1 9 7 1 – 1 9 9 1 (USA)
196 x 30 minute episodes
5 x 60 minute episodes
1 x 90 minute episode
Though nearly cancelled after its first few months on air, All In The Family went on to become the number one show in the USA for five consecutive years. It was also perhaps one of the most influential programmes in the history of US TV broadcasting.
Based on the British comedy series Till Death Us Do Part, the show’s strength was a combination of stellar ensemble acting and controversial storylines.
The series openly addressed taboo topics from racism to homosexuality while also making such terms of endearment as “meathead” and “dingbat” part of the American vernacular.
The series revolved around the life of Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor), who resided at 704 Hauser Street in the Corona section of Queens, New York.
Archie was an uneducated, prejudiced arch-conservative with outspoken working-class opinions on everything.
Completing the Bunker household was Archie’s slow-witted but honest wife Edith (Jean Stapleton), whom he referred to as “Dingbat”, his married daughter Gloria (Sally Struthers), and his unemployed, ultra-liberal student, Polish son-in-law, Mike Stivic (Rob Reiner), who he nicknamed “Meathead”.
Archie was constantly attacking virtually every minority group in existence.
His views on blacks (“Jungle bunnies” or “spades”), Puerto Ricans (“spics”), Chinese (“chinks”) and any other racial or religious group not his own were clear and consistent. Archie believed in every negative racial and ethnic stereotype.
Unfortunately, Archie could never get away from the people he despised. He worked as a dock foreman for the Prendergast Tool and Die Company and had to work with a racially mixed group of people.
His next-door neighbours were a black family, the Jeffersons (pictured below left).
Louise Jefferson (Isabel Sannford) was one of Edith’s closest friends, her husband George (Sherman Hemsley) ran a small dry-cleaning store, and their son Lionel (Mike Evans) was a close friend of Mike’s.
Lionel loved to visit the Bunker household to tease Archie about his prejudices, while George’s brother Henry (Mel Stewart), who was as opinionated as Archie, but from a black perspective, also provided conflict.
The Jeffersons moved to Manhattan and into their own show in 1975. Mike, who had finally graduated from college, moved into their old house, and Gloria became pregnant. Their baby, Joey, was born in December 1975.
An Italian couple named Lorenzo moved in as neighbours for a while. Frank Lorenzo (Vincent Gardenia) loved to clean and cook, while his wife Irene (Betty Garrett) could fix anything mechanical.
In 1977, Archie quit his job and, along with Harry the bartender, purchased Kelsey’s Bar from an ailing Tommy Kelsey.
In 1978 Mike, Gloria, and little Joey moved to California and so left the series. Archie and Edith were then joined by Stephanie Mills (Danielle Brisebois), their niece who had been abandoned by her father.
In 1979, the focus of the series switched to the bar – now called Archie’s Place – and Edith was rarely seen on screen.
New characters were added to the bar and Archie took on a new Jewish partner, Murray Klein (Martin Balsam), and the name of the series was changed to Archie Bunker’s Place.
Edith died of a stroke in 1980, and Archie hired a black housekeeper, Ellen Canby (Barbara Meek), to help care for Stephanie. 1982 saw another spin-off, this time featuring Sally Struthers and her son Joey starting a new life together. The series was simply called Gloria.
All In The Family changed the course of American television comedy and brought a sense of harsh reality which had not been seen on US television before.
All In The Family was the first situation comedy series videotaped in front of a live studio audience, which became a common practice thereafter. Previous shows were filmed.
Gloria Bunker Stivic
Brendon T. Dillon (1)
Bob Hastings (2)