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All in the Family

Created by: Norman Lear (based on Till Death Us Do Part, created by Johnny Speight) Starring: Carroll O'Connor, Jean Stapleton, Rob Reiner (1971-78) Sally Struthers (1971-77), Danielle Brisebois (1978-79)

Country of origin: USA

No. of seasons: 9

No. of episodes: 202

Production

Running time: 30 minutes

Broadcast

Original channel: CBS

Original run: January 12, 1971 April 8, 1979

Chronology

Followed by: Maude, The Jeffersons, Archie Bunker's Place Gloria, 704 Hauser

 

 

 

All in the Family

All in the Family is an American sitcom that was broadcast on CBS from January 12, 1971 to April 8, 1979. In 1979 the show was renamed Archie Bunker's Place. The show ran under this new name for another four years and ended in 1983.

The show was produced by Norman Lear and was based on the British television series Till Death Us Do Part. The show explored topics that were very controversial including racism, homosexuality, women's liberation , rape, miscarriage, breast cancer, and impotency.

According to the Nielsen ratings the show was ranked #1 from 1971 to 1976. In 2007 The Cosby Show was the only other show that was at the top of the ratings for at least 5 consecutive seasons. In 2002 All in the Family was #4 on TV Guide's list of the 50 greatest TV shows of all time. Bravo named Archie Bunker TV's greatest character of all time.

 

 

All in the Family Premise

All in the Family starred Carroll O'Connor as Archie Bunker. He was a working-class racist who hated everyone's way of life and hated everything that didn't fit the way he thought things should be. When he's confronted with the truth he blows raspberries. He wished were the way he thought they should be and he wished people who thought like him ran things. That makes the shows theme song appropriate, "Those Were the Days." That title was also the show's original title. In the first pilot for the show, the family name was Justice rather than Bunker.

His wife was Archie's polar opposite; Edith (Jean Stapleton) is kind and understanding. She has less knowledge about worldly things but she's not stupid. She was kind of a woman who knew her place....kind of. She often fought for her rights and didn't let Archie bully her. See the following episodes for examples of this: "The Battle of the Month" and "the Games Bunkers Play". Archie's put downs include telling Edith to "stifle herself" and by calling her a "dingbat". Even with the different ways of thinking they love each other.

The Bunkers have a daughter, Gloria (Sally Struthers). You might remember her from commercials where she wants to help solve the hunger problem in places like Africa. If she would stop eating all their food it might not be such a problem. I'm not the first person to joke about her getting fat and then doing commercials about hunger. On All in the Family she's married to Michael Stivic (Rob Reiner). You might know him as one of the big movie producers in Hollywood, or you may not. His father Carl Reiner was also a comic genius. Michael, a.k.a. Meathead and Archie argue about political, social, and personal issues. Michael is an Atheist and this makes Archie very angry. Gloria and Michael live with the Bunkers to save money. This means more fights between Archie and Michael. When the Stivics finally move out it's to the house next door, thanks to George Jefferson when he moves his family to "The East Side". That's when the other great show The Jeffersons comes about. Jefferson knew Archie would be riled by having Michael next door. It's almost like they never moved out. Archie often calls Michael "meathead" or "Polack"....pronounced Polock. Archie does this to bug him about being Polish and implying that Michael is a stereotypical Polish person (lower intelligence).

The show is set in the Astoria section of Queens, one of New York City's five boroughs.

All in the Family Cast

Main characters

Carroll O'Connor is Archie Bunker.

Jean Stapleton played the part of Edith Bunker.  She was on the original show until its end.  She left before the end of the first season of Archie Bunker's Place (a modified version of the original).  Edith was written out.  The writers had her suffer a stroke and die off camera.  Archie was left to deal with her death.  Stapleton was on every episode of the original show except four.

Sally Struthers played the part of Gloria Bunker-Stivic.  She was the Bunker's college-age daughter and was married to Michael Stivic (Meathead).  Michael (Meathead) often ends up in arguments with Archie and Gloria tries to calm them down.  Sally Struthers and Rob Reiner were not the first to try the "Gloria" and "Dickie" (the name given to the son-in-law at first).  Candice Azzara and Chip Oliver were the original actors who got the part.  The suits didn't like both actors so Struthers and Reiner were brought in by Norman Lear.  Penny Marshall was also considered for the "Gloria" part.  Reiner married Marshall in April 1971.  That might have made the relationship on the show interesting.  Reiner and Marshall could have used their real life as a reference for the part.  Reiner and Struthers were a good match though.  They both were very convincing as husband and wife.

