All in the Family was a groundbreaking and controversial CBSsitcom from Norman Lear, based on the British sitcom'Til Death Us Do Part. It aired from 1971 to 1979 (and on to 1983, if the run of Archie Bunker's Place is counted). The show has consistently been rated one of the greatest television shows of all time. It was also the highest-rated show in the U.S. for five consecutive seasons between 1971 and 1976.The show was, at its heart, a Dom Com focused around the Bunker family and its titular head, Archie Bunker, an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist of the highest order. Archie was a blue-collar dock worker with conservative and broadly bigoted views which he was unafraid to voice at any opportunity. Archie's major foils were his wife Edith, his daughter Gloria, and his son-in-law Mike Stivic. Mike, not-so-affectionately nicknamed "Meathead" by Archie ("You heard me. Meathead. Dead from the neck up. Meat... head."), was every bit as opinionated and vocal as Archie, but liberal and socially active. This usually resulted in a verbal sparring match between the two, with Mike's solid, intellectual, but sometimes idealized arguments clashing with Archie's stance, usually full of malapropisms and wayward logic but also with a closer personal relationship to the situation at hand and an ability to be so cleverly obtuse that Mike was unprepared to answer him. Around this, Edith simply wanted to avoid conflict, trying her sweet best to diffuse the frequent conflicts and to just keep a peaceful home — no easy task when two of the people thrive on conflict.From the start, All in the Family broke a large number of unwritten network rules, particularly with the issues which were considered acceptable to air on public TV. Archie's language was laced with epithets common on the street but never heard on television. Mike and Gloria, the Bunkers' daughter, made it clear that they had an active and healthy sex life. Even the Bunkers' toilet was the first one heard actively used on air. As the show continued, it tackled a wide variety of taboo topics, either directly, or through the medium of Archie's debates with Mike and others. These included race relations, gender roles, homosexuality, war, economy, political current events, abortion, rape, child custody, and other issues that, if not new in the 1970s, were most certainly not brought up in a comedy show. Even in the later seasons, where the show had lost some of its initial lustre, there were episodes which stand out as some of the best ever put to air. A fine example would be the episode "Archie Alone" with Archie's incredibly moving breakdown, a show that won Carroll O'Connor two Emmys and another for Sally Struthers and Rob Reiner (Gloria and Mike).The impact of the show was such that it 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. Never before had a situation comedy, light family fare for the most part, ever treaded such heady waters. It may be said that few have done so since, at least not nearly as well. It tread the line; its humour was iconoclastic and defiant of convention without being a Black Comedy, yet it was also socially relevant and insightful without being noticeably trendy in its opinions or exceptionally preachy.Even by today's standards, it's an incredibly frank sitcom, and head and shoulders the best, and funniest show to combine controversy with good taste. For example in one episode the family meet Sammy Davis Jr, and after almost an entire episode of Archie sounding like a complete racist while trying not to, Sammy responds:
"If you were prejudiced, Archie, when I came into your house you woulda called me a 'coon', or a 'nigger'. But you didn't say that, I heard you clear as a bell, right straight-out you said 'colored'!"
Can you imagine any sitcom daring to air a line like that today? And this from a show that never even came close to dropping an f-bomb.The following series were spinoffs directly or indirectly resulting from the show or characters appearing during its run. Note that several of them were critical and commercial successes in their own right.
Abusive Parents: In the "Two's a Crowd" episode, a drunken Archie reveals details of his abusive father to Mike.
Affectionate Parody: "All in the Family: The Opera", performed on The Sonny & Cher Show. The skit included Caroll O'Connor himself as The Censor. Archie defeats him by singing, essentially, Screw the Rules, I Have Ratings.
Animated Adaptation: The Barkleys, the '72-'73 story of opinionated bus driver Arnie Barkley, his wife Agnes, daughter Terri, son-in-law Roger, and son Chester. All played by different breeds of dogs.
Attempted Rape: Happens to Gloria in "Gloria the Victim" and Edith in "Edith's 50th Birthday".
Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Every now and then in each season they need to make an episode that reminds the audience that yes, Archie is an asshole and gets frustrated with Edith a lot, but for all their squabbles, he loves her just as much as she does to him, if not even more so.
