Courtesy: Shout! Factory
Bea Arthur is one of the great names in television’s modern history. The famed actress starred in a number of TV shows over the course of her life. One of the most well-known of those roles (if not the most well-known) was as divorcee Dorothy Zbornak in NBC’s classic sitcom Golden Girls. While most of her fame came from playing that role, it was not her only really well-known role. Her role as the title character in CBS’ classic dramedy Maude can be argued to be the role that really made Ms. Arthur famous. That is because as her character, Maude Findlay, was such anything but the typical female lead at the time. She was a headstrong, self-assured figure who was also quite educated and witty (much like Dorothy Zbornak). She was the very antithesis of every female lead on television up to that point. It can even be argued that Maude remains today the inspiration for so many of the female leads on television today. As popular as Maude remains, it mostly faded into the annals of television history after it ended its six-season run in 1978. Though, earlier this year it was finally resurrected (and in grand fashion) with the release of Maude: The Complete Series on DVD. The box set, released by Shout! Factory was the series’ first ever full-series presentation on any platform. And this summer its release was followed up by the release of the series’ complete second season on DVD late this summer. That box set, released August 11th, is a must have for any of the series’ original audiences. It is just as important for anyone that wants to start learning about yet another of television’s most important series. The main reason for this is the series’ writing. The writing behind this series was, much like All In The Family, the series that spawned Maude, was just as hard-hitting as it was entertaining. That is very much the case here. In the same vein, the cast’s work in interpreting the episodes’ scripts is just as important to the season’s overall presentation. Last but hardly least of note in regards to this set is its companion episode guide. Once again, Shout! Factory has included a complete episode guide for viewers. The company has done so in a familiar fashion, too. It rounds out the elements that make this three-disc set worth the watch by audiences new and old alike. Each element in its own right plays its own important role in the presentation of Maude: The Complete Second Season. Altogether, they make this collection a fitting first installment of the series from Shout! Factory.
Shout! Factory’s recent release of Maude: The Complete Second Season this past August marks the first time ever that the series’ second season has ever seen the light of day on any home platform. The series’ first season has been released twice over already, first by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and then most recently by Mill Creek Entertainment. But save for that season, none of the series’ other five seasons had been released in any format until now. There is plenty for fans of the classic dramedy to enjoy and appreciate here beginning with the work of the show’s writers. While Maude was not necessarily groundbreaking in regards to its overall writing approach it was still an important series because of the fact that it was one of few shows on the air at the time that was brave enough to take on some tough issues all while providing its own share of laughs at the same time. “Florida’s Affair” is one prime example of this. This episode is especially interesting in that it was penned by a male writer—Alan J. Levitt. In this episode, Florida, Maude’s housekeeper at the time, is being pursued by a man other than her husband. While Florida keeps telling the man no, he keeps coming after her. Just as interesting here, is that Maude and Carol feel that it is okay for a woman to be attracted to a man other than her husband. What makes all of this so important (at least in the eyes of this critic) is that it could be argued that it exhibits just how progressive mindsets were at the time in regards to gender roles and stereotypes in America. It is a discussion that is just as relevant among men and women today as it was when this episode originally aired.
“Florida’s Affair” is an important example in its own right of how Maude’s writing is so important to its episodes in its second season. It is also not the only example of the importance of that element. “Maude’s Guest” is another key example of the importance of the series’ writing in the series’ second season. That is because in its own way, it directly takes on the racial tensions that were still quite alive at the time of the episode’s airing. When Maude decides to take in an African-American teen in this episode, it is obvious that it is for all of the wrong reasons. While she thinks that her heart is perhaps in the right place, her reasoning isn’t. Her own efforts reveal what could be argued to be a subconscious racist mindset within herself. It is yet another issue that is just as relevant today as it was in the 1970s. There are those people that do things such as what Maude did with the result that it maintains those very tensions that said people think they are trying to break down. Of course in the case of this episode, everything ends on a relatively happy note. And as with “Florida’s Affair” it still is not the last example of the strength of the show’s writing this season. “Phillip’s Problem,” which comes later in the season’s run, is one more example of what makes this season’s writing so important to its overall presentation.
