Toned down for American primetime, All in the Family still managed to rock TV land.
Based on the controversial BBC series, Till Death Us Do Part(created by Johnny Speight) and warmed up with The Honeymooners and The Flintstones, nothing had prepared us for Archie Bunker (played by the apparently sweet Carroll O’Connor).
Archie was a complicated guy.
Clearly bigoted and uncouth, he was also honest and hard-working, often expressing opinions people were thinking, but couldn’t go against the politically correct times to say.
He was also an excellent way to hold a mirror up to bigotry and prejudice without shoving it down people’s throats.
This show rammed through contentious and taboo subjects, including but not limited to: racism, homosexuality, rape, miscarriage, abortion, women’s liberation, menopause, breast cancer, impotence, the Vietnam War and more.
Archiewas a scared man. His comfy chair world had been turned on its head.
He knew his place and everyone else knew their place. Until they didn’t. Archie didn’t understand why everything he felt was right in the world, especially his world, had to change.
His long-suffering wife Edith (Jean Stapleton) was patient in ways no one, including their daughter, Gloria (Sally Struthers) could understand. Despite their many issues, it was clear they all loved each other deeply.
Gloria’s hippie husband, Mike/Meathead (Rob Reiner)highlighted the clash between The Greatest Generation (Archie as a WWII vet) and Baby Boomers, the struggle between the old guard and young people who wanted to change the world…Archie’s snug little world.
And then there were the spinoffs. The Jeffersons movin’ on up to the East Side. Edith’s cousin, Maude (the incomparable Bea Arthur) visiting then getting a hilarious spinoff. And Good Times was a dy-no-mite spinoff from Maude. And more…
Taped in multi-camera format in front of a live studio audience, All in the Family never failed to break new ground.
I loved that they never used canned laughter. I’d prefer not to hear any laughter, but if I must, let it be genuine.
Family Guy pays tribute to All in the Family with its opening sequence of Lois and Peter playing the piano, and various other similarities…then again, the whole show is a pop culture fart. Of course, they’ve taken it much further, boldly going where even TV censors, after dying of exhaustion, knew they could go.
American Dad!(created by Seth MacFarlane, Mike Barker, and Matt Weitzman) is an absurd animated emulation, though since the All in the Family players were more caricatures than characters, it makes sense. And they added Roger and Klaus; who can complain?
All in the Family and its official and unofficial offspring influence so many; although, looking around the world today, I think a lot of the messages are being missed, or misinterpreted.