Archie and Mike just before the Stivics leave for California.
Edith, in "Edith's Problem." Framed around Edith going through the early stages of menopause, this classic episode became known for Jean Stapleton's comic timing and portrayal of Edith's irritability and mood swings as she deals with the symptoms. Her attempts to put Archie in his place – "Stifle, stifle, STIFLE!" – made this episode.
That all said, there were times where Archie – and more than once, even Mike – pissed Edith off. Archie's cases came when he too often opened his mouth, going on tirades about how certain things were "God's business" ... to which Edith would throw it right back at him and say, "Then you let God tend to that business" (and in essence, you butt out). Mike would do it when he either wasn't thinking or when he'd go on the occasional tirade about Archie and how life is better for him than he – this hateful, ignorant racist asshole – truly deserves; Edith, while admitting she doesn't always see eye-to-eye with her husband, would set her son-in-law straight very swiftly and decisively.
Lionel Jefferson, the young black neighbor of the Bunkers who most of the time put up with Archie's brow-beating and ill-educated attempts to deal with racial harmony. However, in "Lionel Steps Out," he puts Archie in his place (not too nicely) when he crosses the line and tries to stop him from dating his white niece.
Christmas Episode: Several, perhaps the most famous being "The Draft Dodger", in which Archie invites a friend who lost his son in the Vietnam War for Christmas dinner while Mike invites a friend who is a draft dodger...with completely unexpected results.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Frank and Irene Lorenzo, an Italian Catholic couple who moved into the neighborhood, began appearing in season 4. Frank was phased out without explanation after one season; Irene hung on a couple more years before vanishing without a trace herself.
Maude would feel like one if you'd never heard of her spin-off. After the Poorly Disguised Pilot where the Bunkers visit her, she's only mentioned once, in the episode "Mike and Gloria Meet." However, she never appeared again in the Bunkers' world, and they never made an appearance on her series. Even the Jeffersons appeared again after being spun-off.
Clip Show: There were two of them, both titled "The Best of All in the Family". The first was hosted by Henry Fonda midway through season 5, while the second was hosted by Norman Lear toward the end of the ninth and final season.
"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."
Following that, we hear a flushing noise and out steps Archie with a newspaper tucked under his arm. How's that for a series opener?
"Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: The opening credits featured Archie and Edith singing and playing the piano in front of the live studio audience (who would applaud at the end). Several different versions were used throughout the show's run, the first version noted for the burst of audience laughter at Edith's singing.
This was a very literal example...CBS didn't want to waste money on an opening title sequence for a show that wasn't likely (in their opinion) to go past 13 weeks (if it even aired at all). Lear created this now classic opening since it was all he could afford.
The closing theme, a piano instrumental called "Remembering You", was co-written by Carroll O'Connor.
Domestic Abuse: Archie constantly criticized and insulted Edith. However, he never physically assaulted her.
Downer Ending: Some episodes that were more serious wouldn't have a happy ending, if any proper conclusion at all, only fading to black.
Embarrassing Nickname: "Shoebooty", what the other kids called Archie when he was little because his parents could only afford to give him a shoe and a boot to wear as a pair of footwear, according to the Bottle Episode where Archie and Michael are locked in the cellar.
Everyone Has Standards: Archie may be quite racist, but he was completely abashed when he joined what he thought was a Brotherhood of Funny Hats with some other white supremacists only to realize that they were in fact The Klan. Mortified, Archie told them off and quit the club.
Expensive Glass Of Crap: An old friend of Archie's is coming over, he likes an expensive scotch. Archie gets an empty bottle of the expensive stuff and fills it with a cheap scotch instead, saying his buddy won't know the difference. When the friend comes over, he mentions that he's been having money trouble and is forced to drink substandard scotch; his taste buds have gotten so used to it that even the fine scotch Archie is serving him tastes like the cheap stuff now.
Forgotten Theme Tune Lyrics: In 1972, a full single version of "Those Were The Days" was released, containing three additional stanzas, which were never used on the show. In addition, the original, unaired 1968 pilot contains lyrics that don't even appear on the single.
