George and Weezy finally get their own deee-luxe DVD box set that was long overdue. Shout Factory's The Jeffersons box set collects all 253 episodes (across a staggering 33 discs) that were broadcast from 1975-85.
The Jeffersons was a pioneering sitcom for featuring an all-black family. George and Louise (Weezy) were characters spun off from All In The Family, leaving behind Archie Bunker's bigoted blue-collar Queens for the posh Upper East Side. As he runs a dry cleaning empire, George jousts with his wife Weezy and his racially mixed neighbours (including Roxie Roker, Lenny Kravitz's mother). Seeing wealthy black folk on primetime TV was progressive for 1975, but showing a white man kissing a black woman was revolutionary.
And yet, despite its powerful politics, what gave the show staying power was the cast. Sherman Helmsley as George remains one of the iconic characters in American comedy, and was the driving force behind The Jeffersons. Bombastic and bigoted, yet charming, George inspired comedic mayhem. Isabel Sanford as Weezy was a superb foil, always giving as well as she got from George. Her decency balanced George's greed and prejudices. Their mouthy maid, Florence (Marla Gibbs), was George's true antagonist, hurling the nastiest put-downs to her employer's face. Likewise, George's haughty mother (Zara Cully-Brown) never missed a zinger to fire at Louise. When they were on screen in the first four seasons, this quartet was as funny as anything ever seen on TV.
The box set includes a bonus disc. A 20-minute interview with series creator, the legendary Norman Lear, offers the only background information about the show, touching on its origins and the creative process, which is a shame. The All In The Family episode of the Jeffersons saying farewell to Archie and Edith is a good inclusion, showing audiences where the Jeffersons came from. The other bonuses are two rare episodes, one from Florence's spin-off series, Checking In, and the pilot of E/R (not the Clooney show) on which Helmsley guest stars as George. Unfortunately, both shows are cringe-worthy and corny. I'd rather watch the early The Jeffersons, and there's more than enough here to allow that. (Shout! Factory)