The title character, Maude Chadbourne-Hillard-Findlay (Bea Arthur), was originally written as Archie Bunker's Foil—female, suburban, affluent, educated, liberal, new age, free-thinking—and yet every bit as opinionated and pushy. Though the show was overtly political, it didn't suffer from the problems with strawmen that plagues so many other "hot button" shows. While Maude's political views were usually cast in a positive light—helping the needy, racial sensitivity, women's liberation—the character's greatest in-universe handicap was her personality: she was too forceful, stubborn, ego-driven, and often out of touch with the very issues she claimed expertise of. Thus the show wasn't so much a Take That! at left-wing beliefs the way All in the Family was for Archie's stubborn traditionalism, so much as it was a character-driven sitcom that simply had politics at its surface.
The show featured one of the first (positive) portrayals of abortion in TV history, when Maude realizes she's pregnant by her husband but makes the decision that she's just too old to have a baby. Her family supports her and she comes out of the situation (for the most part) better for it. Keep in mind this episode premiered just two months before the Roe v. Wade decision made abortion legal nationwide.
Lasted for six years in no small part due to good writing and Bea Arthur. Just Bea Arthur.
Not to be confused with Harold and Maude.
This show provides examples of:
- Alliterative Name: Nell Naugatuck, the sassy British maid, and her husband, Bert Beasley. When it comes time for Nell and Bert to get married, Mrs. Naugatuck insists on retaining her maiden name.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In "Maude Meets the Duke", Vivian comes in, telling Arthur their ceiling just fell, there's plaster all over their living room, and all of Arthur's Toby mugs got broken.
- Ascended Extra: Vivian. She appeared infrequently during the first season, but became a major supporting character in Season 2.
- Awful Wedded Life: Maude and Walter. When Maude plans to run for the New York state senate, Walter plans to divorce her; these plans ultimately fall through when Walter goes on a drinking binge and Maude finds him in bed with someone else (who turned out to be his best friend Arthur). Just as Maude is about to save her marriage by withdrawing from the election, Walter has a change of heart and decides to give his blessing to Maude's campaign, which turns into an Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other moment with Walter and Maude remaining married through thick and thin.
- Bait-and-Switch Comment: In "The Election - Maude Runs", after she loses the election:Walter: Maude, I voted for our marriage!
Maude: What a rotten thing to do.
Walter: I'll tell you: I voted for the most beautiful, the most adorable, the sexiest candidate in the race.
Maude: Oh, Walter...
Walter: Did you ever see Kunkle in a bathing suit?
- Bottle Episode: Only Bea Arthur and Gene Blakely appear as Maude and the psychiatrist in "Maude Bares Her Soul", where she spends the episode in the psychiatrist's office baring her soul as she opens up about how she feels about her dead father, her resentment of her mother, and her dread of turning 50 years old.
- Bourgeois Bohemian: Maude and Carol.
- Bragging Theme Tune: Which compares Maude to such notable historical females as Lady Godiva, Joan of Arc, Isadora Duncan, and Betsy Ross."...that uncompromisin', enterprisin', anything-but-tranquilizin', right-on Maude!"
- Brief Accent Imitation: In "Florida's Goodbye," a young Puerto Rican woman named Rita (Conchata Ferrell), who is applying to become Florida's replacement, gets the job only once Maude learns of her ethnic background (being light-skinned enough to pass for white). Rita's first language appears to be English and not Spanish, as she speaks English fluently and with no accent, but while telling Maude about herself, she adopts a stereotypical "Hispanic" dialect complete with Gratuitous Spanish and a hard-luck story about her parents working in the sugarcane fields of Puerto Rico and dreaming of a better life in Los Estados Unidos. It can be assumed it didn't work out, since Rita is never seen again and Maude ultimately hires Mrs. Naugatuck, who is white and British.
- British Stuffiness: Averted with Nell Naugatuck, a working-class housekeeper from England in her 50s, who frequently raids the liquor cabinet, lies compulsively, and tells Maude to stay out of her upstairs room when Maude finds a nude man in her closet in Season 3.
- But I Can't Be Pregnant!: In "Maude's Dilemma", Maude finds out she's pregnant, despite being 47 years old and taking birth control. She decides to get an abortion.
