Rob Reiner Says Today “All in the Family” Scripts “Would Get Cancelled”

(p. C4 ) Reflecting on Norman Lear’s death, Rob Reiner was understandably heartbroken on Wednesday [Dec. 6, 2023].

. . .

Reiner won two Emmy Awards for playing the liberal son-in-law, Michael, of the close-minded racist Archie Bunker on Lear’s most famous sitcom, “All in the Family,” which ran from 1971 to 1979 on CBS.

. . .

No matter the issue that “All in the Family” dealt with on any given week — and it tackled thorny topics that would be considered contentious today: abortion, racism, gun rights — that issue would became water cooler talk the next morning. “You don’t have those kinds of communal experiences where you can talk to people,” Reiner said.

“The country either sided with Archie or sided with Mike, and that made for great discussions,” he continued. Lear “definitely tapped into something that nobody had ever done before or even since.”

Lear, who was 101 years old, drew inspiration from his favorite play: George Bernard Shaw’s “Major Barbara.” If you did not know that Shaw was a liberal, Reiner said, “you’d go to the play and you’d come away with the equal pro-war/antiwar — you’d come away with equal arguments on both sides, and it was made to spawn discussion.” And that’s what Lear wanted to do. “So he presented both sides. Archie had his side. And the character I played had my side, and we went at each other,” Reiner added.

That approach would likely never gain ground today, Reiner said. “He put a racist out there and the way racists really talk. And now, if you said things like that, you would get canceled.”

Lear would stir the pot. “He would ask us to look into ourselves and what did we think, what were our feelings about this. And we poured it into the show. So it made the show better. And he did that with everything he did. Fearless.”

For the full story, see:

Maya Salam. “Rob Reiner Recalls a Man Who Loved America.” The New York Times (Saturday, December 9, 2023): C4.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 6, 2023, and has the title “Rob Reiner Remembers Norman Lear: We’ve Lost ‘a Real Champion of America’.”)

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