Maude starred Beatrice Arthur as Maude Findlay, an outspoken, middle-aged, politically liberal woman living in suburban Tuckahoe, Westchester County, New York with her fourth husband. Maude embraced the tenets of women's liberation, always voted for Democratic Party candidates, strongly supported legal abortion, and advocated for civil rights and racial and gender equality. However, her overbearing and sometimes domineering personality often got her into trouble when speaking out on these issues.
The program was a spin-off of All in the Family, in which Beatrice Arthur portrayed the title role of Maude, Edith Bunker's cousin; like that show, Maude was a sitcom with topical story lines created by producer Norman Lear.
Maude had been married three times before; two of her husbands, Albert and Barney, had died and she had divorced the other, Chester, who would appear on the show played by Martin Balsam. Her current husband, Walter Findlay (played by Bill Macy), owned an appliance store called Findlay's Friendly Appliances. Maude and Walter met just before the 1968 presidential election. Maude sometimes got in the last word during their many arguments with her hallmark catchphrase, "God'll getcha for that, Walter."
Maude's divorced daughter, Carol Traynor (from her second marriage, played by Adrienne Barbeau; in the Maude pilot, an episode of All in the Family, Carol was played by Marcia Rodd), and Carol's son, Phillip (played by Brian Morrison and later by Kraig Metzinger), also lived with the Findlays. Though single, Carol maintained her reputation of dating many men, as evidenced by her weekend "business trips" with various boyfriends. She dated various men throughout early seasons, eventually forming a serious (but brief) relationship with a man named Chris (played by Fred Grandy) in the later seasons. Like her mother, Carol was an outspoken liberal feminist who was not afraid to speak her mind.
The Findlays' next-door neighbors were Dr. Arthur Harmon (a stuffy, sardonic Republican whose views clashed with those of Maude; played by Conrad Bain) and his sweet but scatterbrained wife Vivian (played by Rue McClanahan, who in the 1980s would star again with Beatrice Arthur in The Golden Girls). Arthur had been Walter's best friend since the two men served together in World War II; he was the one who brought Walter and Maude together in 1968 and "affectionately" called Maude "Maudie." Vivian had been Maude's best friend since they both attended college together. When the series began, Arthur was a widower and Vivian was a soon-to-be divorcée (her previous last name was Cavender); in a late first-season episode, Vivian and her husband, Chuck, were getting a divorce after 21 years of marriage. Arthur and Vivian began dating at the beginning of the second season and were married during the middle of it.
When the series began, the Findlays' maid was Florida Evans, a no-nonsense black woman who often had the last laugh at Maude's expense. Maude would often make a point of conspicuously and awkwardly demonstrating how open-minded and liberal she was (Florida almost quit working for Maude because of this). Despite Florida's status as a maid, Maude emphasized to Florida she felt that they were "equals," and insisted she enter and exit the Findlay house via the front door (even though the back door was more convenient).
As portrayed by Esther Rolle, the character of Florida proved so popular that, in 1974, she became the star of her own new series entitled Good Times. In the storyline of Maude, Florida's husband, Henry, received a raise at his job, and she quit to be a full-time housewife and mother. Good Times is based on the childhood of its creator, Mike Evans, who starred as Lionel Jefferson on All in the Family and The Jeffersons.
After Florida's departure in 1974, Mrs. Nell Naugatuck (played by Hermione Baddeley), an elderly (and vulgar) British woman who drank excessively and lied compulsively, took over. Unlike Florida, who commuted, Mrs. Naugatuck was a live-in maid. She met and began dating Bert Beasley (an elderly security guard at a cemetery; played by J. Pat O'Malley) in 1975. They married in 1977 and moved to Ireland to care for Bert's mother. Mrs. Naugatuck's frequent sparring with Maude was, arguably, just as comedically popular as Florida's sparring. The difference in the two relationships was that Mrs. Naugatuck often came off as if she despised Maude Findlay, whereas Florida seemed periodically frustrated by her boss.
