Alynda Wheat
June 03, 2009 AT 04:00 AM EDT

We gave it a B+

There’s plenty of arguing in Norman Lear’s work, but there’s no arguing with it. The creator of All in the Family, The Jeffersons, and many other TV touchstones was so daring, much of his ’70s-era material wouldn’t be made today. (Archie Bunker would never make it out of a development meeting.) So it’s sad that his definitive boxed set, The Norman Lear Collection, punishes loyal fans. Sure, there are six hours of EXTRAS, dishing details on how Bea Arthur’s guest role on All in the Family led to the spin-off Maude, and that The Jeffersons was created to counter Good Times‘ penury. And the interviews with departed stars like Arthur and Carroll O’Connor are invaluable. But the set includes the first seasons of seven series — many of which have long been available. Why not make the extras their own DVD release, in addition to producing complete sets of all of Lear’s shows? (Maude, One Day at a Time, and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman are still waiting.) Newbies could pick and choose their way through his work, while Lear loyalists — who’d likely buy everything, anyway — wouldn’t feel shafted for having been true in the first place. B+

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