Norman Lear, legendary TV producer who created “All in the Family,” dead at 101 — rest in peace

LOS ANGELES – JAN 19: Producer Norman Lear arrives for the 30th Annual Producers Guild Awards on January 19, 2019 in Beverly Hills, CA
Norman Lear, one of the most influential TV writers and producers in history, has died at 101.

A six-time Emmy-winner, Lear is best known for creating some of the most popular and groundbreaking sitcoms of the 1970s, including All in the Family, Maude, One Day at a Time, Sanford and Son and The Jeffersons.

Born July 27, 1922 in New Haven, Connecticut to Jewish Russian parents, who he said were the basis for Archie and Edith Bunker on All in the Family. In 1942, Lear dropped out of Emerson College to enlist in the US Air Force; he flew 52 missions as a gunner and radio operator on Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombers.

After the war, Lear entered showbiz, forming a comedy partnership with his cousin’s wife Ed Simmons. The two found success writing sketches for Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, launching Lear’s career in TV writing — one that would go on to transform television forever.

In 1971, Lear created his most iconic TV series, All in the Family. The show focused on the deeply prejudiced but lovable working-class Archie Bunker, his ditzy and kind wife Edith, their daughter Gloria and Gloria’s liberal husband Michael Stivic, who Archie frequently butts heads with and calls “Meathead.”

The show dealt with a growing generational divide and many hot-button issues — including racism, antisemitism, feminist issues and the ongoing Vietnam War — in a way that was unprecedented in American television.

“The program you are about to see is All in the Family,” a disclaimer in front of the first episode read. “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.”

While networks were initially reluctant to pick it up due to its content, All in the Family became a smash hit, ending the year as TV’s top-rated sitcom and winning the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series.

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