Lear admitted the last name 'Naugatuck' was directly taken from the Town of Naugatuck, Connecticut, which he found amusing. Due to the popularity of the program, Baddeley even visited the town in the late 1970s and was given a warm, official ceremony at the town green.
Maude then hired Victoria Butterfield (played by Marlene Warfield), a native of the island of Norman Island in the British Virgin Islands, whom Maude initially accused of stealing her wallet. Victoria remained until the end of the series in 1978.
The opening title sequence begins with an aerial shot of New York City, including the Chrysler Building. It then showcases a drive from the city to Maude's house in Tuckahoe, where Maude answers her door to greet, ostensibly, the viewing audience. Although the sequence supposedly shows the trip in the then-present day (1970s), the cars in one part of the sequence appear to be from the 1950s.
One shot in the title sequence takes the viewer over the George Washington Bridge. In reality, this bridge connects New York City with New Jersey to the west, whereas Westchester County, where Maude lives, lies to the north of Manhattan.
The title sequence is featured on an episode of Family Guy, "No Meals on Wheels" where Peter Griffin points out "It's one of the first episodes with the really long title sequence!" After several minutes of becoming irate at the seemingly never-ending music, when the "And then there's Maude" line finally comes, Griffin turns the TV off, exclaiming "that was an ordeal!".
While the show was written as very funny in nature, scripts also incorporated much darker humor and even drama, to the point where the show, in some episodes, could be seen as depressing rather than humorous.
Maude had an abortion in November 1972, two months before the Roe v. Wade decision made abortion legal nationwide, and the episodes which dealt with the situation are probably the series' most famous and certainly its most controversial. Maude, at age 47, was crushed when she found herself pregnant, and everyone agreed with her that having a baby at her age was very risky and not a wise thing to happen. Her daughter, Carol, brought to her attention that abortion was now legal in New York state. After some soul-searching (and discussions with Walter, who agreed that raising a baby at their ages was not very wise), Maude tearfully decided at the end of the two-parter that abortion was probably the best choice. Noticing the wide controversy around the episode, CBS decided to rerun the episodes in August 1973, and members of the country's clergy reacted strongly to the decision. At least 30 stations dropped the show.
The producers and the writers of the show tackled other controversies. In a story arc that opened the 1973-74 season, Walter came to grips with his alcoholism and subsequently had a nervous breakdown. The beginning of the story arc had Maude, Walter and Arthur enjoying a night of revelry. However, Maude panicked when she woke up the following morning to find Arthur in her bed. This scared her to the point that both of them swore off alcohol entirely. Walter could not do it ("Dean Martin gets a million dollars for his buzz"), and became so aggravated during his attempts to stop that he struck Maude. Afterward, he suffered a breakdown as a result of his alcoholism and the domestic violence incident. The arc, which played out in three parts, was also controversial.
In the later seasons, Maude went through menopause, and many episodes showed Maude, sitting on a couch in a psychiatrist's office, talking through her insecurities about getting old as well as life in general. During the fifth season, Walter suffered another nervous breakdown, this time even attempting suicide, when he saw his business go bankrupt.
The Nielsen Ratings for Maude were high, particularly during the first seasons of the program (during the heyday of topical sitcoms which its presence helped to create), when it was regularly one of the top ten highest-rated American television programs in any given week.
Those plans changed after just four episodes in the new format, when Bea Arthur decided she no longer wanted to continue the role of Maude. The idea was revamped repeatedly and in 1979 led to a short-lived CBS sitcom, Hanging In, starring Bill Macy; the show bore almost no resemblance to the original idea (Macy even played a different character).
|DVD Name||Ep #||Release Date|
|The Complete First Season||22||March 20 2007|
Maude airs in Canada weekdays at 4:30pm, 9:30pm and 3:30am (all times Eastern) on Canwest's digital specialty channel, DejaView.
Reruns of Maude are not currently being shown on any national networks in the United States. They had previously been shown on TV Land.