Archive for the ‘"All in the Family"’ Category

Those Were the Days: “All in the Family” Premiered 40 Years Ago Today

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

On January 12, 1971, All in the Family debuted with the following disclaimer: “The program you are about to see is All in the Family.  It seeks to throw a humorous spotlight on our frailties, prejudices, and concerns.  By making them a source of laughter, we hope to show— in a mature fashion— just how absurd they are.” As noted in Donna McCrohan’s Archie & Edith, Mike & Gloria: The Tumultuous History of “All in the Family” this debut did not lead to much of a public outcry. In fact, its airing on CBS trailed the competition considerably (ABC offered the TV movie Assault on the Wayne and NBC aired the feature film Secret Ceremony).

The new series did get a certain amount of press and strong word-of-mouth, but it wasn’t until CBS executive Fred Silverman re-ran the initial episodes during the summer that the show became popular.  With that came the good and the bad: A slew of Emmys and other awards, and criticism from everyone from Bill Cosby to Laura Z. Hobson.  Many argued that the lines were blurred in the audience’s perception of Archie— bigot or hero; however, no one could argue with the ratings.  All in the Family’s second season was the #1 highest rated for 1971-72, and the show remained in the top slot over the next four seasons.

All in the Family may have centered on Archie Bunker’s prejudice, yet many other issues were addressed during the run, including: menopause, homosexuality, rape, Women’s Lib, impotence, and breast cancer.  The show too, was funny, and by design.  As Jean Stapleton noted in her Archive of American Television interview: “There’s nothing like humor to burst what seems to be an enormous problem.  Humor reduces it to nothing and wipes it out.  That’s what humor does.  That was a great part of that show in terms of every issue, but especially bigotry.  You make fun of something, it reduces it to nothing.”

Of all of the things All in the Family is known for, one that is distinctly non-controversial is its classic theme song “Those Were the Days,” performed by stars Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton.  Lesser known is the fact that Carroll O’Connor wrote a lyric for the ending instrumental theme “Remembering You.”  Here’s a clip posted on You Tube of O’Connor (with composer Roger Kellaway at the piano) performing “Remembering You.”

Carroll O’Connor performs All in the Family closing theme: “Remembering You”:

Classic “All in the Family” episode given the “Simpsons” Treatment

Monday, March 29th, 2010

On the recent Simpsons episode “Stealing First Base” (airdate: 3/21/10) Sarah Silverman guest-starred as a girl who plants a kiss on Bart, leading to a Cinema Paradiso-inspired montage of famous movie & TV kisses. The last kiss seen in the montage is, unusually, and hilariously, from the All in the Family episode “Sammy’s Visit” (in which the Bunker household welcomes Sammy Davis Jr., who gets the last laugh on Archie). The Simpsons‘ team brilliantly capture the look that Carroll O’Connor’s Archie gave during this memorable classic TV moment.

Watch the Simpsons montage on the Archive’s new page for All in the Family: “Sammy’s Visit” and hear from the contributors of this classic episode including star Carroll O’Connor, writer Bill Dana, and director John Rich.

"The Norman Lear Collection" Released on DVD

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Comprising the first seasons of seven of Norman Lear’s classic TV series, plus such extras as the newly-discovered All in the Family pilot “Justice for All,” Sony releases “The Norman Lear Collection.” Among the “season ones” included in the set: All in the Family; Good Times; The Jeffersons; Maude; Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (first 25 episodes only); One Day at a Time; and Sanford & Son. There are over six hours of bonus materials, including featurettes on all the shows.

“I was a part of a giant collaboration. That’s the best thing I do, collaborate….” says the now 86-year-old Lear on the brief introduction to the set (“Don’t Miss This”). In the first All in the Family featurette (“Those Were the Days: The Birth of All in the Family” [TRT 27:00]) Lear discuses how he and his father were the models for Archie and Mike and outlines the making of the pilot including the casting and characterizations of the leads. In the second All in the Family featurette (“The Television Revolution Begins: All in the Family Is on the Air” [TRT 30:40]) Lear talks about how the network wanted to air the second filmed show first (worried that the pilot script was too inflammatory), plus, in new and vintage interviews, we hear from from Lear, Carroll O’Connor, and the rest of the cast on the acceptance and popularity of the show, its characters and themes. Each of the series on the set have corresponding featurettes that similarly discuss their approach to social themes— a hallmark of all of Lear’s shows.

