‘All in the Family’: Sally Struthers Called Out Creator Norman Lear, 2019 Live ABC Performance

by Clayton Edwards

Norman Lear captured lightning in a bottle with All in the Family. It came at a time when squeaky-clean escapism was the name of the game in television. However, the Bunker family was anything but. The show pushed boundaries. It introduced the world to the working-class, bigoted family man Archie Bunker, his long-suffering wife Edith, and Sally Struthers in her breakout role as Gloria.

All in the Family took an unflinching look at several social issues. At the heart of the show, though, was Archie’s prejudice. Even in those days, it was a risk. Many thought that the show would be too offensive to air. In fact, many seasoned actors passed on the show because of Archie’s character. The network went so far as to hire operators to field angry phone calls before the show premiered. So, to say that the show probably wouldn’t fly today is an understatement. You would think that Twitter would cancel everyone involved in All in the Family before the first commercial break. However, in 2019, ABC put together two live specials called Live in Front of a Studio Audience that revived episodes of the classic show almost word-for-word.

Sally Struthers was pretty unhappy about the live revivals of All in the Family. In a 2019 interview with Delaware Online, she fired some shots at Norman Lear and let folks know how she felt about things.

Sally Struthers on All in the Family Live Performances

Sally Struthers was unhappy about the All in the Family live broadcasts. Above all else, she aimed her ire at the show’s creator Norman Lear. To Struthers, the success of the show came out of a perfect storm. The time was right to put something so different on television. At the same time, she says, they had the perfect cast and crew to pull it off. Her main question about the live performances of the show was, “What’s the point?”

Struthers did agree that the civil unrest that was brewing in 2019 did match that of the time period in which All in the Family aired. However, that was only part of the recipe for success. In her mind, and in the minds of many of the show’s fans, no one would replace the iconic cast. Least of all, her on-screen parents. “Nobody is going to be Carroll O’Connor,” Struthers said. “Nobody but nobody is going to be another Jean Stapleton.”

As for the man behind the curtain, Norman Lear, Struthers said, “Norman Lear is in his 90s. I think he should just have fun and travel, and stop trying to make another mark on TV. He’s made enough marks.”