Okay, first off this show absolutely pailed compared to "All in the Family"--but so does nearly every other sit-com series every made IMO (only "MASH", "The Odd Couple", and "Seinfeld" can compete with it).
But I think that if you're a fan of "All in the Family" you should at least give it a shot if you haven't already. And if you have and didn't like it..give it another shot if we're lucky to have TVLand air it again (c'mon TVLand do it, I've had enough of "Good Times"!)
The series begins over a year after Mike and Gloria have moved to California. And with the series largely focused on Archie's Bar, Edith is only seen in five episodes of the first series (Edith got another job working noon to eight P.M. which could explain her absence). The first year is largely Archie dealing with his new partner Murray, as well as old pals Harry (who's still tending bar), Barney, Hank, and Mr. Van Rensaleer. Interesting episodes but nothing really standing out, save for the Thanksgiving episode where Mike and Gloria and Joey come back for Thanksgiving dinner which of course is not the totally happy Holiday meal--and sadly the last time you see the Bunker family together.
Season two was somewhat a downer as it begins with us finding out that Archie is now a widower, Edith having passed on (off-camera) of a stroke in her sleep. Those first two episodes of "Archie Alone" are rather hard to watch if you've been with "All in the Family" during it's run. As I remember the TVGuide page ad: "Archie faces life without Edith. Can he survive?". So the rest of this season dealt more with that adaptation than with classic Bunker comedy. Other powerful episodes of that season included mouthy cook Veronica being overcome by alcoholism and Murray losing his mother and deciding to leave New York and "Archie Bunker's Place". But there was a moment of triumph as Archie suprisingly won custody of Stephanie over her wealthy grandmother.
But for me it's the third season that stood out. Archie seems to have recovered his old ignorant self--and almost loses the bar to his lousy management. In comes the Rabinowitz family (who's represented Archie since the third episode of "All in the Family") and his niece Barbara Lee "Billie" Bunker who moves into his house. Now while Archie is still without a "dingbat" and a "meathead" he's got two "little goils"! Add to that Mrs. Camby, the black housekeeper he hired earlier and Archie at times seems in fourth place when it comes to running his household. This is even more interesting as Stephanie is now entering adolescence, and is even celebrating her Bar Mitzvah. This two-part episode was another memorable point as Stephanie's wealthy grandmother and terminally pathetic father reappear. Oh and don't forget when Gloria and Joey return (without the Meathead) just before beginning their new life.
The fourth season though didn't capitalize on it's predecessor. Veronica and Mrs. Camby disappeared and the episodes simply seemed inferior. Archie had to deal with Stephanie wanting to go to an arts school and her experimenting with marijuana in episodes that had some interest. But other episodes that focused on Barney and his video dating and employment troubles didn't. Billie was still there but the rest of the cast, including and especially Archie himself, seemed worn out and the laughs seemed farther apart. And CBS pulled the plug.
While Carroll O'Connor was disgusted with CBS for the cancellation, I think it came at the right time. Okay you could've had Stephanie graduating and going on to college, and maybe Billie and the junior Rabinowitz always breaking up and getting back together and possibly marrying. But it's like "Hawaii Five-0" and "MASH". I think it got to the twelve-year mark (that is combining "All in the Family" and "Archie Bunker's Place") and CBS figured 'that's it' and like McGarrett and Hawkeye they had run their course with Archie Bunker; unfortunately there was no 'farewell episode'.
So to sum up I say yeah this series stinks in comparison to "All in the Family". But as an extension it's actually pretty good. I just wish I could get copies of the third season--seems the first season release on DVD didn't sell enough and going on almost two years there's no season two. Too bad, for me anyway. Enjoy.