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January 20, 2021

Norman Lear & Co-star Sally Struthers Reflect on 'All in the Family' on Its 50th Anniversary

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Norman Lear and Sally Struthers remembered the iconic sitcom "All My Family, " which defined their TV careers in a recent interview with the "New York Post" as the show marked its 50th anniversary. 

Norman Lear, the creator of the hit sitcom and actress Sally Struthers, who played Gloria in the genre-defying show that captivated audiences from 1971 - 1979, talked about why the show is one of TV's greatest.

Lear and Struther's spilled all the behind-the-scenes secrets. From the initial reception to its difficult subject matter, Lear and Struther maintain they had no idea what the show's impact would be when it first aired.

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Norman Lear attending the TOMS, "VOTE2016" Conversation on March 10, 2016 in Santa Monica, California. | Source: Getty Images)

The concept behind the show was simple. It was a slice-of-life sitcom about a family who lived an unglamorous life lead by the family's patriarch Archi Bunker. Lear, however, added a twist the networks were too scared of.

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Archie Bunker was a bigoted character with a libertarian son and daughter and lived in an ethnically diverse neighborhood, unheard of on TV. Struthers remembered John Rich directing the cast and saying:

"Please show up tomorrow morning but be prepared for all of us to be out of a job."

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CBS, where "All In The Family" found a home, had even hired extra call operators expecting backlash over the shows. They even put a disclaimer at the beginning of the show warning audiences of the subject material.

Struthers told the post that the calls CBS got were from excited fans who wanted to know when the show was to return to the airwaves. Network executives were stunned to realize Americans had embraced the show. 

The show was responsible for crowd favorite spinoffs like The Jeffersons.

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Unlike many TV shows in the era, the show reflected the reality of many Americans. Many were relating to the characters. Lear explained that it touched on timely socioeconomic issues, a first on primetime television.

Struthers added that today's TV landscape shows all aspects of life, but in the '70s, simple acts like a married couple sharing a bed or a toilet flushing were had never been attempted for television, a barrier the show broke.

"We broke all the taboos — they lived like real people and hadn’t been portrayed like that on any television series."

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Lear added the show was based on British Sitcom "Till Death Do Us Part," but he made it raunchier. This was in part inspired by Lear drawing from his own life. The character of Archie Bunker was based on the creator's father.

Once on the verge of landing in production hell, the show ran for 9 years and brought in over 30 million viewers a week. It also became the launchpad many of the show's cast used for a successful career in Hollywood.

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The show was responsible for crowd favorite spinoffs like The Jeffersons staring Sherman Hemsley as "George Jefferson." Jefferson played the equally bigoted neighbor to the Bunkers. The Jeffersons ran for 10 years.

Lear and Struthers remain as some of the living members of the show. Struthers, however, was recently on the news as for blasting the remake. According to Struthers, the show and its cast cannot be replaced. 

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