‘All in the Family’: Rob Reiner Explained Why Archie Bunker Wasn’t Supposed to be ‘Lovable’

by Joe Rutland

If you thought that “All in the Family” meant to have Archie Bunker as a warm-hearted fan favorite, then you better think again.

The plans for Carroll O’Connor’s iconic character did not involve him being “lovable,” according to cast member Rob Reiner.

”I know we were criticized by some for making a bigot lovable, but that was neither our intention nor that of (producer) Norman Lear,” Reiner said when he spoke with film reviewer Gene Siskel for a 1986 article in The Chicago Tribune.

“On the contrary, everyone associated with the show was liberal-minded, and we were simply presenting both sides and letting the audience decide,” Reiner said. “Unfortunately, I guess, a lot of the audience simply fell in love with Archie.”

‘All in the Family’ Fans Show Support For Archie Bunker

Fans of the show started wearing “Archie Bunker For President” T-shirts and lapel pins. The way that Bunker talked and shared his ideas appealed to many viewers.

For O’Connor’s sake, he was nothing like the character he played at all. He was very liberal-minded about social causes near and dear to his heart.

You’d never hear O’Connor the person in real life say what Bunker did on “All in the Family.”

Reiner was often a target of Bunker’s boorish behavior. After all, it was Bunker who called Reiner’s character Michael Stivic “Meathead.” It’s been a name that hung around Reiner’s neck like a millstone for years, but his directing work has lessened its weight.

Rob Reiner Thought About Leaving Show After 3 Seasons

There was a point, though, where Reiner was really thinking about walking away. It happened during the show’s third season on CBS when it was a consistent rating winner.

“That`s when you start to think about whether you should simply play the same sort of role forever and cash the checks,” Reiner said, “or whether you should get out while you can.”

Reiner said that crisis passed in the fourth season. The entire cast was able to take part in writing each script.

“It was like group therapy,” Reiner said. “What you typically saw (on TV) was the consensus of Carroll, Jean (Stapleton), Sally (Struthers), and my thoughts on any given subject.”

As it turned out, Reiner’s Stivic put up with O’Connor’s Bunker for eight seasons. Reiner and Struthers did not renew their contracts, so they left Archie and Edith to themselves.