Norman Lear collection hitting DVD shelves

Sony timing release to target Father's Day shoppers

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is taking aim at the high-end gift market with a lavish new collection of TV classics from groundbreaking producer Norman Lear.

"The Normal Lear Collection" ($159.95), due June 9 to target Father's Day shoppers, includes complete first-season sets of seven of Lear's Emmy Award-winning shows "All in the Family," "Sanford and Son," "Maude," "The Jeffersons," "Good Times," "One Day at a Time" and "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman."

The 19-disc set includes more than six hours of new documentaries, featurettes and interviews with such stars as Bea Arthur, Jimmie Walker, Rob Reiner and Adrienne Barbeau. Also included are two never-before-seen pilot episodes for "All in the Family," "Those Were the Days" and 1971's "And Justice for All," the latter turned down by ABC before producers tried again at CBS.

"I don't think you can be a fan of television, a student of television or working in television and not have been influenced by Norman Lear," said Bob Oswaks, president of marketing at Sony Pictures Television and a veteran of several Lear productions in the 1970s.

"Norman and his series had this authentic voice that really captured the times and influenced many other people, from Phil Rosenthal to Seth MacFarlane," Oswaks said. "They painted a much more realistic portrait of life than any previous shows that had been on television. Through humor, we could talk about abortion, drugs, politics, sexuality, ethnicity, you name it -- he had his finger on the pulse, and the nerve center, of what was really happening in America."

Marc Rashba, vp worldwide marketing at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, said that while his studio has released several big collections of TV DVD product, mostly "complete series" sets of shows such as "I Dream of Jeannie" and "Good Times," truly elegant, collectable gift sets such as "The Norman Lear Collection" and the 2007 release "Seinfeld -- The Complete Series" will be produced only occasionally.

"The truth is, you'll continue to see more collections, but not many in the class that you can call premier," Rashba said. "I think you have very few properties, across all of the studios, that could warrant that. Norman Lear is a global icon in terms of what he's done for television, and we know audiences have been waiting for this."

Most of the shows in the collection have been released on DVD, Rashba said, but even season sets of programs like "All in the Family" and "Sanford and Son" have had little in the way of extras.

"When we all came out of the gate with TV DVD six years ago, no one thought it would last as long as it has," Rashba said. "We had a few Norman Lear series come out with no added value, but we've always talked about one day coming back and telling the Norman Lear story behind these shows. So I think there's a lot of pent-up demand."
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