Believe it or not, January marked the fiftieth anniversary of the premiere of the iconic 1970s television show “All In The Family” which gave us Archie Bunker. The gravity of such a momentous occasion was not lost on show creator Norman Lear or series star Sally Struthers.
In celebration of this milestone, Lear, 98, and star Struthers, 73, shared some of their favorite “All In The Family” memories.
On this day in 1971, All in the Family premiered on CBS. Happy 50th Anniversary! pic.twitter.com/K00kIDesaZ
— Alec Behan (@alec_behan) January 12, 2021
‘All In The Family’ Was Like No Show Before
Premiering on January 12, 1971, “All In The Family” was making headlines from the very beginning for talking about such complicated real-life topics as war, racism, homosexuality and women’s liberation.
Americans were glued to the groundbreaking show from the start, as no other television program had tackled these issues in this way before.
“On ‘All in the Family,’ you actually heard a toilet flush,” Struthers told Closer Weekly. “All of that didn’t go on a family television show before. We opened up Pandora’s box.”
Born in a Jewish household in Connecticut, Lear partly based the unforgettable character of Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor) on his own parents.
“I had a father who used to tell my mother to ‘Stifle it.’ That’s where I got that,” Lear recalled. He added that O’Connor, who had been a character actor before “All In The Family,” was able to make Archie his own.
“I had the ladder, and he climbed it,” Lear said. “When he sat down and read it, I said, ‘Oh my God, that’s Archie.’”
The ‘All In The Family’ Cast Had Lots Of Chemistry
Sally Struthers played Archie Bunker’s daughter Gloria, while his wife Edith was played by actress Jean Stapleton.
Rounding out the cast was Rob Reiner, who played Gloria’s husband ‘Meathead’ Mike Stivic.
Struthers has never forgotten the chemistry that the four actors had.
“We all came from different backgrounds: Carroll was Irish-Catholic, raised in New York, very well-educated; Rob, from Beverly Hills, famous father, rich, Jewish kid; then Jean Stapleton, Christian Scientist raised by a single, opera singer mother in New York; and me, from the Pacific Northwest, where the men are men and the sheep are damp! But we all brought something to the table.”
Struthers also said that the cast trusted Lear and his partner Bud Yorkin’s vision, even when it came to some of the more controversial things that Archie would say.
“I think Jean and I were more shocked than Rob and Carroll,” Struthers said of some of Archie’s most offensive slurs. “We would give each other looks like, ‘What was that?’ None of us had a clue of what was to come!”
The Show Taught Americans That Flawed People Are Lovable Too
Earlier viewers saw Archie Bunker as a one-dimensional bigot. But the show thrived as it showed fans that he was a flawed person who loved his family and his country with all his heart.
“We showed that a person can be misinformed and a bigot, but they can also be lovable and have redeeming qualities,” Struthers said. “Archie loved his family, but he had also been raised by someone who taught him those awful things.”
To this day, Norman Lear said that watching “All In The Family” still “delights me as much as anything in this life delights me.”
“’All in the Family’ was history-making,” Sally Struthers concluded. “That doesn’t happen to many actors.”
It certainly was history making indeed. They sure don’t make ’em like “All In The Family” anymore!
Treat yourself to some of the show’s best moments in the video below.