The Gambling Addict: Archie used to be one, and only could quit when Edith threatened to leave him.
He Who Must Not Be Seen: George Jefferson, for the first couple of seasons. Also, Henry Jefferson's wife (and Lionel's aunt), Ruby.
Hollywood Atheist: Actually averted with Mike. He has a problem with religion and is outraged when Archie baptized his son behind his back, but in the long run Archie's the one who always picks fights with Mike about it. And in an episode where Edith has a Crisis of Faith, Mike of all people is the one who helps reaffirm her belief in God.
More than 30 years after last playing Mike Stivic, on an episode of Real Time With Bill Maher, Rob Reiner identified himself as an atheist. This is a twist on his character, who was not an atheist (he was agnostic, one who states it cannot be known whether there is a God) but was forever incorrectly called such by Archie.
Hollywood Tone-Deaf: Edith is not by any definition pleasant to hear when singing. But that doesn't stop her from carrying out one of her favorite tunes at any given moment.
I Am Not Spock: Try to imagine Jean Stapleton as anybody other than Edith Bunker. Just try it.
Oddly enough, the only one out of the core foursome to fully escape this was Sally Struthers, who put on quite a bit of weight, and then became widely known and ridiculed for those commercials shilling correspondence diplomas (you know the ones) and later, narm-laden appeals for children-oriented charities.
Even Rob Reiner, who became a successful director, has often said that if he were to win the Nobel Prize, all the headlines would read "MEATHEAD WINS NOBEL PRIZE".
It was a double trumping as he was first known mostly as Carl Reiner's son.
Insane Troll Logic: In "Henry's Farewell", Archie tricks George Jefferson into entering his house by claiming that standing on his stoop counts as being inside his house. George, caught up in the argument, chases him into the house, thus breaking his vow.
In-Series Nickname: Meathead. Archie also calls Gloria "little girl" and Edith "Dingbat" while Mike calls him "Arch".
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Archie gradually developed into one of these as the years went by. While he was a bigot, his attitudes came about more due to the society he grew up in, rather than genuine malice or racism. Once he actually got to know other cultures and peoples better, he was able to accept them at least a little more easily.
Like a Son to Me: Subverted in "The Stivics Go West", after Mike thanks Archie for the years he gave him a home and says he's "been like a father to me."
Archie: Well hey, you know, you've been just like a son to me. You never did nothin' I ever told you to do.
Locked in a Room: "Two's a Crowd" has Archie and Mike locked in the storeroom at Archie's bar. The episode comes late in the run and is the fullest attempt to explain Archie's attitudes.
Long Runners: Counting the continuation Archie Bunker's Place Carroll O'Connor played Archie for an astounding 13 seasons and 300 episodes between the two shows. Almost unparalleled for a live action American sitcom character.
Love at First Sight: Double Subverted with Mike and Gloria. When they first meet, they instantly find each other unsympathetic, and it only gets worse when they start to talk. However, they still eventually bond over a shared love of ballroom dancing, and they end up having sex (which is the first time for Gloria).
Lowered Recruiting Standards: Archie's lodge is in trouble for not having any black or Jewish members. So he suggests that they invite one black to join - Solomon Jackson. And one Jew - also Solomon Jackson. At the end of the episode Jackson accepts their invitation to join, and promises to invite all his black friends and all his Jewish friends to join too.
Mean Character, Nice Actor: Carroll O'Connor used to get piles of hate mail (and fan mail from bigots) while he played Archie Bunker from people who thought he was like his character. In Real Life, O'Connor was involved in the boycott of Florida orange juice, in protest of the Florida Citrus Commission's support of Anita Bryant and her anti-gay Save Our Children coalition. He did this in The Seventies, an era when gay people were Acceptable Targets (both in the "butt-of-jokes"- and the "thrown paving brick"-sense) and anybody who supported any form of equality for gay people was suspected of being gay themselves.
David Dukes, the actor who played the man who attempted to rape Edith on her 50th birthday, recalled in an interview several years after the episode first aired that he got hate mail and threatening phone calls from viewers who were unable (or unwilling) to understand that he was playing a fictional character and would never hurt a woman in real life.