- Captain Superhero: In "Captain Hero", Maude's cousin has a split personality that insists on being called "CAPTAIN-AN-AN-AN-AN HERO-RO-RO-RO-RO!" (Yes, the echo sound is included).
- Celebrity Star:
- Christmas Episode:
- Downplayed in Season 2's "The Office Party" where Walter's employees announce plans to form a union at the Christmas party, and Season 4's "The Christmas Party" where Walter holds his annual Christmas party and worries that Maude's friend Stephanie may dampen the mood by lecturing on the women's lib movement
- Downplayed in Season 5's "Walter's Christmas Gift", where Arthur and Hubie buy another appliance store and they offer Walter (whose original store had closed down) a partnership in the new dealership, which is hampered by a fire sale purchase of compact washing machines from Korea, one of which tears Walter's shirt to shreds.
- Played straight in Season 6's "Maude's Christmas Surprise", where Maude and the guests are waiting for a Christmas ham to be delivered while Carol's flight is laid over at the Cleveland airport, with a baby on the doorstep on Christmas Eve, and some men accompanied by a camel, wearing Magi costumes for a Christmas pageant and singing "Silent Night", one of whom reveals that the baby mistakenly left on the doorstep is his son, and they accidentally picked up the ham that was supposed to be delivered to the Findlays' house instead of the baby.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome:
- Chuck Cavender, Vivian's husband from Season 1; Viv and Chuck Cavender divorce in "The Pefect Marriage".
- Carol's fiancé Chris (Fred Grandy) makes no further appearances after Season 2.
- Closer to Earth: Walter, at first. In the early episodes, he stays calm and rational in the face of Maude's bombast and impulsiveness. Before long, though, Walter's ego nearly matches Maude's and he's just as likely to throw an immature temper tantrum.
- Cool Old Guy: In Season 5's "Arthur's Crisis", Arthur becomes dejected when his friend Albie Doyle dies after an operation, so he withdraws to his home, which prompts Vivian to call Arthur's old friend and mentor, Doc Pritchard (played by veteran TV actor Charles Lane). Pritchard deduces that the loss of a good friend can cause a doctor to give up the medical profession; Arthur incorrectly recalled that doctors were like God, with the power of life and death in their hands. Pritchard sets Arthur straight: doctors do not have the power of life and death, and that only God has the power to give or take a life. Arthur examines Pritchard's face, determining that his tooth pain is caused by acute sinusitis, and Arthur is suddenly re-inspired to not retire from the business, resuming his medical practice.
- Covert Pervert: Vivian is fairly innocent but she takes an intense interest in anything prurient going on in Maude's life. Apparently there isn't a lot going on in her and Arthur's sex life.
- The Cuckoolander Was Right: In "Maude Meets the Duke," Maude and Walter initially think Arthur is crazy when he insists John Wayne is coming to visit to promote his latest movie. Turns out Wayne really is coming.
- Deadpan Snarker: Ignoring the obvious mention Bea Arthur as the undisputed Queen of Deadpan Delivery, it's hard to think of a character on this show who wasn't a deadpan snarker at least some of the time.
- Distaff Counterpart: Maude was a mirror reflection of Archie Bunker: female instead of male, upper-middle-class instead of working-class, and liberal instead of conservative. However, though their lifestyles and ideologies were very different, their personalities were very similar.
- Don't Shoot the Message: Done deliberately with Maude. While the show agreed with her politics, a lot of its humor came from depicting her as undermining the good points she made with her own ego, insensitivity, and Bourgeois Bohemian tendencies.
- Doorstep Baby: Maude finds one in "Maude's Christmas Surprise", but it was actually the son of a caroler who dropped by earlier in the episode.
- Downer Ending: In the "Maude's Big Move" three-parter series finale, Congresswoman Irene McIlhaney collapses from a heart attack, and Maude discovers that Carol, Phillip, and the Harmons are planning to move away. Maude appears somewhat elated when she gets appointed as a Congresswoman to fill McIlhaney's seat... until she finds that her new position is that of a mere figurehead, with her assistant Maggie Gallagher making many of the important decisions on her behalf, and she begrudgingly has to put her beliefs regarding African-Americans off the agenda if she wants to obtain funding for a women's shelter while trying to keep Walter's wayward tendencies in check.
