DVD Review: WKRP, The Jeffersons, Maude & Welcome Back, Kotter

Over the last few years Shout! Factory has been a savior of shows that have been put on DVD hiatus. Mostly this is done with a bountiful complete series boxset. There is plenty of rejoicing from fans eager to enjoy their show commercial free. However quite a few people have an issue since they’d already invested in the first few seasons on shiny discs. They rant and rave about being forced to rebuy something they already own. Luckily for them, Shout! Factory isn’t does put out the previously unreleased season sets.
Maude: The Complete Second Season brings back Bea Arthur for a show that didn’t hold back. “Walter’s Problem” is a two-parter that deals with her husband (Bill Macy) and his passion for booze. Turns out he’s become a problem drunk. The house looks like a trashed frat. He can’t exist without his first drink of the day. When Maude tries to stage an intervention, he slaps her. This sets up a very tense next episode. Will Maude be marrying Ted McGinley in the next episode? “Maude’s Facelift” starts off with Vivian (future Golden Girls star Rue McClanahan) getting a plastic surgery tweak. Everyone thinks she looks amazing now. When Maude gets the same work done, she doesn’t quite get the same notice.This leads to more tensions in the neighborhood. “Florida’s Affair” has Maude’s maid (Esther Rolle) flirting with Ron Glass (Barney Miller). But she’s married to John Amos. Soon they’d move off to Chicago to live in a housing project on Good Times after the airing of “Florida’s Goodbye.” “Maude’s Musical” gives her a chance to sing for charity. Although it’s a burlesque theme. “Maude’s Revolt” has her not enjoying Walter throwing her a birthday party. “Phillip’s Problem” debates spanking in the house. Maude wants to spare the rod, but her grandkid turns out to be a megabrat. Maude proves it was not a Donna Reed Show retread.
WKRP In Cincinnati: The Complete Third Season is penultimate fun from the TV show that made radio stations cool. There’s no changing up the dynamics this season on the staff. “The Airplane Show” blows out the budget as Les wants to compete with a rival station’s traffic helicopter. There’s a lot of footage of Les taking to the air to get scoops. “Jennifer Moves” has the station’s receptionist (Loni Anderson) buy a house in the suburbs for a calm life. The gang helps her move except the new neighbors are up to no good. Les swears the place is haunted. “Hotel Oceanview” has Dr. Joyce Brothers playing someone that isn’t Dr. Joyce Brothers. “A Mile In My Shoes” puts Herb in the jury room. In his absence, everyone shifts duties causing personality trainwrecks. “Frog Story” starts with a simple premise of Herb accidentally painting his daughter’s frog pink. Things just get weirder. “Dr. Fever and Mr. Tide” is a double-length episode worth every minute. Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman) gets an offer to host a local TV dance show. In order to stomach the gig and cash his paycheck, Johnny creates the persona of Rip Tide who is an ultimate ’70s silk and polyester disco freak. The character takes off and slowly takes over Johnny’s life. Can he survive it? “Ask Jennifer” puts her on the air as the host of helpline. She gives out good advice, but what happens when it goes wrong anyway? “Clean Up Radio Everywhere” finds the station being protested by the religious right for playing obscene songs. The episodes this season are very addictive. Make it a two for Tuesday when you hit the play button.

The Jeffersons: Season Eight is more fun from George (Sherman Hemsley)) and Weezy (Isabel Sanford) in their Manhattan apartment. “The Separation” puts family problems first when Lionel breaks up with Jenny. The parents do their best to reconcile. “My Maid, Your Maid” has Florence (Marla Gibbs) gone to her new hotel job. Can she really be replaced? The answer comes quick on “Florence Did It Different.” The new maid keeps getting corrected only to see Florence show up at the apartment. Turns out her gig at the hotel was short lived. This mimics the TV series starring Gibbs that went off the air after four episodes. “I Spy” has George suspecting that Helen is stepping out on Tom. There’s still three more seasons to go in the deluxe apartment in the sky. “Blazing Jeffersons” burns down George’s dry cleaning store in Brooklyn. Turns out it’s an electrical fire and the person hired to do the wiring was close to George. “The Strays” makes George the victim of gun violence. This is one of the more serious episodes. “Jefferson’s Greatest Hits” makes Florence look like she’s ready to become a singing superstar. But she needs to pay for recording time. Is it a scam or just the way things are done in the biz? “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh, My Helen” has Helen once more suspected of cheating on Tom. This time there’s a wild west twist to the action. The Jeffersons are still fun and there’s three more seasons of action in the deluxe apartment to come on DVD.
Welcome Back Kotter: The Final Season is a strange lesson in how to make a cultural event implode. When the show debuted three years before, the Sweathogs became immediate superstars. Gabe Kaplan’s Kotter was iconic as a inner-city school teacher. It got him to be a captain on Battle of the Network Stars. But then during the third season, the ratings started to slide. The fourth season just saw the bottom fall out so many reasons. First was John Travolta becoming a cinema superstar after the release of Saturday Night Fever and Grease. His agent was able to get him down to 8 episodes a season so he could go off and make Urban Cowboy. The other Sweathogs were getting extra old to play high schoolers. Producer James Komack fired the writing staff after the third season. Kaplan had issues with Komack and also missed episodes so it was more like “Where Is Kotter?” They even brought in a Southern Sweathog named Beauregarde “Beau” De LaBarre played by Stephen Shortridge. The guy looks like Ted McGinley. Even though she should be home with her infant twins, Julie Kotter (Marcia Strassman) ends up teaching at the school when Gabe vanishes. It truly is a strange season to watch. “The Drop-Ins” has the Sweathogs quitting school when Gabe becomes the new vice principal. They decide to get real jobs at the hospital. This is a stretch that guys who wanted to barely attend school can keep floors swept. “Don’t Come Up and See Me Sometime” has Vinnie telling his friends that they can’t turn his apartment into their new apartment. He’s got to work for a living now. “The Sweatmobile” is the guys buying a car. It looks nothing like the model car they sold a few years before. “X-Rated Education” is one of the best of the season when the guys show an adult film in the educational class. The last few episodes show a different side of Horshack. First he has a drinking problem then he ends up getting married. Komack was trying to get Arnold his own show. But it didn’t work out. After flying so high, the Sweathogs were forced out of school by a cancellation notice. Now all the individual season sets are out.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame on all four shows. All the shows were also shot on standard definition videotape so this is the best they’ll look. The audio is Dolby Digital mono for all the shows. Even though they were taped before a live studio audience, the dialogue can be clearly heard.

No bonus features.

Shout! Factory presents Maude: The Complete Second Season. Starring: Bea Arthur, Adrienne Barbeau, Conrad Bain and Rue McClanahan. Boxset Contents: 24 episodes on 3 DVDs. Released: August 11, 2015.

Shout! Factory presents WKRP In Cincinnati: The Complete Third Season. Starring: Gary Sandy, Gordon Jump, Howard Hesseman and Loni Anderson. Boxset Contents: 22 episodes on 3 DVDs. Released: July 14, 2015.

Shout! Factory presents The Jeffersons: Season Eight. Starring: Sherman Hemsley, Isabel Sanford. Boxset Contents: 25 episodes on 3 DVDs. Released: August 11, 2015.

Shout! Factory presents Welcome Back Kotter: The Final Season. Starring: Gabe Kaplan, John Travolta. Boxset Contents: 22 episodes on 4 DVDs. Released: August 18, 2015.

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