Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Best of All in the Family with Henry Fonda

Tonight I watched TVLand's showing of the 'All in the Family' episode, 'The Best of All in the Family'. It originally aired as a one hour 'special' hosted by Henry Fonda. It was shown around Christmas 1974 during the shows fifth season. It was also the 100th episode.

I remember watching it back in 1974, but tonight was the first time I'd seen it in 36 years. It was weird to see Fonda hosting, introducing clips and making meaningless commentary about the characters and social impact of the show. Fonda seems like a hired-hand and disinterested in the whole thing. He even makes a hackneyed closing, 'I hope you enjoyed watching these clips. I know I did.' Talk about insincere. Sheesh.

I suppose CBS thought that hiring an actor with Fonda's pedigree would reinforce the notion that 'All in the Family' was an important show. But we already knew that. It would've been better to get someone who really dug the show and was enthusiastic about it.

This fifth season was 'Family's last gasp. At the beginning of the sixth season, Mike and Gloria moved next door and had a baby, which is always a bad move. Shows seem to die when there's a birth.

The show limped on for years, but I lost interest. I still watched it I suppose, but I knew they were beating a dead horse.

After the show ended, they had the horrible spin-off, 'Archie Bunker's Place', where Edith is mostly absent but still referred to. Eventually, we're told she died of a stoke. Real laugh it up stuff.

Even worse was the spin-off 'Gloria' which only lasted one season. Mike had moved to a commune and abandoned Gloria and their son, which was totally out of character for Meathead. It also had the depressing affect of destroying the whole back-story of the original show and what I think was their message: You don't pick your family (or in-laws), and even though you clash with each other, you stick it out. It was, after all, called 'All in the Family'.

I like to forget those spin-offs and episodes after Mike and Gloria moved into the Jefferson's old house. I'll stick with those earlier seasons and am still impressed by the quality of the writing and acting and I love the funky sets and general ambiance of the show.

But it was interesting to see this Henry Fonda retrospective. I was drawn to it first out of the nostalgia of seeing it again after all these years, and then fascinated by the awkwardness of the way it was presented.


Post a Comment

<< Home