- Driven to Suicide: Walter, after losing his business, takes an overdose of pills. The attempt fails.
- Drop-In Character: Next-door neighbor Arthur Harmon (somewhat of an Expy of Archie Bunker), particularly before he married Maude's best friend, Vivian Cavender. It was understood that as a bachelor, he couldn't cook for himself and depended on Maude to feed him. Arthur and Viv continue to drop in after they marry, though, if only so Arthur can continue to stir up arguments with Maude.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Vivian starts out with grey hair in a handful of early appearances, and after she gets a facelift, her hair is dyed blond.
- Easily Forgiven: In "Walter's Problem" (part 1), a drunken argument between Maude and Walter culminates in Walter slapping Maude across the face (resulting in a black eye for Maude in part 2). Seeing Walter's tearful, remorseful reaction to what he has just done, Maude, instead of fleeing the house, tearfully comforts Walter and promises to stand by him. The scene left such an impression on Bill Macy that he still choked up talking about it decades later.
- Election Day Episode:
- "Flashback", depicting Maude and Walter in 1968 before they married.
- "The Election" (Season 4), where Maude runs for the N.Y. State Senate. A Season 5 episode also titled "The Election" features Mrs. Naugatuck as a naturalized American citizen, with the 1976 Carter-Ford presidential election as the backstory.
- Formerly Fat: One episode features Maude getting a visit from an old friend who has reinvented herself as a career woman, with said friend repeatedly mentioning how overweight Maude was in high school. As a tribute to how much Hollywood abuses this trope, the episode's Cold Opening made the opposite joke: Maude digs up her old cheerleading uniform, which was inhumanly petite.
- Founding Day: The episode "Tuckahoe Bicentennial" has Maude organize a tribute to American women for the town's celebration of the Bicentennial.
- Fun with Acronyms: Arthur creates the Fathers Against Gays Society.
- Game Show Appearance: Maude is tricked into appearing on a fictional Game Show called Beat the Devil. Game Show Announcer Johnny Olsen appeared as himself with Conrad Janis as emcee Lyle Bellamy. Maude gets greedy and decides to come back for the next show to win the big jackpot... until Vivian mentions that her nephew helped her get the tickets, and Lyle Bellamy disqualifies Maude and Vivian who forfeit all of their prizes because Vivian's nephew works on the show as an usher and the staff has rules against nepotism.
- Ham-to-Ham Combat: Maude and Mrs. Naugatuck trading insults with each other:Mrs. Nauagatuck: Feisty old biddy!Maude: Stuffy old broad.
- Hey, Let's Put on a Show: "Maude's Musical", "The Telethon", and "Musical '78" all involve Maude setting up musical shows for charity.
- Humiliation Conga: The three-partner where Walter loses his business, falls into depression, and tries to kill himself by overdosing on sleeping pills.
- Involuntary Charity Donation: In "Walter Gets Religion", Maude learns from Arthur that Walter's motives for attending church may be primarily due to furnishing the social hall with $5,000 worth of appliances and air conditioners from his dealership which he sells at a 20% discount. Even though Maude is not pleased with Walter putting business before religion, she reluctantly attends the grand opening of the new social hall. When the Reverend Williamson praises Walter's generosity, Walter jokes that he's so pleased to serve God that he shouldn't be taking the $5,000 check, which backfires when the reverend interprets Walter's remark as giving the $5,000 check back to the church, which the reverend tears to shreds, and everyone in the social hall praises and applauds Walter's act of generosity.
- Lady Drunk: The second maid, Mrs. Naugutuck, was the butt of lots of drunk jokes, even though most of the characters drank a lot all of the time.
- Lampshade Hanging: Vivian was in a cast with crutches for several episodes, which in-universe was the result of Arthur running over her foot with the car. In real life, Rue McClanahan needed the cast and crutches while recovering from an accident in which she fell through a glass door and nearly bled to death.
- Ms. Fanservice: Adrienne Barbeau as Carol, though in the early episodes they inexplicably had her wearing conservative dresses.
- Make Up or Break Up: Over the six-year course of the series, Maude and Walter almost split up numerous times. Is it any wonder they have four previous marriages between them?
