The Jeffersons Season 3
Sherman Helmsley, Isabel Sanford, Marla Gibbs,
Roxie Roker, Franklin Cover, Damon Evans, Paul Benedict
3 DVDs 24 shows
Sony Home Entertainment 2005
In the beginning there was All In The Family. This great situation comedy created by Norman Lear begat Maude, the dreadful Archie Bunker’s Place, and best Black cast sitcom of the seventies and eighties: The Jeffersons. This series lasted eleven years in part because of Marla Gibbs as Florence Johnston, the Jefferson maid, but Gibbs could not survive on her own in her oft forgotten and very short lived hotel-based sitcom.
Season three of The Jeffersons is when Florence moves in permanently with George and Louise and when Lionel (played that year by Damon Evans who was not as good as Mike Evans who played the character most of the time) and Jenny get married. Although this television comedy went slowly downhill, relying more and more on formula (arguments between George and Florence that always ended up with both admitting they cared for each other), this 3 television comedy DVD, 24 episode set is the show in its full glory.
Being a Norman Lear creation, social issues are often raised, sometimes as the topic of an episode (such as The Retirement Party about mandatory retirement) or as commentary on the way things are (like the big commercial hoopla around the bicentennial) or should not be (as in the episode titles The Lie Detector where Lionel refuses a great job because he is asked to take a lie detector: “They are renting my services, it doesn’t mean they own me or my thoughts.”)
Of course, this show was very funny in part because of running gags like George (Sherman Helmsley) slamming the door in Bentley’s face, Florence always winning bets with Jefferson, Ralph the doorman always having a hand out, the conflict between Louise (Isabel Sanford) and her mother-in-law (Zara Cully), and the conflicts between the Willises -still the only obviously interracial couple on TV-and, of course, George. Other common jokes were chase scenes where someone always ended up flying across the living room couch. British humor also made an appearance or two with the excellent Paul Benedict as neighbor Bentley
The writing on this fun television show was very much above average most of the time. This, of course, would not have meant much if the actors, and even the supporting actors, could not live up to the scripts. Fortunately, the cast of The Jeffersons was excellent.
Particularly good in The Jeffersons Season Three are Louise Suspects -a story based on misunderstanding (and a formula killed and then cremated, buried, and frozen by Three’s Company)–, George’s Diploma (George decides to get his high school equivalency diploma), The Christmas Wedding (a most original television series wedding), Louise vs. Jenny (where Louise realizes she is becoming Mother Jefferson), and The Marriage Counselors (which proves the old adage if it ain’t broke don’t fix it but has a great fight scene between George and Louise)
Life being what it is, not all twenty-four shows on this well-done, well-packaged, and perfect picture and sound quality three television comedy DVD set, are memorable episodes: George’s Guilt, about a reunion of old friends from the hood, Tom the Hero, about Tom saving George’s life, and Bentley’s Problem, where Bentley ends up in jail (although this episode is worth watching just to see Paul Benedict sing “Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen.) do not live up to series standards. This is perhaps the disadvantage of television comedy DVD sets: you can immediately compare episodes.
There is no doubt, however, that The Jeffersons Season Three is a great DVD set that fans of Black or Urban comedy and good television period will enjoy. This sitcom was filmed (a Norman Lear decision and general policy) and not taped so you know the episodes survived the years well and they appear flawless on this set.
Unfortunately, aside from a couple of previews for other Sony Home Entertainment releases, there are no extra features on this 3 DVD set.
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