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Room 222 - Season 1
Good classroom dramedy still relevant today
A temporary slowdown in the release of new DVD sets of TV shows has provided a good opportunity to catch up reviews of shows that were released earlier this year. The DVD set of the 26-episode 1969 first season of the classroom dramedy “Room 222” was chosen because the June 9, 2009, of “The Norman Lear Collection” makes this program particularly relevant.
Like the first seasons of “All in the Family” and the six other genuinely ground-breaking “Lear” sitcoms from the 1970s that are in the “Lear” collection, “Room” was one of the first series to address urban issues seriously. It is set in the middle-class integrated Walt Whitman High School and focuses mainly on dedicated history teacher Pete Dixon who struggles to “reach” to “these kids” without the melodrama of an Edward James Olmos type teacher.
The challenges that Dixon faces include keeping a bright student who is discovered to live in the district of a tough inner-city high school at Whitman and getting another intelligent but unfocused overweight student with low self-esteem on the right track. The solutions are creative and entertaining.
The show also stars Karen Valentine as naïve and enthusiastic student teacher Alice Johnson, who Dixon is mentoring. An early episode in which students who Johnson has given complete control over a school production express a desire to appear naked on stage is one of the more amusing of the season.
General school-related issues that are also still relevant today include teachers having to buy their own supplies, a strike to support a bond issue for badly needed school funding, and a flu epidemic that threatens to close down the school.
On an even more general level, “Room” is a rare show that entertains and informs without being unduly preachy. The teachers and their colleagues are dedicated and caring but hardly heroes, and the students are generally good without being at either extreme of being angels or demons. It is nice as well that the show has teenagers playing teenagers.
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Review by John Stahl
John Stahl is a freelance legal writer who is also a fan of classic and cult television programs. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Room 222 - Season 1
Pete Dixon (Lloyd Haynes) is a dedicated and popular history teacher who fights the good fight on the side of his students. Joining him in his idealistic approach to education are guidance counselor Liz McIntyre (Denise Nicholas) and student teacher Alice Johnson (Karen Valentine). Experienced and slightly world-weary principal Seymour Kaufman (Michael Constantine) provides a balance to the youthful idealism of the 60s cultural revolution but at the end of the day everyone is on the side of the students. Season One guest stars include Teri Garr, William Schallert, Bob Balaban, Kenneth Mars, Bud Cort, Donald Moffat, Larry Linville, Beah Richards, Paul Winfield, Nancy Wilson, Bernie Kopell, Rob Reiner and more.
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