- Mistaken Identity: In "Walter's Stigma", Maude and friends throw a birthday party for Walter, who has just turned 53 and spent the day at an all-day Donald Duck cartoon festival at the local movie house. When he arrives at his party, the police arrest him shortly afterwards on suspicion of indecently exposing himself to a couple of ladies; reporter Hazel Hathaway plans to write an article in her gossip column based on the principles of the public's right to know and freedom of the press. In the end, he's cleared of charges when the police bring in a suspect that looks like him, and the women apologize for the confusion.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Walter, after slapping Maude in a drunk rage.
- Obfuscating Disability:
- In "Musical '78," where the titular musical is a telethon to raise money for an allegedly disabled child tap dancer named Baby Sally, who is also an insufferable brat with a manipulative agent. Before the telethon is set to go on the air, Maude learns that the child is faking her condition, but reluctantly goes along with the charade for a time under threats from Reggie of being sued if he can't collect his $15,000 fee and possibly losing her house. The kid gets some Laser-Guided Karma at the very end of the episode during the pie fight, when Maude pies her.
- Mrs. Naugatuck tries to obfuscate someone else's disability - Bert's - in "For the Love of Bert," claiming that Bert is going deaf and can only converse by Reading Lips. It's a ploy to get money from the Findlays. Bert's not in on it, which leads to a hilarious scene when Maude, Walter, Arthur and Vivian speak slowly and loudly in order to communicate with a puzzled Bert. Finally, Mrs. Naugatuck's lie is exposed when Maude makes a sotto voce comment about Bert's deafness, which he is able to hear perfectly and respond to.
- Pet the Dog: Arthur says lots of callous things about his patients, the poor, and anyone he isn't personally close to. He practically exists to be an obnoxious thorn in Maude's side, and his conservative viewpoints are very broadly caricatured. But when the chips are down, he'll do almost anything to help the Findlays. This is especially true if one of them shows signs of any illness.
- Pie in the Face: The episode "Musical '78" (season 6) culminates in a pie fight in which almost everyone in the main cast ends up plastered (Adrienne Barbeau got off easy).
- "Businessperson of the Year" (also season 6): Maude hits Walter with a banana cream pie after he accepts the titular award, breaking their agreement that neither of them would accept it after they were both nominated.
- Please, Don't Leave Me: Played straight by Maude in part 2 of "Walter's Crisis", after Walter takes a nearly fatal overdose of sleeping pills.
- Protagonist Title
- Put on a Bus: The Findlay's original housekeeper, Florida, moved to Chicago due to her husband getting a new job at the end of Season 2. Her replacement, Mrs. Naugatuck, also got written out at the end of Season 5.
- "Rashomon"-Style: "The Case Of The Broken Punch Bowl". Maude's priceless punch bowl is broken at a party, and demands to know what happened to it. Arthur, Vivian and Mrs. Naugatuck give their own versions of the story, while Carol tells the truth. It was accidentally smashed by Mrs. Naugatuck.
- Retool: The last season of the show ended with a three-parter that saw Maude becoming a congresswoman, her and Walter moving to Washington DC, and the rest of the cast put on buses. This was an attempt by Norman Lear to give the show's ratings a boost after it had gone from being a top 10 show (peaking at #4) its first four seasons to falling out of the top 30 in its fifth and sixth seasons. This never really panned out because after the last episode of the season Bea Arthur decided she had grown tired of playing Maude and she wanted to move on to other projects and as such the three-parter ended up becoming an unintentional Grand Finale.
- Sassy Black Woman: Florida was normally a little too deadpan to fit this trope, but the sass would really come out when Maude made too many pointed attempts to show how enlightened she was about black people and/or maids.
- Sick Episode: In "The Doctor's Strike," Walter develops a glandular infection, but Arthur refuses to treat him because of the titular strike, straining their friendship. Arthur eventually relents once Vivian also gets sick and he realizes refusing to treat a sick person goes against the very nature of his profession. He then gets sick himself at the end of the episode, but since he used the last of his medicine on his wife and Walter, his only option is a homemade West Indian remedy of Victoria's with frogs as its primary ingredient.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Quite cynical, unlike All in the Family. While the Bunkers and the Stivics (specially Archie and Mike) cared for each other in spite of their many differences, the Chadbourne-Hillard-Findlays were far from being an "ideal" family; Maude had housekeepers in spite of her beliefs, Walter was an alcoholic who often set off Maude's Hair-Trigger Temper with his chauvinism even when he tried to be progressive, and Carol and her mother would usually argue even if they had similar opinions. This was deliberately done by Norman Lear, who wanted to show the hypocrisies and neuroses of upper-middle-class liberals.
