as niece Stephanie, a few colorful barfly guys who exist only for Bunker's amusement, and a (too) few guest appearances by Stapleton, Struthers, and Reiner, who stop for a "very special" episode and to snag a quick paycheck.
It's pretty clear that a lot of air went out of the Archie Bunker balloon once All in the Family morphed into Archie Bunker's Place, but the second series still feels like a passable enough time-waster. Personally I'd purchase any of the All in the Family DVDs over this one, but if you're a diehard Bunker backer and you already have the Family collections, you're certainly enough of a fan to dig what Archie Bunker's Place has to offer. It doesn't have the magic of the original series, but it's not a terrible spinoff sequel.
1. Archie's New Partner (Part 1) -- As Archie is working on what he wants most, to add a restaurant to his bar, he gets what he wants least - a new partner, in the first of a two-part story.
2. Archie's New Partner (Part 2) -- Disregarding a warning from Levy the lawyer about Archie's outspoken opinions, Murray takes over Harry's half-interest in the bar, as an outraged Archie does his best to stop the deal.
3. Edith Gets Hired -- Edith wants to get a job and Murray convinces her she can do it, but Archie's first, last, and final word to the idea is NO!
5. Edith vs. the Energy Crisis -- Edith's frantic scurrying does little to satisfy a howling Archie, who is sick over the energy crisis.
6. Bosom Partners -- Archie's questionable bookkeeping practices get him into serious trouble with the State Tax Department, but all he can think about is how to get rid of partner Murray.
7. Building the Restaurant -- Archie finally begins work on the restaurant addition to his bar, only to have construction halted by a shortage of building materials - especially money.
8. The Cook -- Archie and Murrayare hours away from the grand opening of the restaurant and they still don't have a cook. Anne Meara joins the cast.
9. Murray and the Liquor Board -- An event in Murray's hidden past throws his application for a liquor license into jeopardy.
10. Thanksgiving Reunion (Part 1) -- Mike, Glorie and grandson Joey show up on Archie's doorstep for Thanksgiving ... then he discovers why, in the first episode of a special two-part story. Sally Struthers and Rob Reiner make special guest appearances.
11. Thanksgiving Reunion (Part 2) -- The family reunion brings fond memories that only serve to ignite Archie's temper, spark Gloria's tears and try Edith's patience.
12. Barney & the Hooker -- Murray turns a deaf ear to Archie's objections and gives "working girl" Dottie a chance at a more honorable profession, only to have good cause for second thoughts.
13. Man of the Year -- Archie goes all out when he learns he's been named his high school graduating class "man of the year," but the price of glory may be more than the honor's worth.
14. The Shabbat Dinner -- A Shabbat dinner for Stephanie seems headed for disaster when Edith invites both Murray's mother and his girlfriend.
15. Barney's Lawsuit -- Barney falls off his lucky barstool right into a possible damage suit against his buddies Archie and Murray.
16. Blanche and Murray -- There's a new love in Murray's lifeand it's driving Barney crazy - she's his ex-wife. Estelle Parsons guest stars as Barney's ex, who drops in to collect some overdue alimony.
17. Murray's Daughter -- When Murray's married daughter arrives at the bar, Archie is shocked by Murray's reaction to her visit. Martan Balsam's real-life daugher, Talia, plays his character's daughter in this episode.
18. The Ambush -- Armed with a gun and a baseball bat, Archie and Murray keep an all-night vigil to protect their property from the Saturday Night Bandit.
19. The Return of Sammy -- None of Archie's pals can believe it when Sammy Davis Jr. accepts Archie's invitation to visit the bar.
20. Archie Fixes Up Fred -- A spiteful customer's remarks about Fred the waiter prompts Archie to take drastic steps to "straighten" out the young man.
21. Father and Daughter Night -- Stephanie wants to enter the school "Father and Daughter Night" competition, but when Archie refuses, Stephanie is thrilled to have Murray accompany her on the piano as she sings.
22. Van Ranseleer's Operation -- Archie, Murray and the gang think they've found a cure for Mr. Van Ranseleer's blindness and spearhead a drive to raise money to finance the operation.
Video: The episodes are presented in their original full frame format. Picture quality's pretty fine for a 20-some-year-old sitcom.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2-channel Mono audio. Sounds a little flat and tinny, but certainly listenable enough.
Imagine if Married with Children had yielded an spinoff called Al Bundy's Shoe Emporium, and you get the basic idea here. The main character (and the actor inhabiting the role) is funny enough to warrant a few looks, but there's not much here that warrants a second visit.