Moral Myopia: This is how Archie judges himself. In his mind it is totally okay to lie and cheat ("a bit") just to get his way and he'll take great offense at being called on it, to the point where it seems he's forgotten he's lied in the first place.
Moving the Goalposts: One of Archie Bunker's favorite fallacious debating tactics. If anyone ever comes up with solid counter to his arguments, he'll get a look of disgust and try to steer the conversation in a different direction entirely. He only ever admits he's wrong when he's well and truly cornered.
My Friends... and Zoidberg: After learning of Gloria's infidelity in "California, Here We Are", Archie angrily confronts Gloria: "How could you do a thing like this to your family?" Then, jerking a thumb at Mike: "And him."
Never My Fault: One of Archie's other major character traits: he was lighting-quick at diverting blame.
New Parent Nomenclature Problem: We never see a flashback epiosde about how they arrive at this, but Mike calls his mother-in-law "Ma" (as does his wife/her daughter) while he calls his father-in-law by his given name.
Not So Different: Mike, for all his liberal attitudes, is shown in a few episodes to be just as bullheaded and chauvinistic as Archie. One episode in particular — "The Games Bunkers Play" — is more or less built around pointing this out. However, he's (usually) much more willing to admit his mistakes.
What's more, over the course of the show it becomes clear a few different times that Mike is bigoted in his own way. Namely, he believes that women and minorities cannot succeed without the help of liberal white males like himself.
George Jefferson, and before that his brother Henry, are expressly characterized as being the black equivalents of Archie, leading not only to the expected Bigot vs. Bigot arguments but occasional moments when Archie and Henry/George actually find themselves in agreement over things like the undesirability of interracial marriage. Or women's lib. Or Puerto Ricans.
Obfuscating Stupidity: Lionel used to pretend he was much more stereotypical and dumb in front of Archie, solely because it amused Archie and Lionel had fun trolling him.
Odd Friendship: Maybe "friendship" is too strong a word, but all things considered, Archie got along pretty well with Lionel and vice-versa.
One Head Taller: Mike and Gloria (Rob Reiner is 6'2, Sally Struthers is 5'1). It made their first kiss rather awkward.
Person as Verb: Archie Bunker became a cultural phenomenon so rapidly that as early as 1972, sociologists and pundits were discussing the "Archie Bunker vote" (otherwise known as the White Working Class; later called "Reagan Democrats") in that year's elections. It turns out the show accurately predicted that "Archie Bunker" voters would overwhelmingly break for Nixon. He even won Archie's native Queens, the last time to date that a Republican presidential candidate has done so.
Porn Stache: Mike had one. Though every time he shaved it off everyone would comment that he looked ridiculous without it. Fans agreed.
Put on a Bus: Henry Jefferson moves upstate in season 4, the rest of the Jeffersons "move on up" to Manhattan (and their own series) in season 5, and Mike and Gloria depart for California at the end of season 8.
The Bus Came Back: George Jefferson appears in a season 8 episode, as does Louise Jefferson in season 9. Archie and Edith travel West to visit the Stivics for Christmas in season 9. A grown up Joey (played by yet another actor) appeared in the pilot episode of 704 Houser.
Something Something Leonard Bernstein: The classic performance of the theme song ("Those Were the Days" by Charles Stouse and Lee Adams) by O'Connor and Stapleton was infamous for a couple of mumbled/garbled lines (most notably "Gee, our old LaSalle ran great"), which left viewers arguing about them for years.
Stealth Insult: Sammy Davis, Jr. gives a fantastic one to Archie: "If you were prejudiced, you'd go around thinking that you were better than everyone else in the world. But after spending these wonderful moments with you, Archie, I can honestly say - you ain't better than anybody." Not only did that get past Archie's radar, he even asked for Sammy's handshake on that!
Mike, Lionel Jefferson and Irene Lorenzo all dished these out to Archie on a semi-regular basis.
Stock Lateral Thinking Puzzle: Gloria's riddle — 'A man and his son are in a car accident and the man is killed. The boy is rushed to hospital. The doctor takes one look at him and says "I can't operate on this child, he's my son!" How is that possible?'