Rob Reiner played the part of Michael Stivic, Archie and Edith's son-in-law.  Archie called him "meathead".  You may have seen Rob Reiner recently on the Hannah Monatana show.  Michael Stivic is a college-student like Gloria.  He is a liberal Polish-American and gets into a lot of arguments with Archie.  Orginally Michael was supposed to be Irish-American.  Richard Dryfuss wanted the "Michael" part but Lear chose Reiner. 

All in the Family Supporting characters

Sherman Hemsley played George Jefferson.  Isabel Sanford  played George Jefferson's wife Louise.  Mike Evans played the Jefferson's son......that's an awkward set of words. "Jefferson's son".  My lips are tangled from saying it.  These three characters were Archie's African-American neighbors.  George is like archie, but he's black.  Louise is a smart, agressive version of Edith.  Lionel and Louise appeared in the show's first season.  George was mentioned but was not seen until 1973.  Hemsley was Lear's first choice to play George.  Hemsley was working in a Broadway musical and didn't want to leave in the middle of it's schedule.  Lear allowed Hemsley to take the role when the musical was done. 

Mel Stewart played George's brother, Henry Jefferson.  Stewart filled in for Hemsley.  They both appeared together only once in a 1973 episode.  In the episode Archie hosts a going-away party for Henry.  This was Stewart's final episode and Hemsley's first.  Stewart's character was hardly mentioned again; he was mentioned but never seen.  In the closing credits of the "The First and Last Supper" episode, Mel Stewart is credited as playing George Jefferson. Stewart was actually playing George's brother, Henry Jefferson, who was pretending to be George for most of the episode.

Betty Garrett and Vincent Gardenia played the liberal and Roman Catholic next-door neighbors Irene and Frank Lorenzo.  They joined the show as seim-regulars in 1973.  Gardenia only stayed for one season, but Garrett stayed until her character was phased out in late 1975.  Garrett later was a regular on Laverne and Shirley. 

Danielle Brisebois played Edith's 9-year old neice, Stephanie Mills.  The Bunkers take her in when her father abandons her (Floyd Mills).  She stayed on the show and became part of Archie Bunker's Place. 

Allen Melvin played Archie's neighbor and best friend Barney Hefner.  Barney's role grew when Reiner and Struthers left.

All in the Family Recurring characters

James Cromwell played Jerome "Stretch" Cunningham.  He was Archie's friend and coworker from the loading dock.  Archie didn't know Stretch was Jewish until Archie went to Stretch's funeral.  Did you know Archie was racist ......  well in the words of Fergie (Black Eyed Peas.....whom I've seen.....well you know) "Well you know now!"

Liz Torres played Theresa Betencourt, a Latina nursing student.  She happens to meet Archie for the first time when Archie is at the hospital for surgery.  She ends up renting Mike and Gloria's room at the Bunker house.

Bob Hastings plays Kelcy or Tommy Kelsey, who owns the bar Archie hangs out in and later buys.

Jason Wingreen plays Harry Snowden, a bartender at Kelcy's Bar.  He continues to work for Archie when Archie buys the bar.  He later becomes Archie's business partner.

Gloria LeRoy played Mildred "Boom-Boom" Turner.  She is a well-endowed (big-breasted for the younger crowd) middle-aged secretary at the plant where Archie works.  She originally doesn't like Archie because of his sexist behavior.  Later she is more friendly with Archie.  She even works as a barmaid at Archie's Place from time to time.

All in the Family Actors in multiple roles

A number of actors played multiple roles during the show's run:

Jean Stapleton played both Edith Bunker and Judith Klammerstadt in the episode "A Girl Like Edith". 

Vincent Gardenia portrayed neighbor Jim Bowman, who sells the Jeffersons their house in "The Jeffersons Move In"; Curtis Rempley, half of a wife-swapping couple Edith befriends in "The Bunkers and the Swingers" (from the show's first and third seasons respectively); and later had a recurring role as neighbor Frank Lorenzo during the 1973-74 season

Gloria LeRoy played the wife of one of Archie's old Army buddies (Duke Loomis) in third season episode "The Threat" and later portrayed Mildred "Boom-Boom" Turner in a few episodes between 1974 and 1978.

Allan Melvin played NYPD Sergeant Paul Pulaski in the second-season episode "Archie and the Lock-up" and later played the recurring role of Archie's best friend Barney Hefner from 1973 on.

