Maude arrives on DVD with no small amount of baggage—Beatrice Arthur and Rue McLanahan are now better known for The Golden Girls than for this 1972-78 Norman Lear gem; Conrad Bain (as a hard-drinking WASP physician) will forever be Diff’rent Strokes’ Mr. Drummond, and Adrienne Barbeau, thanks to what Joe Bob Briggs called her “two enormous talents,” has become a Sealab 2021 punch line. But if you can get past such associations (to say nothing of the gruesome theme song), what awaits is a raw, primal sitcom that has been a victim of its own rep for breaking taboos.
Essentially an inverse All in the Family (from which it was spun off) with a female, lefty Archie Bunker as the lead, Maude enjoys a place in history for its stories about feminism, drugs and (most famously) abortion. But the issues—often presented in a way that now seems overheated—are less notable than the conversations they spark between characters. Few modern shows, let alone those from the Nixon era, have offered a more nuanced take on marriage or the relationship between parents and adult children. The 5'10" Arthur towers over her costars, but the consistently brilliant Barbeau and Bill Macy (as Maude’s daughter and fourth husband, respectively) still upstage her with ease. — Andrew Johnston