‘All in the Family’: Carroll O’Connor Believes the Sitcom Was ‘One of a Kind’ But Not Revolutionary in TV History

by Chris Haney
(Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

Legendary actor Carroll O’Connor once opened up about how unique All in the Family was compared to other TV shows, but admitted the sitcom wasn’t revolutionary television.

Charles Davis spoke with O’Connor in August 1999 while in Malibu, California. The pair sat down to speak about O’Connor’s extensive career for The Interviews, which was created by the Television Academy Foundation. The Hollywood-based foundation records interviews with notable people from all aspects of the television industry.

During O’Connor’s in-depth, four-hour-long interview, he touched on his entire career. He spoke about acting in theaters, learning to adapt to comedic roles, and his In the Heat of the Night character Chief Bill Gillespie. Additionally, he opened up about All in the Family and arguably his most well-known role Archie Bunker.

Davis asked O’Connor if All in the Family “changed television.” At first, O’Connor simply says “no” before expanding on his answer. He thinks All in the Family was original for its time. However, the actor said that television reverted back to its standard comedic format not long after.

“It was one of a kind. And [then], television got right back into its old habits. I’m not castigating people for that, but that simply was not the goals,” Carroll O’Connor explained to Davis. “I mean the goals of comedy, sitcoms, was to make people feel good. Get a lot of laughs and get the good ratings.”

“Those were not really our goals. The goals of all the shows that came after us [went back to the old format]. As you say, that was a very funny show that Mad About You. Very funny show. Didn’t mean anything, but it was very funny,” O’Connor added.

‘All in the Family’: Carroll O’Connor Nearly Quit the Show

At the beginning of All in the Family‘s fourth season, Carroll O’Connor almost left the sitcom at the height of its success over a contract dispute.

O’Connor’s character Archie Bunker was one of television’s most popular characters. Therefore, when the actor threatened to quit and walked out, the show’s producers and writers had a dilemma on their hands. The show’s executives had to make a decision about O’Connor’s contract and his actions. In addition, they needed a short-term solution on how to deal with Bunker’s absence from the show.

Executives were ready to fire O’Connor. In fact, they were prepared to kill off Archie Bunker from All in the Family if they couldn’t come to an agreement with the actor over his salary. As a temporary solution to Bunker’s absence, writer’s created an episode titled “Where’s Archie?

The episode revolved around Bunker traveling to Buffalo, New York for a union convention. He doesn’t call his family as promised, leaving them worried about his well-being. The cast taped the episode at the start of the fourth season. Yet there was no need to for it since O’Connor and the show’s executives came to a contract agreement. One season later though, writers utilized “Where’s Archie?” as an episode of the fifth season.