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All In The Family

The Jeffersons

OK, now we're getting beyond Zeitgeist. This is popular culture personified. People who might never have seen a full episode of either of these can recognize the theme songs, both of which are BRILLIANT at setting tone and saying exactly what the shows are about and know some of the catchphrases associated with them. For that reason, it's hard to write about them, especially All In The Family, because it's hard to remember what I saw and felt and the time and what I later heard or came to think as a result of clip/compilation shows, especially the "Network Anniversary" celebrations that happened in the early 80's and were a self-congratulary pre-quel of the "I Love The 70's" kind of things to come.

Obviously for me, back in the 70's, I probably didn't register any of the BIG ISSUES that were on the table or know about "Til Death Do Us Part" or even realize just how brilliant the acting was, since we now know the leads were a million miles away from the characters. As I mentioned when Jean Stapleton passed on, the first time I saw her on a talk show, being out of character was a shock. Carroll O'connor was a complete FDR/JFK liberal, and yet we saw him embody Archie Bunker and become a hero to a certain brand of idiot who didn't get the joke. (Presumably their off-spring are the ones who think Stephen Colbert actually believes the things that "Stephen" says.)

To me, it was just a funny show with people saying funny things, which it should be noted, it also was. It wasn't always and only about issues. We've seen what happens to shows that try it. Some of Norman Lear's later stuff for instance.

I have a hard time remembering which shows I actually watched when they were broadcast---I would have been watching with my parents---and which I only know by reputation or the clip-shows, but I THINK I saw some of the classics like the Rape episode and the one where Archie's friend comes out to him a the end, and another one where the "swinger couple" turns out to be getting a divorce. HOWEVER, I know I was at home, with my parents, laughing my silly young ASS off, the night that Edith Bunker hit a car with a can of cling peaches. (In heavy syrup.)

Obviously my parents like All In The Family (and the other Norman Lear shows---we'll get to Maude eventually) enough that I can VIVIDLY remember watching the first episode of the Jeffersons. It's probably the first show that I know I saw the first episode of in real time. I can still remember Mr. Benedict's first entrance, and to this day, he still epitomizes the best "wacky neighbor" character of all time. I may have had a crush on him. Maybe my earliest Anglophile tendencies asserting themselves.

I don't remember a lot of other specific episodes, and in retrospect I can't say I liked the characters very much. I don't know if the writing team had different priorities or if Sherman Hemsley's brand of bluster was just too much. Pretty sure I was watching through the end of the 70's, but not into the 80's, when I was more likely to be making my own viewing decisions.

Lately I've seen a lot of unpleasant references to the show as used by Wing-nuts and Racist Obama Haters, who like to call Michelle "Weezy" or basically say the Obama are "uppity" by comparing them to the Jefferson's. It's utterly foul and even if it's not a show I remember as fondly as others (Mr. Benedict aside) it certainly doesn't deserve that.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 1st, 2013 10:04 pm (UTC)
Looking at it now,
somehow I can tell the writers are not black. I don't know what makes me feel that, not like on "Sanford and Son" when Lamont is asked to turn something over to a cop and he just says "fine,"(Which wouldn't happen now, either, much less when segregated memories were fresher.)
Jul. 2nd, 2013 06:07 pm (UTC)
Re: Looking at it now,
I don't remember the exact incident, but it's also possible that it would have been personally riskier to give the policeman any lip at that time? Also, Lamont, IIRC wasn't particularly radical. It's an interesting point, and I think post-Living Color etc much less likely to be the case these days. (I'd love to see a "Chief Black Correspondent" take from Larry Wilmore on that issue.)
Jul. 2nd, 2013 03:24 pm (UTC)
I loved those shows when they were new, but IMHO All in the Family has not aged as well as some other early 70s sitcoms (the Odd Couple, for example)
and kudos to the Jeffersons for having an interracial couple on there, something which TV and movies are still very chickenshit about.
Jul. 2nd, 2013 06:12 pm (UTC)
I think the "issue" stuff creaks a bit, but the more pure humor i.e. cling peaches, probably still works. On the other hand, while parts of say I Love Lucy or The Honeymooners may still be classic physical comedy or farce, even without having topical issues, there's still so many "problematic" bits to contend with that it's hard to get through without massive cringing.

Good point about inter-racial couples. I mean look at how quickly House MD broke up Foreman and Nurse Wendy and trotted out the race issues there too. (Hence my fanon that Wilson WAS actually screwing her.)
Jul. 5th, 2013 02:46 am (UTC)
Yeah, it was just the best example I could think of.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )



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