“And then there’s Maude.”
In football there’s always a lot of talk about coaching trees. You know the idea. Some great mastermind who saw his assistants go on to have success of their own and who passed that lucky charm down to others for, perhaps, generations. All In The Family would be the television equivalent to a coach with a long tree. There were an incredible number of spinoffs that lead to other spinoffs. Archie’s neighbors The Jeffersons moved on up to the East Side and had their own several years of success. That show saw maid Florence had her spinoff from that show called Checking In. Meanwhile Archie’s daughter had her Gloria series, and after Edith’s death Archie settled into Archie Bunker’s Place. Even the Bunker home had a spinoff called 704 Houser Street when a new family moved in.
But it all started with Maude. Maude was Edith’s cousin, who visited for an episode in 1971. She was Archie’s total opposite but just as much of a big mouth. She was the ultra-liberal who was particularly vocal about women’s liberation. In the 1970’s that was quite a hot topic, with the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution being debated. The amendment never did pass, but the movement didn’t just curl up and die. And it wouldn’t, at least not if Maude had anything to say about it. And Maude always had a lot to say. She was so popular in that appearance that Maude became the first spinoff in the All In The Family “coaching” tree.
Long before she was a Golden Girl, Bea Arthur was Maude. Maude Findlay had been widowed and divorced over the years. She had a daughter by one of those previous marriages named Carol, played by Adrienne Barbeau. Carol had a son Phillip (Morrison). Carol was also divorced, and she and Phillip lived with Maude and her current husband Walter, played by Bill Macy. Their best friends and neighbors were Dr. Arthur Harmon (Bain) and Vivian, played by future fellow Golden Girl Rue McClanahan. These two eventually got together in this second season and became a couple. They owned an appliance store that Walter ran. For all of her women’s lib talk, Maude was mostly a housewife. There are episodes that find her wanting more, of course. The housework wasn’t really an issue, because they had a maid named Florida Evans. If that name sounds at all familiar, it should. This was to be her last season on Maude, because she would start keepin’ her head above water in the spinoff Good Times. Her husband would make an appearance, this time played by John Amos who played him in Good Times; however, his name is Henry here but would be changed to James on the new show.
Maude was one of those shows that was willing to bring serious issues and controversial themes into the show. The second season opens with a two-part episode that explores Walter’s alcohol consumption and gets rather tense at times. From plastic surgery to unionizing Walter’s store, the show often skirted around those kinds of problems. Shows this year deal with adultery and corporal punishment for children. Of course, the season is most notable for the departure of Esther Rolle as Florida for her own series. It’s really a carry-over from All In The Family. The difference is that Maude is never quite as likable as Archie could be even with his faults. The series was at its best when Maude was confronted with her own hypocrisy. Bea Arthur handled those moments best.
The series would run six years and be a pretty highly rated series throughout its run. In 1977 Bea Arthur took home the show’s only Emmy for Best Actress in a comedy. It stayed in the top ten for the first few years. By the sixth season it fell hard, and the showrunners attempted to retool the show by putting Maude in Congress. The idea only lasted three episodes, and Maude faded rather quickly from the television landscape while Archie was still thriving. The release is strictly for fans with no extras or restoration to boast of. Shout is doing a good job of getting these shows out that have been neglected by their original rights owners who didn’t feel there was enough cash to be mined from the effort. “God’ll get you for that.”