“Phillip’s Problem” is one more example of what makes the writing in Maude’s second season so important to its presentation here. This episode centers on not one but two very serious issues that are just as important in today’s culture as they were in American society in the seventies—divorce and its effect on families, and child discipline. In both cases, the subjects are tackled with both heart and humor. It is interesting to watch as Maude and Carol debate how best to discipline Phillip, who has been acting out quite a bit lately in this episode. It turns out in the long run that his behavioral issues stem from Carol dating another man. This is a very real portrayal as many young people caught in the middle of a broken family do tend to have behavioral issues. The issues stem from not having that family bond that is common among families not split by divorce. The discipline issue is even more wide-reaching. That is because it is a much broader topic. To this day, there is still intense discussion among Americans about disciplining children and whether or not something as simple as spanking a child should be considered abuse. The manner in which both topics were presented here by itself will most assuredly keep viewers engaged. The balance of both topics throughout the course of the episode is just as impressive. The combination of both factors shows clearly why this episode is such a clear example of what makes it a key example of the show’s strong writing in its second season. Even considering this, it still cannot be said that it is the only other example of the strength and importance of the show’s writing. Any of the season’s twenty-four total episodes could be used as examples of the writers’ impressive work. That in mind, the season’s writing overall can easily be said to be among the most important elements to note in the set’s presentation. The writing is just one part of the equation, though. The work of the series’ cast in interpreting the episodes’ scripts is just as important as the scripts themselves.
The writing behind the second season of Maude is a key element in the presentation of the season’s new standalone season box set. That is thanks in large part to the topics tackled in each episode and the manner in which they were handled. It is very reminiscent of the approach taken in All in the Family, which was the very show that led to Maude’s creation. As important as the writing is to the overall presentation of Season Two, the cast’s interpretation of Season Two’s scripts proves to be just as important as the scripts themselves. From beginning to end, Bea Arthur was wonderful to watch. Her comic timing and her ability to handle the show’s more serious moments makes suspension of disbelief simple. This is just as much the case when she is set against Walter (Bill Macy). The pair’s back and forth feels so natural in every exchange. Macy is a laugh riot in his own right with his take on Walter. He is the polar opposite of Maude. He is more grounded in his personality. That set against Maude’s overly self-righteous and self-confident personality (and at times thoughtless) makes for a great dynamic. Adreienne Barbeau (Escape From New York, The Fog, Creepshow) is just as entertaining as Carol whenever she is included in an episode’s script. Again, that is thanks to the dynamic created between herself and Arthur. It shows the very real chemistry that the cast had in whole throughout the season’s run. And because they had such fun, it makes every episode just as enjoyable for audiences. It is yet one more way in which Maude: The Complete Second Season well worth the watch by audiences old and new alike. It still is not the last way in which the box set shows to be so well worth the watch. There is still one last element to note in the overall presentation of this season. That element is the set’s featured episode guide.
Both the scripts and the acting within each of Season Two’s episodes are of the utmost importance to its overall presentation in its new standalone season set. While both elements are equally important in their own right to the presentation, the episode guide included in the box set is just as important as the set’s content. The episode guide lists all twenty-four Season Two episodes. They are split between the front and back inside cover of the box. Each episode is noted in relation to its disc throughout the guide. There is also a short yet concise summary of each episode outlining each episode’s central plot. This is, by and large, nothing new for Shout! Factory. That is given. However, there are other studios that put out TV series’ box sets but refuse to include an episode guide of any sort. Those studios will remain nameless here. Getting back to the point, the fact that there are those studios that refuse to include such guides are only shooting themselves in the foot. It is a minor aspect of any box set’s presentation. But it is still an important element nonetheless. It is part of that viewing experience. Having that guide saves time for audiences as it prevents them from having to go through one disc or another, trying to remember which episode(s) is/are on which disc(s). It’s incredible to think that there are some studios out there that will omit this minor yet important element in their box set presentations. Luckily Shout! Factory has once again made a point of including it in Season Two’s box set. Because the company did, it completes the viewing experience here and shows once and for all why this box set is well worth the watch by any audience regardless of familiarity with the series.
Shout! Factory’s release of Maude: The Complete Second Season marks the first time ever that it has received its own standalone DVD season set. Yes, it was originally released as part of the show’s full series set released earlier this year. But its release this past August by itself is the first time that it has ever been released by itself. Considering this, its first release proves to be quite the success. That is thanks in large part to the work of the series’ writers. The writers mixed heart and humor in every episode to make twenty-four episodes that are well worth the watch just for that reason alone. The cast’s interpretation of the scripts adds even more reason for audiences to purchase it. The companion episode guide that is printed inside the case’s box art rounds out the set’s positives. It gives a clear listing of the set’s episodes in regards to their respective discs and includes a short but concise summary of each episode. The full, clear listing dramatically reduces the amount of time that viewers have to spend searching for episodes. And the episode summaries make choosing which episode(s) to watch all the easier. All three noted elements combined together make the viewing experience in Maude’s second season fully immersive and enjoyable for fans new and old alike. They show collectively exactly why this box set is a solid first solo release from Shout! Factory and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and once again why Shout! Factory remains today the leading name in home entertainment. Maude: The Complete Second Season is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered direct via Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/tv/comedy/maude-season-two. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:
To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.