R.I.P. Norman Lear, TV legend who created All in the Family, Sanford and Son, and much more
Image credit: The Everett Collection
Catchy Comedy will remember television icon Norman Lear with a look back special hosted by Mr. Lear, The 200th Episode Celebration of All in the Family, airing Friday, December 8th at 8p ET | 5p PT.
Legendary writer and producer Norman Lear revolutionized American television with daring and hilarious series for multiple decades of his long career.
His long resume included hit-series such as All in the Family, Sanford and Son, The Jeffersons, Maude and many more. Many of Lear's famous scripts touched on topics that included racism, abortion, war and other topics that many struggled to not only talk about in real life, much less show on TV.
All in the Family became an immediate hit and propelled the writer along with Tandem Productions into the limelight. There was no subject too taboo for Lear. Watching any of his hit series, including All in the Family, could prove that.
For a time, both All in the Family and Sanford and Son ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the country. His set of hit series made it seem like there was no stopping Lear, and he didn't stop after his initial success. If there was a show you enjoyed on TV in the '70s or '80s — it was often from Lear.
All in the Family was so successful it was nominated for multiple Emmy Awards and received numerous accolades during its run. This bold sitcom known for its controversial themes set the stage for future shows to come.
This led to Lear being nominated for a 1977 Peabody Award for "giving us comedy with a social conscience." Lear was awarded a second Peabody Award in 2016 for his career achievements.
Some of Lear's other pieces of work included: One Day at a Time, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Fernwood 2 Night and more.
What he and Tandem Productions did was put all of our "cultural dirty laundry" on display for thousands to relate and react to each week; Bigotry, illiteracy, race, poverty, irresponsibility and stereotypes were all topics Lear wasn't afraid of.
He was both praised and condemned for putting these social problems on television for all to see, and with the controversy swirling around him, he broke new ground and new records.
"Everything we do asks the viewer to face his problems," Lear said in a 1975 interview with Calgary Herald. "It's done with humor. People are laughing. But they are also observing the human condition in which they are surviving."
Lear called on his fans to look within themselves while watching characters such as Archie, Fred Sanford, Michael Evans and more onscreen. He believed all of his shows met the "intellectual curiosity" of viewers. His message was to become aware of yourself, and instead of being an Archie Bunker, learn from those mistakes that make us human.
In 1985, Lear saved Stand by Me when the studio producing the movie was sold and planned to cancel the project. Rob Reiner, who Lear had worked with on All in the Family, had just started his directing career, and was directing the Stephen King adaptation. Lear gave $7.5 million of his own money to complete the film, citing his faith in Reiner. The movie is now often considered one of the best movies of all time.
Lear has been honored with a place in the Television Academy's Hall of Fame, a lifetime achievement award from the Producers Guild of America and multiple awards from the Writers Guild of America. He was also a recipient of the National Medal of Arts in 1999 and was given Kennedy Center Honors in 2017.
He played a major part in making television the medium it is today. He was 101.