The best part about the set is to compare the two pilots and the premiere episode of All in the Family— all of which used the same script, with some changes. The most significant difference was the re-casting of Mike and Gloria, until Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers got the parts for the series premiere. PHOTO: Norman Lear (at the DVD launch party held at the Paley Center for Media) speaks to Dan Wingate, Technical Specialist at Sony Pictures Entertainment, who uncovered the lost original pilot to All in the Family.

Watch the trailer for the DVD here.

Norman Lear discusses his thoughts on what constitutes the best of television, in his Archive of American Television interview:

Click her to watch the Archive’s entire interview with Norman Lear.

Actress Beatrice Arthur Dies at 86 – Interview Online

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

Bea Arthur, the Emmy-winning star of Maude and The Golden Girls, who also garnered a Tony Award for the musical Mame, died Saturday at 86. In January, one of her last public appearances, she was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame. She was interviewed by the Archive in 2001. Click here for her New York Times obituary (with a reference to our interview). The entire 2-1/2 hour interview can be viewed here.

When asked in her interview how she’d like to be remembered, she responded: “As an artist. An important artist.”

Here’s a selection of clips from the Archive’s interview:

Interview Description:

Beatrice Arthur was interviewed for two hours plus in Brentwood, CA. In the interview, Arthur talked about the origins of her stage name and how she started out in plays, off and on Broadway. She then talked about her first movie roles and her appearances on The George Gobel Show and Caesar’s Hour. She described her other early appearances on television in The Seven Lively Arts, Omnibus, Perry Como’s Kraft Music Hall and her role in the play and feature film Mame (with Angela Lansbury and Lucille Ball, respectively). She talked about her appearances on All in the Family as the liberal cousin Maude. She then discussed the controversial issues and topics that the series Maude tackled, (such as alcoholism, abortion, death, infidelity and feminism). Arthur also talked extensively about working with Norman Lear on All in the Family and Maude, watching the show 20 years after it first aired and why she eventually left the show. She then briefly talked about her series Amanda’s and then talked affectionately about The Golden Girls. The interview was conducted on March 15, 2001.

Bob Hope’s Head Writer as well as "All in the Family" Emmy-winning Producer, Mort Lachman Has Died– Archive Interview Online

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

Mort Lachman, who wrote for Bob Hope for four decades (starting with the radio show “The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope,” through Hope’s television specials) has died at the age of 90. Lachman was a multiple Primetime Emmy nominee and a winner for Best Comedy Series for All in the Family, as well as a Daytime Emmy winner for the ABC Afternoon Playbreak program “The Girl Who Couldn’t Lose.”

Click her to access Mort Lachman’s entire six-part Archive of American Television interview.

Interview Description:

Mort Lachman talked about his early years becoming a writer in network radio for Eddie Cantor and Bob Hope. He described in detail working as a writer, and later head writer/ director/ producer on the Bob Hope Television Specials. He vividly described Bob Hope’s topical humor and gift for ad libbing. He spoke about his work as a writer for several Ralph Edwards series. He also described his work as a producer and writer on All in the Family [for which he won an Emmy Award], Archie Bunker’s Place, One Day at a Time, Sanford, Gimme a Break, Kate & Allie, and Bagdad Café. The interview was conducted by Jeff Abraham on January 26, 2004.

Writer Mel Tolkin Dies at 94 – Archive Interview Online

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

We’re sad to report that comedy writer Mel Tolkin passed away yesterday, November 26th, at his home in Century City. Mel Tolkin was interviewed for the Archive of American Television for four hours. In his interview, Mr. Tolkin discussed his long writing partnership with Lucille Kallen (also an Archive interviewee) and writing for such shows as Admiral Broadway Revue and Your Show of Shows, Caesar’s Hour, The Sid Caesar Show and The Danny Kaye Show, as well as writing for All in the Family. The interview was conducted by Bob Claster on November 4, 1997.

Link to his New York Times obituary.

From his Archive Interview:

On teaching comedy.
First I’d say that humor cannot be taught. Humor is an attitude towards life. It’s a rather cynical approach. It’s a negative approach. It’s saying people misbehave. People put on shows. People wear masks. People are proud of what they shouldn’t be. People compete unfairly. If you think life is wonderful, you don’t belong in comedy. Of course, there’s a lot that can be taught and at UCLA I taught very detailed things. Some of the things I mention here: how people recognize themselves on the screen and so on. What people are funny? And I quote the opening line of Anna Karenina by Tolstoy when she says, happy people are alike in their happiness. Only unhappy people are different from each other, and that’s all there is. Because she proceeded to have one of the unhappiest marriages of all time, Karenina. But she left him. So that’s an important lesson. Happy people are dull conversationalists — no fun to be with and probably vote Republican.