Marcia Rodd appeared in two episodes during the 1971-1972 season, playing two different characters, first as a single mother who accuses Mike of being the father of her eight-year old son in "Mike's Mysterious Son", and Maude's daughter Carol in the episode "Maude". (Adrienne Barbeau would take over the role of Carol on spinoff series Maude.)

Bill Macy first appeared as a uniformed Police Officer in the "Archie Sees a Mugging" episode before returning as Maude's husband

Roscoe Lee Browne appears as Hugh Victor Thompson III in "The Elevator Story" (1972) and then returns as Jean Duval in "Archie in the Hospital" (1973)

Burt Mustin played the role of night watchman Harry Feeney in the episode titled Archie is Worried About His Job. He came back later in a few episodes, as Justin Quigley, starting with Edith Finds an Old Man.

Sorrell Booke (who played Boss Hogg in the Dukes of Hazzard) played Mr. Bennett, the owner of a television station in "Archie and the Editorial (1972)" and then returned four more times as Mr. Sanders, Archie's boss down at the loading dock.

"Kelcy" or "Kelsey"

The name of the establishment is Kelcy's Bar (as seen in the bar window in various episodes). 

All in the Family Controversial nature

In a warning to viewers, CBS ran a disclaimer before airing the first episode (which disappeared from the screen with the sound of a toilet flushing):

"The program you are about to see is All in the Family. It seeks to throw a humorous 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."

All in the Family used a lot of racial slurs as part of it's humor.  Examples of the slurs are  "fag" for homosexual, "spic" for Hispanics, "dago" and "wop" for Italians, "chink" for Asians, "spade" for Blacks, and phrases such as "God damn it." It was also famous for being the first major television show to feature the sound of a flushing toilet; it became a running gag on the show.

The censors and their friends have had problems with these slurs.  Others didn't like that Archie was seen as a "loveable" bigot.

All in the Family explored topics and items that other shows wouldn't.  For example in a 1973 episode the Bunkers found a swastika on their front door.  It was actually meant for the Jewish neighbors down the street.  A Jewish organization approached the Bunkers and suggested a violent reaction to the swastika.  The organization member ended up being blown up in his car as the Bunkers watched.  

All in the Family Production

Norman Lear based All in the Family on "Till Death Us Do Part" and his own experiences with his father.  He bought the rights to "Till Death Us Do Part".  Lear's father used to tell Lear's mother to "stifle herself".  Lear's mother would tell Lear's father that he was "the laziest white man...."  

Three different pilots were shot for the series.  Different actors played the roles of Mike, Gloria and Lionel in the first two.

ABC cancelled the project when Richard Dreyfuss wanted to play the role of Michael.  CBC bought the rights from ABC and renamed the show All in the Family.

Lear originally wanted to shoot the show in black and white to intensify the focus on Archie.  CBC insisted the show be done in color.  Lear chose neutral tones for the set as a compromise.

All in the Family was the first major American series to be videotaped in front of a live studio audience.  At the time, sitcoms were shot on film in front of an audience (like Mary Tyler Moore and The Dick Van Dyke Show), 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 common format for the genre during the 70s. However, the use of videotape also gave All in the Family the look and feel of the classic sitcoms of early television, which had been performed live before a studio audience (including the original live broadcasts of The Honeymooners, to which All in the Family is sometimes compared.

In the final season the already taped and edited show was shown to an audience and the laughter was recorded to add to the original sound track.  The voice over during the end credits was changed from Rob Reiner's "All in the Family was recorded on tape before a live studio audience" to Carroll O'Connor's "All in the Family was played to a studio audience for live responses."  (Typically, the audience would be gathered for a taping of One Day At A Time, and get to see All In the Family as a bonus.) Throughout its run, Norman Lear took pride in the fact that canned laughter was never used (mentioning this on many occasions); the laughter heard in the episodes was genuine.

The house shown in the opening credits is located at 89-70 Cooper Avenue in the Glendale neighborhood of Queens, New York.  The original house has no porch but in the show there was a porch which was used for some scenes.

Spin-offs and TV special

Maude was one of the more notable spin-offs (September 12, 1972).  Maude Findlay (Beatrice Arthur (Bea Arthur)) played Edith's cousin on All in the Family.  She showed up on the show in December 1971 to take care of the Bunkers when they were sick.  Maude hated Archie mostly because she thought Edith could do better.  Another episode that had Maude in it was the one where the Archie and Edith went to Maude's house for her daughter's wedding.  The episode was a way to introduce Maude's new spin off show.  Bill Macy played Maude's husband.  Marcia Rodd played the part of Carol until she was replaced by Adrienne Barbeau in the actual Maude show.