- Spin-Off: of All in the Family. Good Times would spin-off from the main series in 1974 with the "Florida's Goodbye" episode.
- Suburbia: The show was set in the affluent real-life NYC suburb of Tuckahoe, New York.
- Take That!: Plenty. One episode even skewered Bea Arthur's future The Golden Girls costar Betty White. Maude decides to watch some TV while waiting up for Arthur instead of slapping her own face to stay awake; when she tunes to a program featuring Betty White and her husband Allen Ludden, Maude turns off the TV and decides she'd rather slap herself.
- Transatlantic Equivalent: In a reversal of All in the Family, Maude was remade for the UK as Nobody's Perfect (starring Elaine Stritch, of all people. Stritch was later initially considered for the role of Dorothy Zbornak on The Golden Girls, a role that ended up going to Bea Arthur after creator Susan Harris (who had written Maude's legendary abortion episode and part one of the "facelift" two-parter) insisted she wanted Bea for the part.
- Twin Switch: In "Vivian's Surprise", Arthur apparently returns from Hartford with a changed personality, except that Arthur's twin brother Arnold is in town, posing as Arthur. Arthur and Arnold were respectively portrayed by real-life identical twins Conrad and Bonar Bain.
- Twofer Token Minority: When Maude becomes a congresswoman she discovers that her press secretary is (half) black, and is quite pleased. It's further pointed out that "she's Catholic, and a woman. I mean, we practically fill our entire quota for minorities in this one little gal right here."
- Unwanted Assistance: Maude's attempts at proving she was not prejudiced tended to irk Florida quite a bit, since Florida just wanted to do her job. In Florida's first episode, Maude believed that having Florida come into the house through the back door was somehow offensive (even though that's where they parked), so Maude made Florida walk all the way around the house to the front door to bring in the groceries.
- White Man's Burden:
- In "The New Maid", after Bert Beasley and Nell Naugatuck move to Ireland, Maude is so enlightened to the plight of African-Americans throughout history after having watched the Roots (1977) mini-series that she insists on hiring another black housekeeper, being impressed with Florida's pride in her heritage, liveliness, and gutsiness. When she meets Victoria Butterfield, a woman from the West Indies, Maude says that Harry Belafonte is one of her favorite singers, but Victoria prefers Andy Williams' music and when Maude wishes Victoria would take more pride in her native traditions, Victoria makes up a calypso song with her own lyrics: "Big mouth woman on a subway train, words come out like a lot of rain".
- Hilarity Ensues when Maude gets on the subway, and after her wallet goes missing, she suspects and accuses Victoria, whose dress she accidentally tore. When Bloomingdale's department store calls her home, she learns that she left her wallet behind, and Maude is embarrassed at her hasty accusation of Victoria.
- The arrival of Francie Potter in Season 2. Once again, Maude made use of African-American stereotypes in a well-meaning but misguided attempt to make Francie feel welcome, including serving fried chicken and grits for dinner and decorating the girl's bedroom with posters of Isaac Hayes and such. Francie can see right through it and wants out, but Maude is so determined to make this experiment in racial harmony work that she ends up bribing Francie to stay.
- Wounded Gazelle Gambit: In "The Runaway", Francie Potter's boyfriend convinces her to makes up a tearjerker of a sob story about her abusive, drunken father to Maude, which ultimately unravels and turns out to be untrue when her father comes over and is nothing like he is depicted in the story, with Francie hoping to receive money from Maude so that she can elope with her boyfriend. It also ends up being a moot point, as the boyfriend ends up running off without Francie, who is comforted by Maude.
- Your Favorite: For Arthur - Beef Stroganoff.Maude: Yes, I invited Arthur to come over to eat with us... you know his favorite meal is Beef Stroganoff.... we're having beans and franks.