On how he would like to be remembered.
I will be remembered and that’s good enough. I speak about that subject to my son, Michael, and said if I never wrote another line, I’ve done my share. I’m pretty proud of what happened up to now.

Click here to access Mel Tolkin’s Archive of American Television Interview.

Books: A Memoir by Archive Interviewee John Rich

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

A recent book, Warm up the Snake: A Hollywood Memoir (The University of Michigan Press), recounts Archive interviewee John Rich’s life in the trenches as one of television’s premier directors and producers. Rich boldly recounts his work on many classic series (and episodes) including The Dick Van Dyke Show, Gilligan’s Island, All in the Family and MacGyver as well as his longtime involvement in the Directors Guild of America. It’s a humerous, no-holds-barred look behind the scenes at some of our favorite shows and also gives readers a glimpse into what makes a great director.

From Warm Up the Snake:

During my days as an NBC stage manager, I witnessed plenty of foul-ups that no one could have invented. One day I was assigned to monitor the time and placement of a live commercial insert within a program, produced by an outside advertising agency. The program featured “Dunninger, the Mental Wizard,” a see-all know-all “mentalist” act. As the NBC representative, I had little to do but sit in the control room behind the production team and observe the action with my notepad at the ready. The first two sales pitches went as planned, but as the program neared its end, the director became concerned that the time would run out before the final commercial. He instructed the stage manager to “give Dunninger a speed-up and signal we have one minute to go.”

The stage manager obeyed, but the mentalist’s pace continued as before. The director called, “Give him 30 seconds!” No response. “Speed him up, we’re not going to make it!” Pandemonium reigned as the performer talked right into the NBC systems cue, cutting off transmission. The last commercial was lost: disaster. I made my notes, and joined the angry mob as they boiled out of the control room and confronted a bewildered Dunninger. “W lost the last commercial: the agency men screamed. “Why didn’t you take our cues?”

“What cues?” Dunninger asked.

“The three or four speed-ups, the one-minute, and the thirty-second cues we gave to the stage manager.”

Dunninger was irate. “Why don’t you put the son of a bitch where I can see him? What do you think I am, a mind reader?”

John Rich’s Archive interview is now online.
Click here to access all 14 parts.

Interview description:
John Rich was interviewed for nearly seven hours in Los Angeles, CA. Mr. Rich talked about his start in television as a stage manager for NBC, where he worked on The Colgate Comedy HourT. He eventually got his start as a director on The Ezio Pinza Show. He talked numerous shows he directed throughout his career including I Married Joan, The Ray Bolger Show, Our Miss Brooks, Gunsmoke, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Gilligan’s Island, The Brady Bunch, and All In the Family, which he also produced. He also discussed directing pilots for Maude, The Jeffersons, Barney Miller, and Newhart. Mr. Rich also discussed executive producing Benson and MacGyver. The interview was conducted by Henry Colman on August 3, 1999.

Fred Silverman’s Interview is Now Online

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

We’re happy to report that legendary television executive Fred Silverman’s interview is now online. At almost 6-1/2 hours, this amazing interview encompasses over three decades of television history and gives a fascinating inside look at the networks and programming so many of us grew up with (just take a look at the brief interview description below and you’ll see what we mean!). Not one to rest on his many laurels, Silverman is currently ramping up his Fred Silverman Co. to develop scripted and unscripted comedies.

Here’s part 7 of the interview where he describes the programming of the hit miniseries Roots.

Click here to access Fred Silverman’s entire interview.

Interview description:
Network television executive Fred Silverman speaks about his first job in TV, at WGN in Chicago, where he created such programs as Zim-Bomba, Bozo’s Circus and Family Classics. He then explains his move to CBS in New York, where he quickly worked his way up the corporate ladder, first as head of daytime programming, (where he revitalized the Saturday morning lineup, Scooby-Doo being among them), and later as the Vice President of Programming. During this time, he oversaw such programs as All in the Family, The Bob Newhart Show, Kojak, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, M*A*S*H, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour and The Waltons. Next, he talks his appointment as President of ABC Entertainment, where he oversaw such programs as Charlie’s Angels, Donny and Marie, Eight is Enough, Laverne & Shirley, The Love Boat and Three’s Company. He also touches on the development and scheduling of the miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man and Roots. Mr. Silverman talks about his next move, to NBC as President and CEO in 1978. There, he oversaw the development of programs including and Diff’rent Strokes, The Facts of Life, Hill Street Blues. Mr. Silverman also explains the basic tenets of working as a network television executive, and discusses his methods for development, scheduling and promotions. Finally, he talks about his work as an independent producer for such programs as the Perry Mason television movies, Matlock, In the Heat of the Night and Diagnosis Murder. The interview was conducted in two sessions in 2001 by Dan Pasternack.

