They don’t make them like they used to. You can apply that to just about anything on the market. This includes sitcoms and other television shows. If you need any proof of that, look no further than All in the Family.
Instead of being an escape to some saccharine-sweet time of old, All in the Family turned a mirror on the worst parts of the American psyche. Archie Bunker was the center of that. He was America’s favorite bigot. Every week, viewers tuned in to see the exploits of the Bunker clan. More specifically, they wanted to see the Bunker clan’s reaction to Archie’s prejudiced tirades and curmudgeonly attitude.
The creators of the show knew exactly what they were doing when they started. In fact, CBS hired a team of operators specifically to answer angry calls caused by All in the Family prior to the show’s premiere. In the end, they didn’t need them. Not many people complained about the show. However, showrunners and everyone else involved knew that Archie would be an offensive and potentially off-putting character.
Carroll O’Connor soon found himself almost inextricably linked to his All in the Family character. However, he was actually nothing like Archie when the cameras stopped rolling. He demonstrated the differences between him and his character in a 1976 American Bandstand appearance.
Carroll O’Connor Versus His All in the Family Character
During his appearance on American Bandstand, Carroll O’Connor took some questions from the audience. One audience member asked if O’Connor’s views differed at all from his All in the Family character. Dick Clark put that on hold, though. He wanted to ask a similar question. Instead of just asking if O’Connor and Bunker aligned on things, Clark wanted to ask the actor a question as himself and as the character.
Dick Clark asked Carroll O’Connor what he thought about the conservation of natural resources.
Carroll O’Connor thought for a moment before giving his answer. Then, he said, “Well, I feel very strongly about conservation. I think that our resources have been used very badly and carelessly and I think we’re suffering from it now. We have to take into account everything we use.” It seemed as if he could go on for a while longer, but Clark cut him off.
Then, Clark asked what O’Connor’s All in the Family character thought about conservation.
Without missing a beat, O’Connor slipped into character. When he answered, it was pure Archie Bunker. “What? Do you mean savin’ the trees? You gotta have houses, don’t you? We gotta have houses, the city people. The country people gotta have their outhouses. We gotta make ‘em out of wood. What are you gonna do? Save the trees? Then nobody would have no outhouses to go. What would happen then?”
Carroll O’Connor was worlds apart from his iconic All in the Family character. However, his acting skills allowed him to slip into the character with seemingly no effort. They just don’t make them like that anymore.