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|Index||103 reviews in total|
I remember watching first runs of this show as a young child. My mother hated it, because of "all the screaming." This was a very important show and the cast and crew are to be commended for taking on very important and pertinent social issues during an already turbulent time-race relations, abortion, gun violence, and violence against women were only a few of the topics broached in the long run of this program. This was also the first show on TV that suggested the characters actually had a sex life. As for the person who commented that the show portrayed only the good side of left wing politics, I submit that isn't true. Archie was presented as an ultra conservative, bigoted, over the top stereotype, (Carroll O'Connor's portrayal of him was brilliant, and a lot of today's GOP devotees have apparently intentionally modeled themselves after him) and Rob Reiner's Mike Stivic was an uptight, overeducated snob with no real direction. No flattering portrayals on either side. What it did expose was the ignorance permeating American society-interesting too that it was set in Queens, NY instead of the deep South-that you can still hear coming out of the mouths of the likes of Jerry Falwell and our own president, albeit the language has been prettied up. A great, very important, and not to mention HILARIOUS show!
Even though it took three years and three pilots to get All in the
Family on network TV, it has become one of the most classic 70s sitcoms
as well as the show that broke the genteel world of comedies like Ozzie
and Harriet, Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver by featuring
subjects that weren't explored on those shows. Subjects like bigotry,
racism and menopause were controversial topics that were finally
brought out of the closet and used as the basis for a number of
The four main actors, Carroll O'Connor as Archie, Jean Stapleton as Edith, Rob Reiner as Mike and Sally Struthers as Gloria had great chemistry but it was O'Connor's portrayal of Archie is what made the show a major hit after a slow start. His bigoted rants and numerous malaprops stood out and were very funny. Also, the many scenes with Archie and Mike clashing on a lot of subjects were also extremely funny, especially in the flashback episode where Archie met mike for the first time.
All in the Family's success paved the way for more shows with more controversial topics such as Maude and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. Besides Maude, the show also had two other spinoffs, the hit sitcom The Jeffersons and the not so successful Gloria.
As the years went by, I felt the show jumped the shark when Archie became a lot mellower after buying Kelsey's Bar and when Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers left the show. The episode about Mike and Gloria leaving for California was one of the saddest sitcom episodes I ever saw but it remains a classic. Mike and Gloria leaving also lost most of the show's edge since the Archie-Mike conflict was one of the show's centerpieces. Another shark jump was the addition of Edith's niece Stephanie, another example of a sitcom adding another kid.
All in the Family, despite all the racial slurs was one of my all-time sitcom favorites. There well never be another show like it.
Lear's shows really are the same template repeated over and over. There is a bigot (Archie, George, Fred) who comes to have experiences with the people he hates that slowly begin chiseling through his facade: With All In The Family, it is Lionel, Sanford And Son, Julio and The Jeffersons, the interracial couple next door. What happened to Lear is when he made his shows too pedantic (Maude), with unlikable characters, they bombed. Carroll O' Conner and Jean Stapleton were this show. The writing was consistently hilarious with occasionally forays into serious topics (Rape, Death). The show was a nation's way of debating the social issues that were congruent with this Zeitgeist (Vietnam, Watergate, Women's Liberation, Abortion, Gay Rights). They are the center of many of the episodes, you have the different Dasein or Being There trying to find compromise on the issues (The traditional family man, his wife, the hippie intellectual). Above all things, like my preferred Sanford And Son, the shows are funny. Archie's racism is not just aimed at darker skinned people. The Irish's famous hatred for Italians was not joyfully received in our house. "Italians are known for two things: Spaghetti and Revenge." Archie is like Dirty Harry, he hates everybody.
Many women consider the show sexist but, again, Lear is developing the character you are seeing from how he was at the beginning. Like Fred, he has good experiences with others different from him that, quite slowly, begin changing him. The rape episodes were quite controversial in their day and sparked a public debate. There are moments, here, where Archie shows his deep love for Stapleton. She may be submissive, but, not always. There are times when she stands up to him and demands he respect her wishes. These two great actors, with great writing, are why the show endured. Archie's chair is in the Smithsonian for a reason: It was iconic. It was a the emblem of a traditional society facing rapid social change. Yes, detractors, Lear had his liberal agenda that he is always pushing: ergo, the idealized representations of 'The Other.' Even I, a conservative, found some of his work meritorious: he was helping a whole generation experience those different from them as non-threatening. Archie was such a bungler that it was hard to take offense towards him. Describing the pope as 'inflammable', Lear writes him as a sour curmudgeon whose bluster conceals a good heart, buried, deep, deep down.
