“All in the Family” really was a family, albeit an unofficial one, for the main cast members. They spent so many days together on set, it was tough to say good bye.
That’s what Rob Reiner said in an interview when he discussed a variety of topics, including the final episode he was in on All in the Family.
His last was the season eight finale. He left the series one year before it ended in 1979. As those who watched the show know, Reiner was Archie Bunker’s son-in-law Mike Stivik, affectionately known as “Meat Head.” Mike Stivik was married to Gloria, the only child of Archie and Edith Bunker. The conversations between Archie (Carroll O’Connor) and Mike gave the show its energy. The two political opposites defined the times. Archie was the blue collar guy from Queens who voiced an opinion on everything. People described Archie as a lovable bigot. Meanwhile, Mike is the educated, liberal hippie who loves to call out Archie for his views.
The final episode for Mike and Gloria was called, appropriately, “The Stiviks Go West.” It aired March 19, 1978. On the show, Michael and Gloria plan a move from New York to California. Archie and Michael, like usual, have a heated argument. But Gloria (Sally Struthers) and Edith (Jean Stapleton) want the two men to reconcile.
The Season Eight Finale Of All in the Family Will Make You Cry
Archie and Mike do make peace with each other. The two men tell each other about their mutual love and respect. They hug. Then Gloria and Mike leave. Archie watches them walk to the taxi. He and Edith are heart broken in their now empty house in Queens.
This wasn’t acting. It was raw emotion.
“That [episode] was a very emotional time for all of us,” Rob Reiner said. “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. There was just no acting. You didn’t have to act. I mean, I looked at Carroll…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.”
Real families argue, but can make up with each other. And work families can be the same way.
Norman Lear, the show’s creator, initially wanted to end the series with this episode. It would’ve been a perfect close. You see how much a dysfunctional family can still love each other so much. A People magazine cover was devoted to the end of season eight. But O’Connor wanted the series to go on for at least another year, as did CBS. Plus, Stapleton agreed to come back. To give the Bunkers some family in the ninth and final season, writers created the character, Stephanie Mills. She was Edith’s nine-year-old niece who came to live with her aunt and uncle.