As TV buffs duly celebrate Norman Lear’s 100th birthday, it’s hard not to wonder if any of Lear’s ground-breaking programs from the 1970s would be appreciated on the air today.
Or even allow them to play longer today.
Norman Lear is easily one of the top ten most important people in television history thanks to a series of sitcoms that featured colorful characters and some stereotypes, but always people who went beyond that label to be recognizable, flesh-and-blood figures that viewers aspired to see week after week. a week ago, and gave these characters the freedom to be controversial, to be outrageous, to argue, and basically to be individual and human.
In today’s neo-Puritan, neo-McCarthy environment where political correctness is closely monitored, characters like Archie Bunker from All in the Family, Maud Findlay from Maud, Fred Sandford from Sanford and Son , George Jefferson from The Jeffersons , and JJ’s Good Times are just as likely to be thrown off the screen by perceived offense as they were to be beloved and quoted by viewers of their time, primarily from the early 70s to the mid-80s. x.
Norman Lear ushered in a new era of television when he adapted the British program into All in the Family and set Carroll O’Connor’s Archie Bunker with some of the newfound freedom and tolerance of his time as a conservative Queens commoner.
All in the Family viewers knew the show poked fun at Archie, tempered by the modern leanings of his daughter, Gloria, and son-in-law, Mike, and softened by the pure soul of his wife, Edith. They could laugh at his outbursts, recognizing him as a guy from the street and seeing the reality in him. Archie was a laughable figure, but one man clashed in his time, and faces now, in suggesting that anyone is willing to risk zenith criticism by speaking out as Archie did.
Series after series, the characters of Lear brought new faces and new, expanding boundaries to television.
Maude, who started life as visiting cousin Edith in All the Family, becomes Archie’s opposite when she is given her own series starring Beatrice Arthur.
Maude is as progressive for her time as Archie is conservative. “Maude” and “All in the Family” were can’t-miss companions at a time when you couldn’t even record the shows (well, not until the late period), let alone stream them on demand. hours after airing.
Lear’s work “The Jefferson Family” was no less revolutionary. When George, Louise, Lionel and George’s mother moved to the East Side, The Jeffersons rose to prime time, putting the show with a predominantly black cast on par with other hits and making money by poking fun at George’s often stereotypical behavior, while his character leaves a calm practical Weezy and a son who was a child of his time in history. The Jeffersons also had a mixed-race couple during the years when several states maintained miscegenation laws despite the Loving decision and civil rights legislation.
Good Times , this time a Maud spin-off, depicts another Black family living in an apartment building but thriving on the same mix of stereotypes and challenging characters.
Sanford and Son was somewhere in between. One Day at a Time didn’t have the social impact of All in the Family, The Jeffersons, and Lear’s other series, but it did reveal some family issues.
There were other performances, including another groundbreaking soap opera parody, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, but Lear could claim the undisputed laurels for the one he helped create 50 years ago in a more mature, adult-minded America. and could judge funny and commenting on the fact that modern self-righteous, moralizing moralists would consider a range of negative things from inappropriate to appropriate.
Fortunately, Norman Lear and his achievements predated the Puritan’s awakening, and we have both the achievements of his work, his promotion of television as the art of programming, and reruns that show how well his work holds up over time.
Your 100 years were well spent, Norman Lear. And from what I’ve seen, your mind remains as sharp as nails.
Happy Birthday. Savor your years. Many viewers, including me, are grateful that you were born.
“You better call Saul”
Last week’s “Better Call Saul” wasn’t what I was expecting.
In last week’s column, I wondered when the show would tell the story of Gene, the third incarnation of Jimmy McGill, but I was stunned to see the entire black-and-white audience-filmed episode after “All Hard.”
In addition to Jean using Jimmy/Solo’s gift for creating dramatic scenes when the heist goes awry, I was reminded of something important that I went back to the original Season 1 episode “Better Call Saul” to check.
Yes, the show opens with Gene’s scene in Omaha, and the song that covers it is about a person being somewhere so that another person can find them. This made me think that Gene is in Omaha to find Kim, who we know grew up near the Nebraska town. Now I wonder what this portends.
Meanwhile, tonight’s episode at 9 PM on AMC is called “All the Hard Times.” Carol Burnett starred in Gene’s scenes. Tonight, I hope to accurately predict the debuts of Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul as Walter White and Jesse Pinkman from Hard Rock.
Josh Jackson is doing such a great job as host of WRTI’s (90.1) weekday show, which marks the transition from classical to jazz at 6:00 p.m., that I wonder if Jackson will manage the program while retaining his position as VP of content and programming.
