FOCUS | NORMAN LEAR
ALL IN THE FAMILY
A LL IN THE FAMILY , LIKE ANY Norman Lear series that fol- lowed, represented a turning point in television comedy. “Whether you’ll enjoy this new series depends on your ability to laugh at yourself, because Archie Bunker is the embodiment of every ignorant, prejudicial opinion uttered by man,” wrote one TV critic. Obviously, viewers did indeed enjoy All in the Family . By Season 2 it was TV’s top-rated series, and it remained at the top for five straight years. Based on the U.K. comedy Till Death Us Do Part , the show was videotaped in front of a live studio audience (as were the later Lear comedies) to accentuate the commonal- ity of the Bunker/Stivic family. But there was nothing common about All in the Family . The show spun off five sitcoms: Maude , The Jeffersons , Archie Bunker’s Place , Gloria , and 704 Hauser . Two of those— Maude and The Jeffer- sons —begat spinoffs of their own: Good Times and Checking In . And All in the Family was the first TV program to earn Emmys for all its principal cast members. Not shy addressing issues, All in the Family boldly tackled every then-taboo subject in the book: race relations, feminism, homosexuality, war, religion, menopause, abortion, and gun control,
All in the Family ’s catchphrases, such as “Meathead,” “Dingbat,” and “Stifle,” were inspired by hearing the same words from his father. The sitcom was the first to feature a gay character: Philip Carey as Steve in the 1971 episode titled “Judging Books by Covers.” And, not surprisingly, it featured the first toilet flush ever heard on television.
among others. And it did so through the eyes of a working-class family in Queens, New York—Archie and Edith Bunker (Jean Stapleton) and Gloria (Sally Struthers) and Michael Stivic (Rob Reiner)—who, unlike the earlier, glossier versions of the typical TV brood, simply felt unflatteringly familiar. According to Norman Lear, many of
JULY/AUGUST • 2022
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