As Julio said to Fred Sanford,"You know, I know what is deep inside of you." When you watch this remember what is going on, at this time, in the United States. This is the most turbulent period of social upheaval since the Civil War. The love of Archie and Edith, their loyalty to each other is what is often missed. This, was the paradox, while promoting liberal views, the existential bedrock of this long running show was the love between these two traditional people surrounded by a changing country. Within the great comedy, there are quiet moments of love between the couple. This island of traditional conservative stability was the rock upon which many viewers cast their anchor. It was a delicate balance, Lear was not always successful in maintaining it. Sanford And Son's writing declined around season 4, the ratings plummeted. When all is said and done, whether dead tired working people laughed, or not, was the focal point. When, with Maude, Lear presented an unlikable cast, focusing more upon indoctrination, the show quickly failed. The opening song contains the show: "We could use a man like Herbert Hoover again; Those were the days." You seeing frightened people trying to latch onto some vestige of what the country once was. Archie and Edith were with me as I grew, they brought much laughter into our lives. Even I, a conservative, loved the show. A One Of A Kind Show. Q.E.D.
"You Can Never Step In The Same River Twice." Heraclitus
When All In The Family premiered in 1971 it took some chances. Remember
that the CBS lineup at the time included The Beverly Hillbillies,
Gunsmoke, and Green Acres - hardly the stuff of controversy.
Controversial "Laugh-In" had been racking up big ratings for a couple
of years, but second-rate NBC had nothing to lose by taking chances.
Besides broaching all of the controversial topics of the day - abortion, the Vietnam War, homosexuality, and race relations, the show dared to say something that was seldom said on stage or screen before - that bigotry and racism thrived north of the Mason Dixon line, and found particularly safe harbors in some of the urban areas of what is normally thought of as the heart of liberalism. In this case, the Bunker household is in Queens, New York.
The year is 1971, and before outsourcing is even a word, Archie Bunker is able to maintain a middle class lifestyle in New York City with a blue collar job and a stay-at-home wife, Edith. He will never be anything more than he is right then. Archie holds very conservative though not well thought out - or at least not well articulated - viewpoints. And then his 18 year old daughter Gloria marries a liberal. Mike is an atheist with a Polish Catholic background, and stands for everything Archie is against. The icing on the cake - he's a penniless student and he will be a guest in Archie's home for the next several years while he finishes the university degree that will enable him to look down on Archie forever afterwords. It's funny this last point is brought up only once, by the observant if subservient Edith, Archie's wife.
For a few seasons all was well, and then this show and MASH suffered a series of crushing blows - the Vietnam War ended, Nixon was disgraced, and the controversial views held by Archie's son-in-law Mike began to enter the mainstream. Thus the show had to come up with new angles to stay fresh, and it did that, even managing to negotiate the loss of three of the four main characters and a neighboring family that played an important supporting role, the African-American Jeffersons.
Today it looks somewhat tie-dyed, but it's still worth studying just to see mainstream viewpoints change before your eyes.
A show that brought out the stupidity of bigotry by showing how crazy
it could really be.
Carroll O'Connor's Archie Bunker epitomized such bigotry. Archie would let all the groups have it equally. You could never say that he was for one specific group.With his extremely liberal son-in-law, Rob Reiner, the conflicts between the two were absolutely memorable.
As the long suffering, naive wife, Jean Stapleton added plenty of humor with those sardonic looks. When Archie said that the Hebs tended to name their sons Abe, Edith replied,"I didn't know that Lincoln was Jewish!"
Remember the beginning theme song that had to be done over since the line: Gee,our old LaSalle ran great could not be readily understood.
Pity poor Sally Struthers, the daughter of Archie and Edith who was wed to the Meathead Reiner. She had to walk a fine line from her ultra Conservative father and liberal father. Remember her hair-do? She looked like Orphan Annie.
Richard Nixon being president at the time certainly added the necessary ingredients for this show to succeed. Could the show have worked well had Ike been in the White House? You have to wonder about that one.
What memories with Sammy Davis Jr., the Ku Klux Klan, Frank and Irene Lorenzo, the Jeffersons, Cousin Maude. Those certainly were the days.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Archie Bunker was obnoxious, arrogant, narrow-minded, bigoted, mean,
mouthy, opinionated, and just downright rude and uncouth, but one
thing....... Ya gotta love the guy! Now I'm not much of a TV fan, but
All in the Family is definitely in the top bracket for me. Hands down,
my favorite TV sitcom. Norman Lear was no doubt taking a big chance on
this one when he created it, considering the time in which it was made.