Or whether there’s an advantage for Jackson to give up the leadership position he’s held for two years to stay on the air.
Jackson ably fills the slot left by longtime anchor Bob Perkins when he retired at the end of June. WRTI began a search for Perkins’ replacement in May. Responsibilities listed in the job description were extensive, including a presence in the local jazz community and being an RTI ambassador in the community in addition to extensive knowledge of jazz, its history and discography, such as new and landmark recordings.
Perkins, of course, was an encyclopedia of jazz. He still participates in the show he maintains, “Sunday Jazz Branch,” which plays Sundays from 9 a.m. to noon. He has a unique style, a slow approach to conversation that no one else can master or attempt.
Ever since he started performing on weekdays at 6 p.m., you could hear that Jackson had a vast and thorough knowledge of jazz. He speaks easily, albeit in a more refined professional tone than Perkins’ staccato, about important club dates and milestones in the artists’ careers. Whether he’s doing extensive research or just knowing how jazz evolved from being a fan or being around jazz for a while, Jackson is ready to provide an apt anecdote or historical footnote for any occasion. You can tell he’s hung out in the clubs of Philly and New York and that he’s dated a few artists in his time.
Listening to him and the programs he puts together is a pleasure.
Knowledge of music is a common trait that WRTI hosts can be proud of. On the Classics side, Kevin Gordon offers biographical information and a look at how some of the now-revered works were originally received, featuring both beloved and obscure pieces, on air from 2-6 p.m. Melinda Whiting, heard from 10am to 2pm, is another one who takes her listeners outside of the compositions to give context and understanding to the pieces she plays.
Josh Jackson follows neatly behind them, taking listeners from Gordon’s last classical piece of the day to the jazz piece that will be played at 6:00 p.m. I, for one, would be happy for him if he stayed at work. I hear new voices or weekend nights when Bobby Booker isn’t doing his great midnight-to-6am concert. They could be tests for a permanent replacement for Perkins.
Until that is found, Josh Jackson is worth listening to from 6-9pm weekdays.
RIP Tony Dow
Last week, boomers were doubly saddened to learn of the death of one of the most popular child stars of late 50s television, Tony Dow, best known for playing Wally, the older brother in the same series Gen X and Millennials might have heard of, ” Leave it’s to Beaver.”
Mr Dow’s death at the age of 77 was announced last week on Monday. It was then withdrawn as a family spokesman said the report was premature, that Mr Dow was in hospice but alive, at the end of which the first notice of his death was issued.
On Wednesday, as expected, Mr. Dow died.
Of the many TV series that depicted family life and children of two age groups – Jerry Mathers’ Beaver (name: Theodore) as elementary school kids going through childhood adventures and pranks, and Mr. Doe’s Wally, a young age, then a teenager, leading negotiating dates, driving and some of the sillier things teenagers do – ‘Leave it to Beaver’ is probably the most famous and longest running.
Donna Reed may have been doing housekeeping in pearls and heels, but Beaver fame is Barbara Billingsley as June Cleaver, Beaver and Wally’s mother.
Bob Mosher, who created and wrote Leave it to Beaver, once said that he took the plot from incidents involving him and other children in the California suburbs where he lived.
Mosher’s hometown was Mayfield, and Beaver and Wally were the kids whose antics viewers watched week after week.
When Tony Dove grew from an 11-year-old teenager, he, like Paul Peterson “Donny Reed” or Billy Gray “Father Knows Best”, became a heartthrob whose picture was in every issue of teen magazines. day
When I came out as gay as a teenager, I learned that Woo Wally, or Mr. Doe, also had a young following. Hence, his appeal was universal.
Bob Mosher’s formula worked. I remember my parents’ friends saying how much they loved the song “Leave it to Beaver” because it was “so real”. (Not always when you see it today, especially Ms. Billingsley’s pearls and heels.) Beaver and Wally were the typical kids that Mathers, now the sole survivor of the Beaver’s main stars, and Mr. Doe played well.
See how long their fame lasts. Tony Dow made guest appearances on several popular TV series as an adult, but the highlight of his acting career is his time on The Beaver from 1957 to 1963. the career of a sculptor.
Mr. Doe’s death resonated with children of the Eisenhower-Kennedy era because “Leave it to Beaver” was such a part of their lives. My late sister even counted Wally and Bivo among her imaginary friends.
This is why his death will be mourned more than the deaths of others from early television.