A Brief Look Back at All in the Family

‘‘The program you are about to see is All in the Family. 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.’’

Archie (Carrol O'Connor) fails to get a bang out of Edith's (Jean Stapleton) efforts to cheer him up
Archie (Carrol O’Connor) fails to get a bang out of Edith’s (Jean Stapleton) efforts to cheer him up. Photo By Bettmann / Getty Images

That was the disclaimer that CBS ran before the very first episode of All in the Family. Norman Lear’s creation not only pushed the envelope, but it also sealed and stamped it too. Viewers kept tuning every week to see stories about what were previously seen as taboo topics, like menopause, assault, homosexuality, and race.

It Was Based on a British Sitcom

Norman Lear bought the rights to the BBC series Till Death Do Us Part in the late 60s after reading about it. The series ran for ten years, beginning in 1965. Alf Garnett (aka Warren Mitchell) was a conservative working-class living in London with his wife, daughter, and liberal son-in-law.

TV producer/screenwriter Norman Lear
TV producer/screenwriter Norman Lear. Photo By Photo by Beck Starr/Getty Images

Alf had opinions on pretty much everything and was vocal about his dislike of Americans, Catholics, and anyone who was “different” from him. (It was the 60s…)

He Was Originally Archie Justice

Lear thought that the BBC show could be mined for some good ol’ humor for American audiences. Justice for All was what the show was initially called in the pilot script, starring Carroll O’Connor as Archie Justice and Jean Stapleton as his wife, Edith.

The cast of CBS TV's All In The Family
The cast of CBS TV’s All In The Family. Photo By Bettmann / Getty Images

Kelly Jean Peters and Tim McIntire came in as Gloria and Richard (Meathead’s original name). ABC ended up passing on the show, and their main complaint was Archie and Edith’s lack of chemistry. Lear recast the parts with Candy Azzara and Chip Oliver and changed the name to Those Were the Days. Eventually, the show was renamed All in the Family when CBS signed on.

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