Here's how Bea Arthur got her own show after All In The Family

Before she was tough-talking Maude Findlay on Maude, Bea Arthur was tough-talking Maude Findlay on All In The Family. Of the conception of Maude, creator Norman Lear said, “It was time to have somebody on the show that would kill Archie...verbally; that could destroy him.” So, Norman Lear created the character of Maude, who had known Archie already for years by the time she arrived on the show, and certainly didn’t have anything good to say about him. 

While it wasn’t the original intent to give Arthur a spinoff, the realization was as close to immediately as you could imagine. Lear said, “We were three days in rehearsal when I knew that I would hear from Silverman and others [who would say] 'Let’s do a show with this woman.'" Fred Silverman was head of programming at CBS.

Lear also addressed comments that Maude was modeled after his then-wife, Frances. Lear said that while even Frances herself believed the character was modeled after her, Lear himself still “fought to believe it,” because he had originally believed that he was instead writing Bea Arthur as Maude, an actress who shared many of the traits of the character. He granted, “I always saw the similarities... There was Frances Lear, who was hardly the personality of Bea Arthur, but she was fierce in her convictions.”

In Sally Bedell’s book, Up The Tube: Prime-Time TV and the Silverman Years, she recounts the birth of Maude’s spinoff in a phone call between Lear and Fred Silverman, who had just watched Maude’s first episode of All In The Family. “Who is that woman?” Silverman asked Lear, according to Bedell. He said, “She’s like Jackie Gleason. Bring her back”

Bedell also quotes Lear in her book as he again discusses his wife, Frances. Here, Lear was much more willing to acknowledge the parallel trajectories Maude and his wife journeyed on. He commented, “As she and I grew stronger—separately and together—Maude probably grew more venturesome, too.”