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All in the Family-How did this show change American Television?
Meet the Characters
All in the family was on television from 1968 until 1979. Its main character was played by Carroll O'Connor who played Archie Bunker. Jean Stapleton played Archie’s wife Edith. Sally Struthers played the couple’s daughter Gloria bunker-Stivic who married Michael Stivic “Meathead” played by Rob Reiner.
What was “All in the Family” About?
The show is about a working-class family who is led by a man who held bigoted, conservative views of the world, Archie Bunker. Archie is a dockworker in queens and his viewpoints clash with nearly everyone that he comes into contact with especially his liberal son-in-law Mike Stivic or, as Archie delights in calling him, "Meathead". In the earliest episodes, his cynical worldview is primarily challenged by son-in-law Mike and daughter Gloria both living at the Bunkers’ while Mike attends college. But by the second season, wife Edith assumes the show’s voice for optimism and compassion, and her slow struggle to pull Archie away from his comfort zone of suspicion and bitterness becomes the main theme of the series. The show did not shy away from addressing controversial or socially relevant subject matters. All in the Family wasn’t the first TV series to tackle controversial subjects such as racism, rape, and homophobia, women's liberation, miscarriage, breast cancer, menopause & impotence but what was groundbreaking about the series, was that it was the highest-rated show on television for five seasons. It was also one of the most important and influential series ever to air, it started a new era in American television characterized by programs that did not shy away from addressing controversial or socially relevant subject matters.
Throughout the shows eleven year run Archie is bothered by the changes occurring in the American society he once knew. To Archie, gains by the "Spades," "Spics," or "Hebes" of America (as he referred to Blacks, Hispanics, and Jews, respectively), came at his expense and that of other lower middle class whites. As surely as Archie was politically conservative and socially misguided, Mike was equally liberal and sensitive to the concerns of minorities and the oppressed, and, because both characters were extremely vocal in their viewpoints, heated conflict between the two was assured. Each week the show brought uncomfortable conversations and allowed the American viewers a vehicle for great dialogue and debate. The show lime lighted bigotry and controversial subjects that were otherwise not discussed but rather swept under the carpet, so to speak.
When the show first aired it came with a cool reception and was deemed a wretched program. The public was not ready to face the controversial topics. But thanks to the evolving character development of the series' cast members and the introduction of strong supporting characters. Both the Bunkers' African American next-door neighbors, the Jeffersons, and Edith's visiting cousin, Maude Findlay, eventually went on to star in successful spin-off series of their own. All in the Family also benefited from an occasional one-shot guest appearance, the most memorable of which featured entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr.
In 1971,five years into the sitcom brought the first gay man into America’s living room who turnedout to be a former linebacker. The gay rights were just getting off the ground at that time and the first Pride Parade had been held the previous summer. Nixion was president at that time and he announced he was NOT a fan. This episode’s groundbreaking and complicated exploration of gay identity four centuries ago is what made this show a venue for conversation among American families. Even in watching it today you realize how far it was before its time.
What was the impact of the show?
All in the Family's impact went well beyond the world of television. The show became the focus of a heated national debate on whether the use of comedy was an appropriate means by which to combat prejudice and social inequality. The character of Archie Bunker became an American icon as a result, Carroll O'Connor's characterization of Archie contained notable sympathetic qualities, allowing many viewers to see Archie in a favorable light despite his obvious character flaws.
All in the Family's impact on American television is difficult to estimate. It helped to introduce a new generation of comedy programs that abandoned light domestic plotlines of television's early years into topical themes with important social significance. In this sense, its influence on prime time programming continues to be felt decades later.
My thoughts on the show “All in the Family”
Did you ever watch All in the Family?? I remember watching it as a family and though I was a preteen I remember feeling shocked at some of the subject matter and not liking Archie. I tended to identify with Gloria and Michael and their compassion. I think today that is partially why I cannot tolerate bigotry and hatred. I hated seeing the mean spirited subjects of the show but I think this show helped highlight how wrong it is to think less or hate someone because of color, sexual preference or religious beliefs. I have a strong belief that there is good in all people and that goodness should be cherished. I don’t think you truly have lived until you learn from different cultures and people with different beliefs then your own. Just because I am straight or have a different religious preference doesn’t mean that I cannot learn from that person. And who is to say that person is wrong because of the way they choose to live their life??
What are your thoughts of All in the Family? Did you ever watch it?? I’d love to hear your thoughts please leave your comments below.