“All in the Family” did not actually do one show in one shot. They actually would give each episode two shots to get things right.
Rob Reiner, who played Mike Stivic on the CBS sitcom, talked about the process that the show would go through in an interview with the Archive of American Television.
“We would do a show on Friday,” Reiner said. “A 5:30 dress rehearsal and then 8 o’clock air show with two different audiences. And then we’d cut the best of both, that we’d get two shots at doing the show.”
‘All in the Family’ Cast Went To Work When Act Didn’t Work Well
That would work if the “All in the Family” episode ended up being just right on all counts. But Reiner remembered a time when, well, all those parts didn’t fit well.
“And one time we did a show at 5:30, the whole second act laid there,” Reiner said. “It was terrible. It stunk. Didn’t work at all and between the 5:30 and 8 o’clock, the four of us got together and started improvising to make the second half of the show different and hopefully work.”
When Reiner mentions the four, he’s talking about himself, and “All in the Family” costars Carroll O’Connor, Jean Stapleton, and Sally Struthers.
“Went on stage at 8 o’clock never having rehearsed it but just having worked between those times, 5:30 and 8, between 6 and 8, just two hours,” Reiner said. “Working it out, working it out. And we went out in front of the audience with a whole new second act of a show that was improvised within those two hours and it worked.
“I don’t remember the show,” he said. “I only remember that that happened and it was astounding.” The work that “All in the Family” did to make episodes work is akin to taking an extra step toward making sure viewers received the best show possible.
Stapleton Speaks Highly of O’Connor’s Acting Abilities
When it comes to passing out platitudes, Stapleton was not shy about sharing them when it comes to O’Connor.
Stapleton said O’Connor “is a very fine actor.” She talks more about him in an interview with the Archive of American Television.
“Great versatility and that showed so much in his other work and his [then] recent movie, ‘Return to Me,'” Stapleton said. “Return to Me” featured O’Connor co-starring alongside David Duchovny and Minnie Driver in 2000.
“Played another Irishman but totally different,: Stapleton said. “Very warm, giving Irishman. Totally different, though, and yet he was in that same ethnic characterization. It’s remarkable to divorce himself so completely from the Archie Bunker character.”
Stapleton and O’Connor, who are both dead now, made TV magic with their paring on the Norman Lear-created show.