‘All in the Family’ Star Rob Reiner Said Show Was Designed to Prompt Different Responses: ‘Up to the Theater’

by Joe Rutland

“All in the Family” was a show that allowed viewers to make up their own minds, much like those who attended a play, according to Rob Reiner.

The back-and-forth arguments between Reiner’s Michael Stivic and Carroll O’Connor’s Archie Bunker don’t give viewers a final answer.

Reiner said Norman Lear took an idea from the play, “Major Barbara” by George Bernard Shaw, and incorporated it into the show. The actor-director spoke at length about his work on the show during a 2014 interview with Film Linc.

Reiner Said ‘All in the Family’ Presented Both Sides For Discussion

He said ” … but even though Shaw was a liberal, you’d go see that play and come out thinking that he (Shaw) made the case for both the hawk and the dove with equal intelligence and passion.

“Basically, he left it up to the theater-goers to discuss between themselves which side they were on after the play,” Reiner said. “That’s the idea for ‘All in the Family’—present both sides and let the discussion begin.”

Reiner also said that’s why he believes the CBS sitcom has such staying power. “Besides the fact that it’s also very funny and gives an honest look at that strata of society,” he said.

“The issues are also still real,” Reiner said. “We’re still a very divided country—we’re a red and blue state country. Many of those issues brought up on the show are debated today, so it still has relevance from that standpoint.”

Reiner’s Then-Fiancee Almost Earned Gloria Role On Show

Meanwhile, viewers were quite close to almost having Rob Reiner’s fiancee and wife playing opposite him.

When “All in the Family” originally aired on CBS, show producers were auditioning actresses for the Gloria Stivic part. One of those actresses was Penny Marshall who, at the time, was engaged to Reiner.

Marshall auditioned for the role of Gloria, according to IMDb. While she didn’t land that role, the couple married a few months after “All in the Family” premiered.

Marshall, though, ended up getting a TV role of her lifetime. She played Laverne DeFazio on “Happy Days.” Those appearances led to a spinoff called “Laverne and Shirley” in which she costarred with Cindy Williams.

Obviously, Sally Struthers ended up getting the Gloria role and played opposite Reiner on the show.