But it was absolutely brilliant! Fantastic TV show, and even after 30
some-odd years it's stood the test of time, because it was so good. It
would be very hard for me if my father-in-law constantly called me
meat-head. Boy that would drive me crazy!
Anyone who hasn't seen it, highly recommended.
Most of us have probably heard about how "All in the Family" was a show
unlike any previous show. Well, you have to see it to believe it.
Archie Bunker is a bigoted, working-class stiff who comes home each
day, sits in front of the TV and calls his wife Edith a "dingbat" (he
pronounces her first name "ee-dit"). Sparks fly when daughter Gloria
marries long-haired political activist Michael Stivic. Archie
immediately takes a hating to this "Polack" and calls him "meathead".
So, throughout the series, Archie goes around making derogatory
comments about blacks, Jews and other minorities, all the while
personifying the generation gap of the era. Some of the funniest parts
are when Archie tries to make a "point" about something: he only
succeeds in mangling famous idioms.
"All in" all, "AITF" was truly the first show to be open about American society. And it all rings true to this day: Archie Bunker is every Bubba out there. And yet, we can't help but admire him.
Total change - that's the only way to describe it. I remember sitting in the living room with my parents and my aunt and uncle (who in many ways reminded me of Archie Bunker) and we watched history being made on the night of January 11, 1971. It reminded me of watching "The Ed Sullivan Show" on February 8, 1964. My mother went "oooh" when Archie used his first slur, then put her hand over her mouth. I never thought they'd watch it again, but sure enough their curiosity overcame them and next week they watched again, and again. Total classic TV, broke the way for all that was to follow! Within 18 months, the last of the older-style sitcoms that were on from the 1960's (Bewitched, My Three Sons) would go off the air, to be replaced by groundbreaking Norman Lear shows such as Maude, Good Times, etc. Finally TV caught up to the times, as music had seven years earlier!
It couldn't air today as a new show. Like the show or not, our culture of genteel victims would gasp and hand over our freedom of expression(speech) rather than be exposed to such unpleasantries...even if all they had to do was change the channel.
Whenever I notice that a channel is presenting reruns of All In The
Family, I make sure to watch. I usually still find the stories
enjoyable -- even if once in awhile a dialog seems dated - - and I
still laugh out loud during scenes I may have seen 8-10 times over the
last 35+ years. To me All In The Family continues to stand out amongst
situation comedies, and amongst most television shows for that matter.
All in The Family did have its faults, however. The shouting that so often took place between characters, especially between Mike and Archie, got tiresome, as did Edith's trotting to and from the kitchen. A change in a more fundamental aspect of the show, however, really began to make to make the show less appealing after the first 3-4 seasons.
All new ideas eventually become old, and I may have begun losing interest as the controversial themes that made All In The Family such a revolutionary program started to lose their impact. Looking back, though, I recall that I also began to feel differently about All In The Family because I noticed that Archie Bunker was changing.
Whether later scripts were requiring Archie Bunker to alter his style, or Carrol O'Conner could no longer call forth the same volatile temper and caustic sarcasm that marked the character he played so well, I remember seeing Archie Bunker become an irritable, whiny, elderly-looking man, who overreacted like a hypochondriac to stubbed toes and bumped heads. The same man who had entertained by mispronouncing and misusing words and names was apparently trying to do the same by mismanaging his own body.
For the most part, All In The Family included characters that were very well conceived. They did represent social types, true, but a viewer could not always predict their behavior. Though Archie Bunker, for example, tended to dominate discussions, despite his illogical reasoning, with his chauvinistic attitudes and feelings of indignation, he did on occasion have something valid to say.
Similarly, while in most episodes the subservient Edith catered to Archie's wants and demands, or made comments that exuded naivety, she did assert herself now and then, demonstrating a social kind of intelligence lacking in her husband. Son-in-law Mike could surprise the viewer, too. Although he usually adamantly advocated the counterculture ideology typical of college students of the early 70's, his arguments revealed a sexist core whenever he had to confront the issue of women's rights.
One could not consider family friend Lionel Jefferson simple or one-dimensional either. He almost never agreed with Archie and did not approve of his bigotry, but he recognized the limits of Archie's experience and intellect, so instead of allowing himself to enter into power struggles with Archie, Lionel spoofed Archie's opinions and made him look all the more foolish in the process.
Sometimes I have wondered if the popularity of simpler, light-hearted shows, such as Happy Days and Three's Company, influenced All In The Family's writers, since episodes after the first few seasons seemed to include an element of silliness or broad comedy. Whatever the direction that they consciously took the show, it succeeded because the members of its cast performed as if from a higher league.
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