Wednesday, July 27, 2011
What Good Is Sitting Alone In Your Room? Perhaps Norman Lear!
July 27 is the 208th day of the year (209th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 157 days remaining until the end of the year. I hope you're spending your time wisely!
I wonder if I spent my time wisely in the 70s. I watched a LOT of television and one name that I was familiar with even as a kid was Norman Lear. On Saturday nights in the 70s, our television set was 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.
Today, Norman Lear is 89! Norman Milton Lear (born July 27, 1922) is an American television writer and producer who produced such 1970s sitcoms as All in the Family, Sanford and Son, One Day at a Time, The Jeffersons, Good Times and Maude. As a political activist, he founded the civil liberties advocacy organization People For the American Way in 1981 and has supported First Amendment rights and liberal causes.
Lear was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the son of Jeanette (née Seicol) and Herman Lear, who worked in sales.He grew up in a Jewish home and had a Bar Mitzvah.
Lear went to high school in Hartford, Connecticut and subsequently attended Emerson College in Boston, but dropped out in 1942 to join the United States Army Air Forces. During World War II, he served in the Mediterranean Theater as a radio operator/gunner on Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombers with the 772nd Bombardment Squadron, 463rd Bombardment Group (Heavy) of the Fifteenth Air Force. He flew 52 combat missions, for which he was awarded the Air Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters. Lear was discharged from the Army in 1945. He and his fellow World War II crew members are featured in the book "Crew Umbriago" by Daniel P.Carroll (tail gunner), and also in another book: 772nd Bomb Squadron: The Men, The Memories by Turner Publishing Company.
In 1954, Lear was enlisted as a writer hoping to salvage the new Celeste Holm CBS sitcom, Honestly, Celeste!, but the program was canceled after eight episodes. During this time, he became the producer of NBC's The Martha Raye Show, after Nat Hiken left as the series director.
In 1959, Lear created his first television series starring Henry Fonda, a half-hour western for Revue Studios called The Deputy. Starting out as a comedy writer, then a film director (he wrote and produced the 1967 film Divorce American Style and directed the 1971 film Cold Turkey, both starring Dick Van Dyke), Lear tried to sell a concept for a sitcom about a blue-collar American family to ABC. They rejected the show after two pilots were filmed. After a third pilot was shot, CBS picked up the show, known as All in the Family. It premiered January 12, 1971 to disappointing ratings, but it took home several Emmy Awards that year, including Outstanding Comedy Series. The show did very well in summer reruns, and it flourished in the 1971-1972 season, becoming the top-rated show on TV for the next five years.
After falling from the #1 spot, All in the Family still remained in the top ten, well after it transitioned into Archie Bunker's Place. The show was based on the British sitcom Til Death Us Do Part, about an irascible working-class Tory and his Socialist son-in-law.
Lear's second big TV hit was also based on a British sitcom, Steptoe and Son, about a west London junk dealer and his son. Lear changed the setting to the Watts section of Los Angeles and the characters to African-Americans, and the NBC show Sanford and Son was an instant hit. Numerous hit shows followed thereafter, including Maude (the lead character of which was reportedly based on Lear's then-wife Frances), The Jeffersons (both spin-offs of All in the Family), and One Day at a Time.
What most of the Lear sitcoms had in common was that they were character-driven, had sets that more resembled stage plays than common sitcom sets, were shot on videotape in place of film, used a live studio audience, and most importantly dealt with the social and political issues of the day. Ironically, although Lear's shows are often considered somewhat autobiographical and closely identified with his personal experiences, his early hits were actually all adapted from someone else's creations: the two aforementioned British adaptations and Maude, while reputedly based on Lear's wife, was actually the brainchild of series producer Charlie Hauck. Also, with the exception Maude, another thing that all of these show had in common was that much of the ideas were the ideas and/or creation of the brilliant writers Eric Monte and Mike Evans; of whom Norman Lear and his buddies to this day will not give credit to nor did they pay them.
Carroll O'Connor as Archie Bunker, a bigoted blue-collar worker whose ignorant stubbornness tends to cause his arguments to self-destruct. By the time of Archie Bunker's Place, however, the character has mellowed somewhat and is no longer as explicitly bigoted as he had been during All in the Family, even agreeing to go into business with Murray, who's Jewish, and becoming close friends with him.
All in the Family
All in the Family is an American sitcom that was originally broadcast on the CBS television network from January 12, 1971 to April 8, 1979. In September 1979, a new show, Archie Bunker's Place, picked up where All in the Family had ended. This sitcom lasted another four years, ending its run in 1983.
Produced by Norman Lear, it was based on the British television comedy series Till Death Us Do Part.
The show broke ground in its depiction of issues previously considered unsuitable for U.S. network television comedy, such as racism, homosexuality, women's liberation, rape, miscarriage, abortion, breast cancer, the Vietnam War, menopause and impotence.
