Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pop History Moment: "All In The Family" Debuts

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On this day in 1971 the first episode of All in the Family - entitled Meet The Bunkers - introduced the world to five characters - Archie Bunker, Edith Bunker, Mike Stivic, Gloria Bunker-Stivic, and Lionel Jefferson - who in their way would encourage greater dialogue about social issues in America than ten times as many do-gooders and do-badders (also known as politicians) could ever dream of doing. No issue was too sacred for them - many even too taboo at that point for most living rooms - and the touchiest issue of them all (even to this day) race was discussed more than any other.

For the next eight seasons (including five consecutive years as the number one show in the country) the sitcom antics emanating from that drab lower-middle-class home in Astoria electrified viewers as Archie (played to the hilt by Carroll O'Connor) struggled to cope with a changing world and his own role in it as both a white male and paterfamilias.

By no means, though, were the uber-liberal Mike (Rob Reiner) and Gloria (Sally Struthers) always right, which is what made the show as great as it was (and still is); the show's break out character, however, was Edith. As portrayed by Jean Stapleton Edith was, in the words of series producer Norman Lear, a kind of Christ figure - long-suffering, wise and compassionate.

All in the Family was itself based on a British sitcom called Til Death Us Do Part, created by Johnny Speight and aired on the CBS television network. It spawned the equally popular spin-offs Maude and The Jeffersons, the less popular shows Gloria and 704 Hauser and inspired Hanna-Barbera's animated series Wait Till Your Father Gets Home; so popular was the show that even its spin-offs had spin-offs. Good Times spun off of Maude, and Checking In spun off of The Jeffersons.

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