Larry Rhine’s Archive of American Television Interview Is Now Online!

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007

Writer Larry Rhine wrote or co-wrote several of television’s most classic sitcom episodes including The Brady Bunch’s “The Subject Was Noses,” The Odd Couple’s “Felix Remarries” (the series finale), and All in the Family’s “Archie the Hero.” His full interview is now posted online.

Click here to access Larry Rhine’s 8-part Archive of American Television Interview.

Rhine was one of Red Skelton and Bob Hope’s writers.

Larry Rhine on writing for Red Skelton (Excerpt from Part 4):

“He didn’t want the writers to be at rehearsal. It bothered him because we’d be shaking our heads. So… I had to poke holes through the backdrop to watch to make sure that the physical things would work because with Skelton you had to have a raised stage with holes in it for flowers to spring up. You had to have a backdrop with water squirting. You had to have wires. We had to make sure that it would work. That’s the only way we could do it but he was a wonderful performer. And his pantomimes were most unusual and when we had the Skelton tribute at the Academy I got warmed up and did a couple of the pantomimes cause we had to do them in order to write them. The pantomimes were like fifteen pages each.”

Larry Rhine on writing for Bob Hope (Excerpt from Part 5):

“When you work for Hope you not only do the three of four shows he does, specials during the year, but you’re responsible for everything that he does every day which is open auto shows and beauty contests and schools and appearances on other shows and so forth and Bob doesn’t like to work more than a day ahead of time so what would happen, like right now the phone would ring it would be Bob… and he says I need three pages of chorus girl jokes so what I would do would be excuse myself, go back and write three pages of chorus girl jokes, phone them in to a secretary and go back to what I was doing… He had a very friendly kind of relationship with the writers. He liked nothing more than to come back in the writing headquarters and put his feet up on the desk and chat with you and to this day, after all these years I get Christmas cards every year from him. So he never loses a friend but we had some funny things happen when I was on the Hope show. Bob resented the fact that Saturday Evening Post came out with the story that he was worth $500 million and it demeaned him as one of the fellows and we felt that right away and he said, you know, this is a gross exaggeration. ….So he goes out on stage and says to the audience it’s a gross exaggeration… this article… that says I’m worth five hundred million. He says “maybe three hundred.” So when I left him to go on All in the Family I said how much I enjoyed being with him. “I said, too bad that we have to sever relationships, we’ve got so much in common. Neither of us is worth $500 million.”

Interview description:
Larry Rhine (1910-2000) was interviewed for four hours in Los Angeles, CA. He spoke of his early years as a writer in radio, which culminated in the position of head-writer of Duffy’s Tavern (1949-50). He spoke of his work as a television staff writer on Private Secretary, Duffy’s Tavern (the TV adaptation), and The Gale Storm Show and his many years (1960-67) working on The Red Skelton Show. He described how he simultaneously worked on the television sitcom Mister Ed and discussed the episodes he wrote with collaborator Lou Derman. He recounted his work with other comics such as Bob Hope and Lucille Ball. He spoke about his freelance work on such series as The Brady Bunch in which he co-wrote the well-known “The Subject Was Noses” episode and The Odd Couple in which he co-wrote the series finale. In great detail, he discussed his work on the Norman Lear series All in the Family and Archie Bunkers Place in which he collaborated with writer Mel Tolkin. The interview was conducted by Gary Rutkowski on February 25, 2000.

Ben Wolf’s Archive of American Television Interview Is Now Online

Monday, October 16th, 2006

Cameraman Ben Wolf’s four-hour Archive of American Television interview has been added to the online collection at Google Video. This is tape 6 of his interview in which he talks about working on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Click here to view the entire 8-part interview.

Ben Wolf worked on many of the first shows produced at CBS Television City including Carson’s Cellar (with Johnny Carson), The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, and My Favorite Husband.

Interview description:

Ben Wolf was interviewed for nearly four hours in Los Angeles, CA. He recalled his early television experience at KLAC, and then CBS in Los Angeles, working on such programs as The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, Carson’s Cellar and Climax! Next, he spoke about his work on The Jack Benny Show and The Red Skelton Show, and explained the day-to-day process of working as a cameraman on the latter program. He also touched upon his work on The Judy Garland Show, CBS Playhouse and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Next, he reminisced about working on Norman Lear-produced programs including All in the Family and Maude. Finally, he talked about working on Three’s Company and Mama’s Family before becoming a freelance cameraman for the remainder of his career.