Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Brilliance of TV Sitcom "All in the Family"

I am probably one of the few people in America who do not have cable television by choice. With that being said every now and again I tune into old television shows online. Lately I have been tuning into episodes of the show All in the Family and I've recognized as an adult how brilliant that show really was and is. I watched it as a child with my family when it came onto the scene in 1971 and being only a nine year old child did not realize the brilliance of the show at that time. Since I have begun watching the episodes online it occurred to me just how cutting edge the show was and still is having been introduced in 1971. So I started doing a little research. I went to Google and typed in “All in the Family” and began to learn more about the genius of All in the Family and of its producer Norman Lear.

According to Wikipedia the free encyclopedia, the show broke ground in its depiction of issues previously considered unsuitable for U.S. network television comedy, such as racism, homosexuality, women's liberation, rape, miscarriage, abortion, breast cancer, the Vietnam War, menopause, and impotence. The show ranked #1 in the yearly Nielsen ratings from 1971 to 1976. It became the first television series to reach the milestone of having topped the Nielsen ratings for five consecutive years, a mark later matched by The Cosby Show and surpassed by American Idol. The episode "Sammy's Visit" was ranked #13 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time.TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time ranked All in the Family as #4. Bravo also named the show's protagonist, Archie Bunker, TV's greatest character of all time, said, “There are classic shows, and there are groundbreaking shows. All in the Family enjoys the distinction of being both. Debuting as a mid-season replacement on Jan. 12, 1971, it became one of the most influential comedies in TV history and made an immediate impact on the entire television industry. All in the Family pioneered a whole new brand of realistic and hard-hitting satire based on the real world, rather than the naive escapism of most entertainment programs. The sitcom revolves around blue-collar worker Archie Bunker and his family. Opinionated and uneducated, Archie makes no bones about his racial and political views, which are borne out of every negative stereotype imaginable.”

Lastly, says All in the Family was first seen in January of 1971 and immediately changed the face of television. Not only was this the number one television series from 1971 through 1976, but it also signified an avalanche of other situation comedies that dealt with controversial subjects in realistic ways. Including, Chico & the Man, The Jeffersons, Maude, Good Times and Sanford & Son. The stories revolved around many controversial topics including, rape, sex, homosexuality, death, and other topics that were relevant to the 1970's, especially political strife and inflation. Archie Bunker was probably the first character in a situation comedy to use racist remarks referring to blacks and other minorities, yet another first for television.

Interestingly enough the same issues that existed then at the creation of All in the Family still exist now and is why I am writing this blog post. Archie Bunker represented all of the “isms” that existed then and still exist today. Producer Norman Lear was courageous enough to bring these issues to the forefront and did it in such a way that allowed us to see just how silly the perspective of many were then and sadly still are now. For if you truly analyze the behavior and thought process of Archie Bunker you cannot help but see that Archie's views were nothing short of ridiculous and yet these views still exist as we come to the close of 2011.

I watch All in the Family online (because I don’t have cable by choice and that’s another blog post) and I laugh until tears come into my eyes at how stupid Archie Bunker truly is. He really has no idea of how stupid he really is and truly believes that he is not only smart but superior. The sad reality is he is representative of far too many people even in 2011 that hold those same types of views who really believe that they are smart and superior when indeed they are really dumb. Now that I am older and can really see the beauty in a show such as All in the Family, I take my hat off to Norman Lear. Something to critically think about, particularly in this political season of debates and the upcoming 2012 presidential election. I welcome your thoughts in the comment section of the blog.

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