Posts Tagged ‘1970s sitcoms’

M*A*S*H’s “The Interview” Aired 35 Years Ago Today

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

On February 24, 1976, one of M*A*S*H’s most well known episodes aired, “The Interview.” In “The Interview,” TV journalist Clete Roberts guest-starred as a newsman who visits the 4077 M*A*S*H unit where he conducts interviews with the “cast” about their wartime experiences.  This episode was presented in black-and-white to emphasize its documentary style; the use of black-and-white turned out to be apropos when it became an instant classic.  The inspiration for the show came from legendary broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow’s famed visit to the real Korean front for the ’50s documentary series See It Now. “The Interview” was series creator Larry Gelbart’s last M*A*S*H episode.

TV Guide’s Book of Lists ranked this episode as one of the 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time (at #80), one of just two M*A*S*H episodes listed (the other was “Abyssinia Henry” at #20).  Vince Waldron’s Classic Sitcoms: A Celebration of the Best in Prime-Time Comedy called “The Interview,” one of “the [series]’s most effective stylistic departures.  A passionate and often chilling look at war through the eyes of reasonable men and women who find themselves stuck in a most unreasonable situation.”

Click here for a newly curated collection of Archive interviewees talking about the making of this classic episode.

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”: