Published Mar 17, 2015Although Bea Arthur will always be associated with The Golden Girls, her real star turn came back in the '70s when she was the title character in the groundbreaking sitcom Maude.
Also created by Norman Lear, the show was actually a spin-off from the hugely popular All In The Family — Edith Bunker's very liberal cousin Maude came to look after the family when they were all sick. Right from the moment when Maude first butted heads with Archie Bunker, more than holding her own against him, it was clear that she was destined for bigger and better things. So the following year, Maude was given her own half-hour, which introduced the U.S. audience to a very different kind of female character.
Maude Findlay was an opinionated, unapologetic feminist who was not afraid of saying exactly what was on her mind. She was married to husband number four, Walter (played by Bill Macy) — she buried the first one and divorced the next two — and their marriage was portrayed very realistically. They argued and fought, because that's what married couples do. Just the fact that a divorced woman was the leading character in a network show in 1972 meant that Maude was a very progressive show, but what happened midway through the first season ensured its place in history.
In the pair of episodes entitled "Maude's Dilemma," Arthur's character finds out at the age of 47 that she's unexpectedly pregnant. After much rational discussion with her husband, she decides to have an abortion at a time when abortion wasn't even legal in many U.S. states, and before the Roe vs. Wade decision had come down. The show was fearless and didn't shy away from anything, including drug use, domestic violence, swinging and alcoholism.
The show has aged surprisingly well; many of the topics are still relevant today, and even Arthur's taste in clothing is coming back into fashion again. Both Arthur and Macy are wonderfully convincing actors, and while the remainder of the cast are there for light relief more than anything else, they do a decent job as well. Most notable are Conrad Bain (from Different Strokes) and Rue McClanahan (from The Golden Girls) as the couple's neighbours Arthur and Vivian Harmon and Adrienne Barbeau as Maude's daughter Carol, but there are also plenty of other familiar faces from the decade.
The Complete Series box contains all six seasons of the show, clocking in at over 70 hours, which is probably more Maude than anyone really needs; not every episode is about big issues, and there's some more gentle, frivolous humour based on typical sitcom misunderstandings or the fact that Bea Arthur's voice sounds rather masculine. That said, it does end on a wonderful high, as Maude moves from New York to Washington DC and became a U.S. Congresswoman, which was a fitting finale for the show; Maude continued to rage against the machine.
In addition to the 141 episodes, there's also a bonus DVD with the two episodes of All In The Family that feature Maude, two unaired episodes of the show (although they were both refilmed and broadcast) and the usual nostalgic featurettes with cast interviews and clips. (Shout! Factory)