WATCH Magazine: August 2022: Summer Of Love

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W HEN YOU THINK OF NORMAN LEAR, ONE TELEVISION SERIES probably comes to mind first: All in the Family . But then there’s Sanford and Son . And Maude . And Good Times , The Jeffersons , and One Day at a Time . No other producer in television history, past or present, has dominated the comedy genre like he has. At a time when comedies like Here’s Lucy , The Beverly Hillbillies , Family Affair , and Mayberry R.F.D. and TV families like the Bradys and the Partridges were the norm, Lear stepped in and created a place where American culture and social issues were brought to the forefront. And he did it through the voices of his classic characters: Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor), Maude Findlay (Bea Arthur), George Jefferson (Sherman Hemsley), Florida (Esther Rolle) and James Evans Sr. (John Amos), Ann Romano (Bonnie Franklin), and countless others. Minus the traditional rose-colored sitcom glasses, Lear “held up a mirror to Ameri- can society and changed the way we look at it,” noted President Bill Clinton when pre- senting Lear with the National Medal of Arts in 1999. “His departure from traditional, two-dimensional television characters was risky. It showed the enormous respect he has for the judgment, the sense, and the heart of the American people.”

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Unlike the then-innocence of sitcom storytelling, where a happy ending was a prerequisite for an episode of any com- edy, Lear built a TV world reflective of the real world. He brought taboo subjects into American homes, provoking conver- sation and thought. And what you saw in a Norman Lear sitcom was often what you, the viewer, were experiencing and could relate to. It felt real. Lear began his television career in the 1950s, writing sketches for the TV appearances of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, among others. He produced episodic television for personalities like Martha Raye, Henry Fonda, Andy Williams, Celeste Holm, and Tennessee Ernie Ford.

1| Norman Lear on the set of All in the Family . 2| Dick Van Dyke in 1971’s Cold Turkey . 3| Debbie Reynolds and Van Dyke in a scene from Divorce American Style . 4| Lear photographed in New York in 1975. 5| Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson of Sanford and Son . 6| From left: Al Freeman Jr., James Cromwell, Richard Masur, and Conchata Ferrell of Hot L Baltimore . 7| Sammy Davis Jr. and Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor) on All in the Family . 8| From left: Jermain H. Johnson, Bill Duke, Beeson Carroll, and Brian Godfrey Wilson of Palmerstown, U.S.A. 9| From left: Paul Rodriguez, Bea Arthur, and Lear behind the scenes of a.k.a. Pablo . 10| From left: Louise Lasser, Greg Mullavey, and Claudia Lamb of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman . 11| President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton award Lear the 1999 National Medal of Arts. 12| Rita Moreno and Lear

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JULY/AUGUST • 2022

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