Many people know and love current television programs like “Never Have I Ever” or “Abbott Elementary.” But television today would not be the same without the influence of iconic producer and screenwriter Norman Lear. In July 2022, Lear turned 100 years old. This month ABC held a tribute for him and the impact he made on the industry.
Norman Lear was born on July 27, 1922 in New Haven, Conn. After attending Emerson College, he began his screenwriting career before dropping out and flying 52 combat missions in World War II. After returning, Lear’s career took off. Lear’s success contributed to his fearless passion for civil rights, equality, and bringing attention to society’s pressing issues.
Lear has created shows including “All In The Family,” “The Jeffersons” and “The Facts of Life,” but his impact doesn’t end there. Lear’s most popular program, “All in the Family” is a prime example of his passion for social justice and equality.
“All in the Family” is about the bunker family. Father Archie Bunker is a strict conservative while Mother Edith Bunker is sweet but clueless and daughter Gloria Bunker is liberal. This is the perfect storm for situation comedy. The program addresses issues such as the Vietnam War, cancer, divorce, racism, the gay rights movement, and many more. These topics are impressive even in today’s media but to include these storylines in 1970 was unheard of. These topics barely saw the news, let alone a family program, thus making Lear a nightmare to CBS executives.
Lear expressed his feelings in an interview with the LA Times, “But I do not lose faith in our country or its future. I remind myself how far we have come. I think of the brilliantly creative people I have had the pleasure to work with in entertainment and politics”.
Lear later went on to create the show, “The Jeffersons,” which was a spinoff of “All in the Family.” The show follows an affluent black family in New York. This changed the way African Americans were portrayed on TV. Before “The Jeffersons,” African Americans were portrayed in a stereotypical and offensive manner. They were portrayed in low-class roles and were always supporting characters. “The Jeffersons” were the first black family on television to be a full black cast and portrayed as high class.
To fit all of Lear’s successful television programs into just one article would be impossible, but that doesn’t diminish the impact he had on television. The producer took a break from writing and producing in the 1990s and began to focus his time on civic justice. He took time to encourage the younger generation to vote and help inform them about the issues he represented on his television programs. After this break, Lear went on to produce many successful programs including “One Day at a Time” (2017), which was the Netflix reboot of his show “One Day at a Time” (1975).
Lear continues to produce, write, act and stand up for today’s pressing social issues. He is truly a television icon.
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