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All in the Family

From Academic Kids

Template:Infobox television All in the Family is a popular and acclaimed American situation comedy that was originally broadcast on the CBS television network from January 12, 1971 until April 8, 1979, when the final original episode aired. In September 1979, the show was retooled and given a new name, Archie Bunker's Place. With that title, the sitcom lasted another four years, finally ending its run in 1983.

Produced by Norman Lear, and based on a British television series Till Death Us Do Part, the show broke ground in its depiction of issues previously deemed unsuitable for network television comedy, such as racism, homosexuality, women's liberation, rape, breast cancer and impotence.

The show was wildly popular, and ranked #1 in the yearly Nielsen ratings from 1971 to 1976. Only one other program, The Cosby Show, has tied All In The Family in terms of years at the top of the ratings.

Contents

Overview

Set in the borough of Queens in New York City, the program starred:

  • Carroll O'Connor as Archie Bunker, a bigoted blue-collar worker whose ignorant stubbornness tends to cause his arguments to self destruct.
  • Jean Stapleton as Edith "Dingbat" Bunker, Archie's traditional but at times outspoken wife. Jean remained with the show all through the original series run, and decided to leave after the first season of Archie Bunker's Place. At that point, Edith was written out as having suffered a stroke and died off camera, leaving Archie to deal with the death of his beloved "Dingbat."
  • Sally Struthers as Gloria Stivic, their college-age daughter.
  • Rob Reiner as Michael "Meathead" Stivic, Gloria's college-student husband, an archetypical, if occasionally self righteous, 1960's liberal who constantly sparred with Archie on political and social issues.
  • Earlier seasons also featured Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford as George and Louise Jefferson, Archie's African American neighbors.


All in the Family was notorious for featuring language and epithets previously censored from television, such as "fag" for homosexual, "spade" and, less frequently, "nigger" for blacks, and phrases such as "God damn it". While moral watchdogs attacked the show on those grounds, others objected to the show's portrayal of Archie Bunker as a "lovable" bigot. Defenders of the series pointed out that Archie usually lost his arguments (it is perhaps worth noting that Alf Garnett, Archie Bunker's counterpart in the original British series, was far from lovable, and used much stronger language that would never have been allowed on US network television).

Production

Lear bought the rights to Till Death Us Do Part and incorporated his own family experiences with his father into the show. He would tell his mother to "stifle yourself" and she would tell him "you are the laziest white man I ever saw" (two 'Archieisms' that found their way onto the show). While in pre-production, the last name chosen for Archie's family was "Justice" and the show's title was Justice for All but was later changed to Those Were the Days.

Former child actor Mickey Rooney was the show's choice to play Archie but Rooney declined the offer due to its strong potential for controversy and poor, in Rooney's opinion, chances for success. Actor Carroll O'Connor enthusiastically sought the part even though he agreed with Rooney's assessment of the show's chances. After seeing the show's pilot, the production company, ABC, also fed into this doubt and canceled the project.

Rival network CBS then bought the rights from ABC and re-titled the show All in the Family. In an effort to warn viewers about the controversial nature of the show, CBS ran a disclaimer before airing the first episode (which disappeared from the screen with the sound of a toilet flush).

The house shown in the opening credits, meant to be the Bunkers', is located at 89-70 Cooper Avenue in the Glendale neighborhood of Queens, New York. [1] (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E04E3DA1531F93BA15753C1A9679C8B63) The fictional address of the Bunker home is 704 Hauser Street. The characters never specifically mentioned which neighborhood in Queens they lived in.

All in the Family is also historic as being one of the first major American series to be videotaped in front of a live studio audience. Previously, sitcoms had been shot on film in front of an audience, and the 1960s had seen a growing number of sitcoms filmed on soundstages without audiences, with a laugh track simulating audience response. After the success of All in the Family, videotaping sitcoms in front of an audience became the standard format for the genre.

Sample episode: "Sammy's Visit"


Jewish and African American performer Sammy Davis, Jr. loved the show and often pestered Lear to allow him to make a guest appearance. But Lear resisted, feeling that Sammy's appearance playing a character part would upset the continuity of the series. So the writers developed a plot that would allow Davis to play himself in an episode; Archie, low on cash, takes up moonlighting as a taxi driver and he picks Davis up as a fare, but Davis accidentally leaves his briefcase in the cab.

In spite of his bigoted opinions of both Jews and African Americans, Archie can barely contain his excitement as he tells Edith about his encounter and the fact the Davis, himself, would be stopping by later to retrieve his briefcase. (Archie's friend Munson was going to deliver the briefcase to the Bunker residence). He then sternly warns Edith (whom Archie often called "Dingbat") not to mention Davis's glass eye but later slips and asks coffee-sipping Davis "...Do you take cream and sugar in your eye?" while staring into Davis' glass eye.

In a later exchange between the two, Archie says, "I think that if God had meant for us to be together, he'd have put us together. But look what he done. He put you over in Africa, and put the rest of us in all the white countries," to which Davis responded, "Well, he must've told you where we were because somebody came and got us."

Finally Munson arrives with the briefcase and, also star struck, asks if he could photograph Davis. Davis agreed on one condition; that Archie be in the photo with him. Then right as Munson snapped the photo Davis placed a kiss on Archie's cheek. A look of confusion mixed with horror replaces the grin on the bigot Archie's face and the studio audience erupted into unconstrained laughter.

"Sammy's Visit" would later win the episode's director, John Rich, an Emmy Award for Best Directing. It first aired on February 19, 1972.

Spin-off series

An animated series and Hanna-Barbera production entitled Wait Till Your Father Gets Home was based on All in the Family.

Archie Bunker's Place, though listed above, is arguably a continuation of All in the Family and not a spin-off.

Theme song

The series' theme song, "Those Were the Days", was presented in a unique way for a 1970s series, with O'Connor and Jean Stapleton singing the tune on camera at the start of every episode. Several different performances were recorded over the run of the series, including one version that includes an additional verse. The song is a simple melody in which Archie and Edith wax nostalgic for the simpler days of yesteryear, and the wish that someone like Herbert Hoover were president again.

The theme song for the TV show Family Guy is a parody of this, in which Lois laments the "violence in movies and sex on TV."

All in the Family on DVD

The first four seasons of All in the Family are available on Region 1 DVD from Sony Pictures Television.

References

Template:Wikiquote

  • Archie & Edith, Mike & Gloria : the Tumultuous History of All in the Family, Donna McCrohan, (Workman Publishing; 1988) ISBN 0-8948-0527-4
  • Stay Tuned: Television's Unforgettable Moments, Joe Garner, (Andrews McMeel Publishing; 2002) ISBN 0-7407-2693-5

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