The other spin off show was The Jeffersons.  It was the longest running spin off of All in the Family.  It was introduced on CBC on Janurary 18, 1975.  The Jeffersons lasted 11 seasons.  All in the Family lasted 9 seasons.  As you might remember, the Jeffersons were the Bunkers's neighbors in All in the Family.  They moved and then The Jeffersons, the show, happened.  Sherman Hemsley is George Jefferson.  Isabel Sanford is Louise "Weezie" Jefferson.  George was the owner of a chain of seven successful dry-cleaning stores and on the Jeffersons he continues to own them.  George and Louise appeared on the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.  They bought the Banks mansion on the last show of Fresh Prince of Bel Air.  Arnold and Mr. Drummond from Different Strokes also happen to look at the Banks' home on that last episode.  Isn't it nice to have all the shows scratching each other's backs.

Other spin-offs of All in the Family include:

Archie Bunker's Place was a spin-off and a continuation of All in the Family.  Gloria divorced Michael and starts a new life.  The show basically runs out of the bar that Archie owns.   There is a new family at the original Bunker home after the funeral and the visitation at the Bunker home.  

There were two other spin-offs, well spin-offs of spin-offs.  Good Times was one of the shows.  It featured Maude's former maid Florida Evans.  The Jefferson's maid, Florence gets her own show.  A special 90-minute retrospective show was produced to celebrate the show's 20th Anniversary.  It aired on CBC on February 16, 1991.  Norman Lear created the show.  The show had a compilation of clips from the show's best moments, including interview with cast members Carroll O'Connor, Jean Stapleton, Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers.  Reiner and Lear promotd the special on The Arsenio Hall Show a week before it aired.

Theme song

The show's opening song was written by Lee Adams (lyrics) and Charles Strouse (music).  Carroll O'Connor and Jean Stapleton were seen playing and singing the song in the opening of each show.

Norman Lear admitted during interviews that the piano song introduction was a cost-cutting idea.  The opening became very famous and parodied.

The closing theme was "Remembering You" played by Roger Kellaway with lyrics co-written by Carroll O'Connor.  The scenery played while the theme played was a footage of houses in Queens.  That was supposed to represent the Bunkers' neighborhood.

Cultural impact

President Richard Nixon was hear discussing the show in the Watergate tapes.  Eric Cartman from South Park was the inspired by the Archie Bunker character.  It would have been a hard character to sell as an adult but as an eight-year-old boy the creators of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, got away with it.  South Park would probable make Archie giggle. 

Archie and Edith's chairs are now in the Smithsonian Institution. Originally purchased by the show's set designer for a few dollars at a local Goodwill thrift store, the originals were given to the Smithsonian (for an exhibit on American television history) in 1978. It cost producers thousands of dollars to create replicas to replace the originals. In 1998 All in the Family was honored on a 33-cent stamp by the USPS.

On the TV series Family Guy, the opening sequence shows Peter and Lois Griffin playing the piano and singing, which is an homage to the opening sequence for All in the Family.   Also, the Family Guy episode "PTV" depicts a fictional All in the Family scene where Archie and Edith get the Jeffersons to move by burning a cross on their lawn while dressed like members of the Ku Klux Klan.  However, a two-part episode called "Archie and the KKK" shows that Archie does not approve of the racist organization. The closing credits are also parodied in the episode Stewie Loves Lois.

An episode of The Simpsons, "Lisa's Sax", features a parody of the opening sequence of All in the Family, with Marge playing piano and Marge and Homer singing an updated version of "Those were the Days". The episode then proceeds to state that it was filmed in front of a live studio audience. Homer Simpson also has some notable comparisons to Archie as well. including his first line following the intro to Bart: "hey there "meathead' what are you watching?" The show inspired the Hanna-Barbera cartoon series Wait Till Your Father Gets Home.

In the series The Golden Girls, in an episode where the girls discover their neighbor's palm tree has crashed into their yard after a storm, their neighbors make an appearance and have personalities very similar to the Bunkers.

All in the Family is the first of three sitcoms in which all the main characters won Emmy Awards (O'Connor, Stapleton, Struthers, and Reiner). The other two are The Golden Girls and Will & Grace.


Click here for a great All in the Family video clip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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