Welcome to the Hanspostcard TV Draft. I hope you will enjoy it! Today’s post was written by Paula at http://paulalight.com
I’m extra-excited to do this write-up because not only was All in the Family one of my favorite shows way back when, but it’s also one of the few that stands the test of time. So many other shows that I enjoyed in my youth are impossible for me to watch now because they are so full of sexism and jokes that just fall flat. AITF was unique in that it took the common bigotries and stuffed them into the character of Archie Bunker so the rest of us could see how ridiculous they were. (Sadly, many of them persist regardless.) But in his way, Archie was lovable, and he did end up changing, especially after his wife Edith died and he went on to the spin-off Archie Bunker’s Place.
AITF was a sitcom created by Norman Lear. It debuted on CBS on January 12, 1971 (over 50 years ago!) and ran for nine seasons. The show was based on a British sitcom Till Death Us Do Part, and it was produced by Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin. Carroll O’Connor played the main character Archie Bunker, Jean Stapleton played his wife Edith, Sally Struthers played their daughter Gloria, and Rob Reiner played Gloria’s husband Michael Stivic. Most people will recognize the opening theme song “Those Were the Days,” which Archie and Edith warbled off-key, thus beginning each episode on a funny note. [My source for this post is Wikipedia.]
The writing touched upon many issues that had previously been avoided on network comedy: abortion, anti-Semitism, homosexuality, rape, religion, cancer, menopause, etc. Due to its bravery in tackling these topics, AITF has been regarded as one of the greatest series in history. It also went from meh Nielsen ratings in the first season to No. 1 during summer reruns and afterward. The Writers Guild of America ranked it as the fourth-best written TV series ever.
The premise of the show is that Archie, a middle-aged working-class white man in Queens, NY, has the perpetual grumps toward his family, his neighbors, and the world in general. He is narrow-minded and conservative, and he views people strictly through his prejudices and stereotypes. One of the most frequent targets of his snide asides is his son-in-law Michael, a graduate student with a Polish background. Archie calls him “Meathead,” and Michael earnestly tries to enlighten Archie about new cultural ideas resulting in much hilarity for the audience.
To save money, the Stivics live with the Bunkers, so there are plenty of opportunities for the two men to butt heads, over topics major and minor.
Gloria is often exasperated with their arguments, but since she’s a feminist, she’ll take a stand on issues relating to women’s rights. She also gets particularly incensed at the inconsiderate way Archie treats her mom. For her part, Edith tries to keep the peace in their home by ignoring Archie’s nasty comments.
Another frequent target of Archie’s snark is a family of black neighbors, the Jeffersons. George Jefferson (played by Sherman Hemsley) is hilarious in his own right and ends up successful and wealthy enough to move out of the neighborhood to a posh place. The Jeffersons is a spin-off of AITF (there are many!), with George and Louise living in a luxury building (kinda similar to the one in Only Murders!).
If you’ve never seen AITF, I highly recommend checking out a few eps. Personally, I never get tired of stumbling across a clip here or there. This is one of my favorites, and it never fails to make me laugh.
Paula Light is a poet, novelist, flash fiction fan, cupcake connoisseur, mom, grandma, cat mommy, etc. Her blog can be found at http://paulalight.com.