The show that transformed American television in the early 1970's.
Mar 23, 2009
For todays generation of television viewers the numbers seem incomprehensible. Yet, it is indeed a fact that on Saturday nights in the early 1970's 60% of those watching television in America were tuned in to producer Norman Lear's groundbreaking situation comedy "All In The Family" on CBS. "All In The Family" premiered on January 12, 1971 as a mid-season replacement with an episode called "Meet The Bunkers". Executives at CBS were quite nervous about how the public would react to its new offering and for the first six weeks opened the program with the following disclaimer:
WARNING: The program you are about to see is "All in the Family". It seeks to throw a humerous spotlight on our frailties, prejudices, and concerns. By making them a source of laughter, we hope to show - in a mature fashion - just how absurd they are."
In the beginning the audiences were small. But over the next year the audience grew steadily so that by the beginnng of 1972 more than 50 million people a week were tuned in to the show. "All In The Family" centered around the exploits of the Bunker household at 704 Hauser Street in Queens. Archie Bunker worked on the dock at a local manufacturing plant and exhibited all of the fears and prejudices that were so prevalent at that time. Archie (Carroll O' Connor) hated anyone who did not look or think like he did and was not shy about expressing himself. His wife Edith (Jean Stapleton) was a peach of a woman who loved her husband dearly and tolerated all of his idiosyncrasies. The Bunkers had a daughter named Gloria (Sally Struthers) who had recently been married to Mike Stivik (Rob Reiner). Since Mike was still going to college the Stiviks saved money by living in the Bunker household. Mike's extremely liberal point of view was the perfect foil to Archie and made for some highly explosive and amusing moments during each episode. To further add to Archie's woes a black family named Jefferson bought the house next door in one of the very earliest episodes. The ensemble was now in place for one of the greatest shows in the history of television. Over the next five years the show would explore topics that were previously taboo on television. Subjects like gun control, menopause, integration, religion, homosexuality, the Vietnam War, draftdodgers, the sexual revolution and rape were just a few of the topics handled with great aplomb by Norman Lear and the cast. And as time wore on the timing of the cast improved dramatically and would only serve to enhance the audiences enjoyment of the show.
As the popularity of "All In The Family" continued to grow by leaps and bounds it was apparent that Norman Lear had struck a nerve with most Americans. After all, just about all of us knew Archie Bunker. He might be our dad, our uncle, our boss or perhaps our next door neighbor or the guy who ran the gas station across the street. The nation had grown weary of the mindless situation comedies of the 1960's and was looking for something different and a bit more sophisticated. Norman Lear gave the people what they wanted even if they didn't know it at first. What also made "All In The Family" so very special is that it was taped in front of a "live" audience. This technique had not been employed since the early 1950's when Desi Arnaz did it with "I Love Lucy". The "live" audience seemed to add a touch of spontaneity to the proceedings. "All In The Family" was the top-rated show in this country for five seasons. We will probably never see anything like it again. Great writing and a superb cast make "All In The Family" one of the greatest shows in television history. Very highly recommended!
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Paul Tognetti (drifter51)
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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On Saturday nights in the mid-Seventies, 60 per cent of all television sets were tuned into the landmark sitcom in which a Queens loading dock worker named Archie Bunker was the hero. All in the Family was simultaneously the most popular and controversial show of the 1970's. Never before had a situation comedy brought Americans face-to-face with each other via the medium of television, utilizing controversial themes such as sexuality and race relations to comprise story lines.
By 1971, television had become a mix of comedic cardboard cutouts screwing up cozy life in the suburbs and dramatic superman heroes involved in comic book plots. Producers Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin were afraid that any attempt to lampoon the blue-collar lifestyle would surely fail because Americans had become too dour to laugh at themselves.
With nothing to lose, Lear and York didn't hold back. CBS unsuccessfully tried to convince them to revise the opening scene of the pilot, which showed son-in-law Mike "Meathead" Stivic (played by Rob Reiner) desperately trying to persuade his wife Gloria (Sally Struthers) to have sex at eleven in the morning while father-in-law Archie and mother-in-law Edith (Jean Stapleton) were at church. When he arrives home, Archie (played brilliantly by Carroll O'Connor) enjoys his Sabbath from his easy chair, supermarket beer in hand, vociferously denouncing the contemporary attack on the white male in general, addressing African-Americans as ...