‘All in the Family’ Creator Norman Lear Discusses Why He’s Glad Network Didn’t Pick Up Show Initially

by Suzanne Halliburton

Norman Lear, the 99-year-old TV legend, is doing interviews to publicize his new book. And he offered fans of All in the Family this little gem about the show.

Did you know that Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers weren’t in the original cast? Head, exploded.

It seems that Lear, who created the ground-breaking All in the Family, produced several different pilots. CBS didn’t make a decision on the show until the third.

“I made it three times before it went on the air,” Lear told Seth Meyers in an interview earlier this week. “Made it in New York, twice, then once here (in Los Angeles) before it went on the air. (It was) always with Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton. But the first two times (were) absent with Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers. Made it with two other younger people.

“It was a blessing that the network didn’t pick it up because by the time … we found Rob and Sally, the chemistry between each of those four in every direction was so glorious. That was he fate of the Gods.”

It’s difficult to imagine anyone other than Reiner portraying Archie Bunker’s son-in-law, Mike Stivik. And, who else could come close to Struthers as daughter, Gloria? But Lear changed the younger actors three times.

Check out the entire Lear interview as he offers such great anecdotes about All in the Family.

Norman Lear Recently Completed Book on All in the Family

Lear wrote the book, All in the Family: The Show that Changed Television. The book will be available to buy starting next Tuesday. So because he wants to sell books, Lear is doing a lot of reminiscing about one of television’s top comedies.

And while he was talking to Seth Meyers, he offered up this reason as to why he’s made it to 99.

“I wake up every morning,” Lear dead panned.

But All in the Family fans should be delighted that Lear completed the cast with Reiner and Struthers. The quartet had terrific on-screen chemistry because they got along so well off camera.

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Reiner and Struthers were on the show for its first eight seasons. The conversations between Archie and Mike gave All in the Family all that delightful tension and passion. The two were political opposites and Lear used them for social commentary that’s still relevant today. Archie was the proud, blue collar guy from Queens. He gave his opinion on everything, even if he didn’t know so much on the topic. It’s probably why fans described Archie as a rascally, but lovable bigot. Meanwhile, Mike was the super-educated liberal who disagreed with Archie on everything.

In the final episode with the original cast, Mike and Gloria were headed west. The emotions all four showed in the episode were genuine.

“That [episode] was a very emotional time for all of us,” Reiner told the Archive of American Television in 2004. “We’d been together for eight years…and you spend more time with your TV family than with your real family. And so you get very, very close to them and it’s very emotional.”

“The scene where we say goodbye to each other, there was no acting,” Reiner said. He added, “I’ll never forget it because it was one of those times when you don’t act because all of your emotions just come out.”