"Even when they don't know who Nixon was, these shows will continue to play."
The show ranked #1 in the yearly Nielsen ratings from 1971 to 1976. It became the first television series to reach the milestone of having topped the Nielsen ratings for five consecutive years, a mark later matched by The Cosby Show and surpassed by American Idol, which notched its sixth consecutive year at #1 in 2010 and whose streak is still ongoing. TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time ranked All in the Family as #4. Bravo also named the show's protagonist, Archie Bunker, TV's greatest character of all time.
The comedy revolves around Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor), a working-class World War II veteran. He is a very outspoken bigot, seemingly prejudiced against everyone who is not a U.S.-born, politically conservative, heterosexual White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, and dismissive of anyone not in agreement with his view of the world. His ignorance and stubbornness tend to cause his malapropism-filled arguments to self-destruct. He often responds to uncomfortable truths by blowing a raspberry. He longs for simpler times when people sharing his viewpoint were in charge, as evidenced by the nostalgic theme song "Those Were the Days", the show's original title.
By contrast, his wife Edith (Jean Stapleton) is a sweet and understanding—if somewhat naïve—woman.
She usually defers to her husband. On the rare occasions when Edith takes a stand she proves to be one of the wisest characters, as evidenced in the episodes "The Battle of the Month" and "The Games Bunkers Play". Archie often tells her to "stifle" herself and calls her a "dingbat".
Despite their different personalities they love each other deeply.
This covered the entire span of the 70s and my life from the time I was 10 until I was 18. And Archie Bunker's Place covered my first few years in NY.
Archie Bunker's Place is an American sitcom originally broadcast on the CBS network, conceived in 1979 as a spin-off and continuation of All in the Family. While not as popular as its predecessor, the show maintained a large enough audience to last four seasons until its cancellation in 1983. The first season, the show performed so well that it knocked Mork & Mindy out of its new Sunday night time slot. A year before, Mork & Mindy had been the #3 show on television during its first season.
Archie Bunker's Place continued on from All in the Family.
Although the Bunker home, the primary set for the original series, was featured, the new series was primarily set in the titular Archie Bunker's Place, the neighborhood tavern in Queens which Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor)
purchased in the eighth-season premiere of All in the Family. During the premiere of Archie Bunker's Place, Bunker takes on a Jewish partner, Murray Klein (Martin Balsam), when co-owner Harry Snowden decides to sell his share of the business.
Early in the first season, to increase business, Archie and Murray build a restaurant onto the bar; the additions include a separate seating area for the restaurant and a well-equipped kitchen with service window. The regular patrons include Barney Hefner, Hank Pivnik, and Edgar Van Ranseleer.
Archie Bunker's Place was the sounding board for Archie's views, support from his friends, and Murray's counterpoints. Later in the series, after Murray re-marries and leaves for San Francisco, Archie finds a new business partner, Gary Rabinowitz (Barry Gordon), whose views were liberal in contrast to Archie's political conservatism.
Jean Stapleton continued to play Archie's wife Edith Baines-Bunker when Archie Bunker's Place premiered.
The show featured Edith occasionally during the first season, but Stapleton decided to leave the series late in 1979; her character was referred to but unseen during the rest of the 1979-1980 season. The writers and producers addressed Stapleton's departure in the Season 2 premiere, explaining that Edith had died of a stroke. Archie reflected on his wife's passing, and eventually, began dating other women.
Born in New York City, O'Connor studied at the University of Montana, the National University of Ireland and University College Dublin. He first began to act while overseas, joining the famed Dublin Gate Theatre. Returning to New York, he won his first professional roles such off Broadway plays as Ulysses in Nighttown and The Big Knife.
In 1960, Hollywood producer Roy Huggins saw him in the NBC-TV special The Sacco- Vanzetti Story and signed him to play a key role in the film A Fever in the Blood.
During the next 11 years, O'Connor appeared in 25 films for all major studios, and became established as one of Hollywood's most versatile character actors in such films as Lonely Are the Brave, Cleopatra, Point Blank, Waterhole #3, By Love Possessed, Lad: A Dog, In Harm 's Way, The Devil 's Brigade, Hawaii, Not With My Wife You Don 't, Warning Shot, Marlowe, Death of a Gunfighter, Kelly 's Heroes, Doctors' Wives, Law and Disorder and his own adaptation for television of The Last Hurrah for Hallmark Hall of Fame.
Between films he made guest appearances on television programs such as the U.S. Steel Hour, Kraft Theatre, Armstrong Circle Theatre and most of the filmed series hits of the 1960s, as well as writing, acting and directing plays in Los Angeles.
Thank you Norman Lear! Thanks for the characters you created and for making MY 70s a lot more fun! Happy Birthday!
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Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com