Thursday, January 12
SHAFTSBURY— Norman Lear says "All in the Family" remains alive and well - at least in his spirit - after all these years.

It was 35 years ago today that Lear's show first aired on CBS. The comedy series featured a character named Archie Bunker, a bigoted, working-class, family man from Queens, N.Y. Bunker constantly squabbled with his family about the important issues of the day.

"It took three years to get it on the air," Lear said of the show in a phone interview Wednesday from his Los Angeles home. "I think about that journey and it was a great journey."

Lear, who also has a house in Shaftsbury, wrote comedy in the 1950s and later teamed up with producer Alan "Bud" Yorkin to create Tandem Productions. That firm produced a pilot for the show. ABC was interested in the idea but ultimately rejected it, so Lear brought "All in the Family" to CBS.

After the series first aired on Jan. 12, 1971, it drew its share of criticism for the themes it explored and the language its characters used. But "All in the Family" won Lear four consecutive Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award in 1977. The show went off the air in 1979.

To commemorate the 35th anniversary, the channel TV Land is running classic episodes from Saturday morning to early Sunday.

Lear, 83, said there are probably only a handful of shows today that come close to the social commentary of the world he created for Bunker, Stivic and the Jeffersons.

And they're all cartoons.

"There's 'South Park' and 'Family Guy' and, oh yes, 'The Simpsons,'" he said with a chuckle. "I wouldn't miss an episode of 'South Park.'"

Lear, who spent Thanksgiving and Columbus Day in Shaftsbury, said he is regularly reminded of his show, usually from his children.

"They're getting to know me better through the show," he said. "I think about it all the time. It's wonderful hearing about it after 35 years,"

While not a big fan of reality television, Lear said that he is convinced society is in the "golden age" of television. He was referring to the plethora of options available at the click of a remote, including the History Channel, the Discovery Channel and the SciFi Channel.

"There are some great shows, of course you have to flip through the channels sometimes," he said.

Lear's television credits include "Maude," "Good Times" and "The Jeffersons." His motion picture credits include "Cold Turkey," "Fried Green Tomatoes," "Stand By Me" and "The Princess Bride."

He is a political and social activist and philanthropist who founded several nonprofit organizations including People for the American Way and the Norman Lear Center.

These days, Lear said he is putting most of his energy into one of his companies, Concord Music Group, Inc., a record label focused on jazz, traditional pop and adult contemporary formats.


E-mail Chris Parker at cparker@benningtonbanner.com