Strange Bedfellows: One episode had Archie and Henry Jefferson teaming up to try and keep a Puerto Rican family from moving into the neighborhood.
Suspiciously Similar Substitute: George Jefferson, for Henry Jefferson. It's inverted, though, because George was always intended to be on the series, but Sherman Hemsley had to fulfill other contractual obligations and Norman Lear didn't want another actor. Henry was created as a substitute until Hemsley was free to appear.
Against politics in general, with both Archie and Michael embodying aspects of conservatives and liberals respectively.
Early episodes tended to throw jabs at CBS' Standards and Practices, most famously by metaphorically flushing the warning that preceded the very first episode.
Another one was done against the Moral Guardiansnote , which forced the show to move from its Saturday 8 p.m. timeslot to Mondays at 9 in 1975 with the core foursome singing a modified version of "Those Were The Days".
The Talk: The wedding flashback episode has a very flustered Edith trying to give one of these to Gloria.
Thematic Theme Tune: "Those Were the Days", a longer version of which was issued as a single and became a minor radio hit in 1972.
Toilet Paper Trail: Used only semi-comedically in one episode: Archie and Edith visit Mike and Gloria in California. One night during their stay, Gloria talks to her mother: the marriage isn't going well, and they might divorce. They use the bathroom for privacy during their talk. They both cry, and Edith in particular uses some toilet paper to wipe her eyes. When they leave Edith has a trail of toilet paper in her hand; when Archie calls her on it she says she was "using it for Kleenex" without going into details.
Twenty Minutes into the Future: In one 1978 episode, Archie correctly names the next President as he yells after Mike "...and you're getting Reagan in '80!"
Unintentional Period Piece: With its storylines almost always centered around the current events and culture of the time, it's a pretty insightful look into the things going on in the 70s.
Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Archie Bunker. Aside from being bigoted, he's also highly selfish and abrasive, constantly putting down everyone around him. At least this is how it started out, until the show gained solid footing … and then several episodes did attempt to show Archie's better sides.
Very Special Episode: Averted, in a way, in that while a large majority of the episode plots could qualify as "very special episodes," none of them were branded as such. The 1977-1978 episode was especially prevalent with adult-themed episode plots, including the attempted rape of Edith, Archie becoming hooked on amphetamines, Archie unwittingly joining the KKK, Edith witnessing a deadly robbery, and – while locked in the storeroom with Mike – letting slip that he was abused as a child. The final episode of that season, "The Stivics Move West," was also "very special" in a different way: it was the Tearjerker episode where Mike and Gloria say their farewells to Archie and Edith and, with little Joey, move west.
Wholesome Crossdresser: Beverly LaSalle, the female impersonator whose life Archie saves. He later appears in two more episodes.
Will They or Won't They?: Variation - just whether or not Mike and Gloria get back together or go through with their divorce is unclear. It simply gives a vague closing scene of everyone calmly sitting by the Christmas tree. The Gloria spinoff says that he does leave her, but how canon that was is up for debate.
Women Are Wiser: Edith in some ways. She was, indeed, as Archie often called her, a "dingbat", but she was also much more socially sensitive and moral than him.
Perhaps the best example of all comes from the season 4 episode "The Games Bunkers Play"; while playing "Group Therapy", Edith confides to Mike that she doesn't like the way he makes fun of Archie, calling him ignorant. When Mike tries to defend himself, she said "If you really was smarter then Archie, you'd be smart enough to not let him see that you're smarter than him." The audience actually applauded that, it was so brilliant.
There's actually a somewhat famous quote about the difference between intelligence and wisdom that compares Edith (wise but unintelligent) to a contemporary public figure who was the reverse, said figure being Richard Nixon.
Xtreme Kool Letterz: The local chapter of the KKK calls themselves the Kweens Kouncil of Krusaders.
You Look Familiar: Vincent Gardenia played different characters in a couple of early episodes before becoming a semi-regular as Frank Lorenzo in season 4.
Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: A real life example. Archie, an enthusiastic proponent of "Richard E. Nixon" (sic), praised him to anyone who would listen. According to the Watergate tapes, Nixon was not amused.