ABC’s ‘Live In Front of a Studio Audience’ Eyes Two Classic Sitcoms

by Josh Lanier
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Norman Lear will help revive two classic 1980s sitcoms for the next installment of Live In Front of a Studio Audience. Several big stars are joining the 90-minute live event to recreate Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts of Life.

Diff’rent Strokes followed a rich New York executive, Phillip Drummond, who adopts two boys from Harlem, Arnold and Willis. John Lithgow will play Drummond in the one-night revival. Kevin Hart and Damon Wayans will play Arnold and Willis respectively. Ann Dowd will play the housekeeper, Mrs. Garrett. Producers will announce the cast of The Facts of Life later, Deadline reported.

Live In Front of a Studio Audience airs from 8-9:30 PM on Dec. 7. Executive producer Jimmy Kimmel announced the line-up on his late-night show Thursday. Kimmel and Norman Lear will serve as hosts.

“Other than with my family, there’s no place I’d rather be in my 100th year than on a soundstage at Sony with these glorious actors reliving what our company had produced all those years ago and sharing it with the millions of viewers who could use a little laughter,” Lear said in a press release.

The show won an Emmy for “Outstanding Variety Special,” making Lear the oldest winner in Emmy history at 97.

The first Live in Front of a Studio Audience aired in 2019 and featured episodes from All in the Family and The Jeffersons.

Woody Harrelson, Marisa Tomei, Ellie Kemper, and Ike Barinholtz stepped in for the cast of All in the Family. Jesse Eisenberg and Kevin Bacon also performed in the show. Jamie Foxx, Wanda Sykes, Kerry Washington, and Will Ferrell rounded out the main cast for The Jeffersons in Live In Front of a Studio Audience.

More than 10 million watched the live broadcast of the first episode.

Norman Lear Discusses Inspiration for Archie Bunker

Archie Bunker wormed his way into America’s conscious with his acid-tongue takedowns and racist rhetoric. Carol O’Connor made the character one of the most unforgettable in television history. But while Bunker’s antics are over the top, they’re based in reality as All in the Family creator based the character on his own family.

Norman Lear said the outline for Bunker is based on his dad. He told Morning Edition recently that his father used racist terms and could be brash and abrasive. Though, Archie Bunker was far worse than his dad. Bunker just used him as a template to build the character, he said.

“I had a father who was a bit of an Archie Bunker,” Lear said. “He was, in my mind, a long way to what became Archie Bunker.”

He created Edith Bunker, Archie’s put-upon wife, as a counterbalance to Archie’s attitude. As bad as Archie Bunker is, Edith Bunker was just as good, he said.

“[Edith] was developed to respond to any situation in life the way the most decent good person, the way the most Jesus-like, if you will, a person would respond,” Lear told Morning Edition. “[It’s] absolutely wonderful the talent Jean Stapleton brought to that character.”

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