Wednesday, January 12, 2011

All In The Family: "Meet The Bunkers"



On this day in 1971 a show which was definitely not your parents' sitcom made its debut on CBS. Only to say that All in the Family 'made its debut' is like saying a hurricane or an earthquake made its debut; what it did accomplish was nothing short of a revolution, sweeping aside its anodyne predecessors like the dust in which it left them...



Not only did Meet The Bunkers introduce a more honest generation gap than had ever been seen on television before into American living rooms, it promoted dialogue on taboos on a scale and to a degree which had never even been attempted, and have rarely been handled so elegantly since. It was and is a show conservatives and liberals alike could and can watch, laugh at - even think it's on their side, and not be wrong in either case. The series' overall message seemed to be: isn't it better to laugh at our differences than come to blows over them? At a time in which young people and the authorities were clashing in the streets - sometimes fatally - a show like this, which could so effectively clear the air on the vital issues of the day, seemed less like a sitcom and more like a public service...



Initially, however, producer Norman Lear had to talk Carroll O'Connor into doing it; a lifelong liberal, O'Connor worried about what his portrayal of arch-conservative Archie Bunker would do to his reputation. So while he initially accepted the role to mock the kind of character Archie was, over time O'Connor came to understand the kind of fear and lack of critical thinking which goes into making any bigot; over the course of the series he even helped bring the character to a kind of rapprochement with the rapidly changing world in which he found himself stranded.

Ably aided here by Jean Stapleton as Edith Bunker, Rob Reiner as Mike Stivic, Sally Struthers as Gloria, and Mike Evans as Lionel Jefferson, they and the rest of the cast would eventually guide their massive audience through eight perilous years of the 1970s without either repressing or denying the volatility of the times, but rather by embracing it. Now, thanks to the magic of DVD, you too can embrace All in the Family all over again...
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4 comments:

Y | O | Y said...

I remember my mother calling her friends the next day and they would recount all their favorite scenes. It was clearly adult since I would be hushed if I asked what show she was talking about.

michael sean morris said...

Well, things were a bit more open in my family, but then we leaned more towards the Mike and Gloria end of the spectrum. Whenever it brought up an issue we would discuss it, and clear the air. Not that the air ever needed much clearing...

Y | O | Y said...

I totally forgot to mention that we used to call my dad "Archie Bunker." He looked similar, acted similar (although a staunch Democrat), had his favorite chair...and the both served in Foggia, Italy during dubya dubya 2 the big one!

feralgeographer said...

Hi Michael,
I'm feral geographer and I blog at http://www.feralgeographer.ca. Along with Mae Callen of Driving Fast on Loose Gravel (http://maecallen.blogspot.com), I'm creating an active blogroll of queer blogs in Canada and/or by Canadians. The project is called Queer Canada Blogs (http://www.queercanadablogs.ca), and we've added your blog!

Please check it out and let us know if you have any suggestions for other blogs we can add.

Thanks!
feral geographer

(Feel free to delete this comment... I just wanted to contact you, and couldn't find an email address!)