DVD Review: Lou Grant (The Complete First Season)

The Mary Tyler Moore Show had already proven to be a spin-off monster with Rhoda and Phyllis giving characters solo shows. So it was no surprise that after the finale of Mary that her boss would go off on his own. The gruff and lovable Lou Grant (Ed Asner) wasn’t ready to go away and wait for the reunion special. He made his way down to Los Angeles to successfully rewrite the rule of spin-offs. Lou would go running a comedic TV newsroom to calling the shots of a serious newspaper newsroom. Lou Grant: The Complete First Season proves that the character can go from laughter to outrage without losing his cool.

“Cophouse” tells how after getting laid off at Minneapolis’ WJM, Lou Grant has a hard time finding a new job. What young tv executive wants to hire an old timer who hates spunk? He finds himself returning back to the newspaper world. His old pal Charles Hume (Another World’s Mason Adams) invites him out to sunny Los Angeles to work in the gritty world of the Examiner newspaper. Charlie’s the managing editor, but he can’t outright hire Lou. He has to make publisher Margaret Jones Pynchon (The Soprano’s Nancy Marchand) think she’s really doing the hiring. Can Lou handle being the new city editor. First he has to deal with Joe Rossi (All the President’s Men’s Robert Walden) a hotshot reporter who hates to be edited. This turns into a conflict when they uncover a police scandal involving underaged girls. Rossi wants to protects his main cop sources. Can he really report or is he a public relations agent. Lou ends up in a tug of war to get the truth investigated. “Hostages” get taken when John Rubinstein ( The Car) arrives packing heat wanting a follow up article about when his brother was shot dead by a store owner. Lou has to keep his cool as his staff is being held gunpoint. Can he give into John’s demand or does the brother really deserve a second look article? “Hoax” questions if a clues being given the paper about a millionaire who vanished are really reliable. “Henhouse” has Lou in a turf war with another editor about who gets to cover a big murder case. Geoffrey Lewis (recently snubbed by the Oscar’s “In Memory segment”) plays the investigating sheriff.

“Nazi” has Billie newman uncover a scoop about a local Nazi leader that if exposed will ruin his reputation with his fellow hatemongers. Brian Dennehy (Belly of Architect) and Peter Weller (Buckaroo Banzai) are part of the racist storyline. “Judge” has Lou’s reporters investigating a judge (Tron’s Barnard Hughes). Lou finds out how much pain the man in black can dish out when he gets in trouble while watching a trial. “Psych-Out” puts Rossi in a mental ward in order to write a first person account of how patients are treated. Lou struggles with a lawyer about how the paper can investigate stories without being sued out of business. “Housewarming” has Lou get his new pals to help him move into his new home. Billie’s article on battered wives gets personal when an Examiner staffer is suspected of being rough with their spouse. “Takeover” has a slimy guy wanting to buy the newspaper. The staff fears they will have their reputations ruined. This aired before Rupert Murdoch arrived in America. “Sect” has a staffer upset when his kid joins a religious cult. Will he use the paper to rescue his kid? The season ends with a double dose of paranoia. “Spies” has the staff worried that someone in the building is feeding their stories to CIA operatives. “Poison” has a reporter killed while working on a major story about nuclear power plants. It’s never a safe life to be a real journalist.

Lou Grant does an amazing job to turn a character from comedy to drama without compromising the elements that made him a compelling actor. There are plenty of small comic moments for Lou to enjoy besides the serious tone. The new cast isn’t the old gang with fresh paint. Rossi is far from Ted Baxter. Billie isn’t a recycled version of Mary. It’s a solid new environment from Lou who no longer has to waste his time on snow school closings. The show deals with journalism issues and ethics that are still being debated today. The show is only dated in that everyone uses typewriters instead of laptops and nobody cares about clicks on lead stories. The show is an amazing transition act as Lou’s newsroom isn’t just for laughs this time around.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The series was shot on film so it has gritty feel to the newsroom. The change in lighting from the three camera sitcom helps make Lou feel more dramatic. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. You hear a lot of typing in the background.

The Lou Grant Story (26:02) is a new interview with Ed Asner about the role and going from comedy to drama in the same role. Lou gave up his dream of being a newspaper writer to become an actor after he was told that he couldn’t make a living as a reporter.

Shout! Factory presents Lou Grant: The Complete First Season. Starring: Ed Asner, Robert Walden and Nancy Marchand. Boxset Contents: 22 episodes on 5 DVDs. Released: May 24, 2016.

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