Back in the day, CBS wanted to warn viewers about “All in the Family” before people watched the first episode ever on TV.
The date was Jan. 12, 1971. CBS was in the middle of changing its programming, ditching “rural” comedies like “The Beverly Hillbillies” and variety shows like “The Jackie Gleason Show.” What the network wanted was a more mature programming look.
They got that in “All in the Family.” Still, the network honchos deemed the program as a bit dangerous so they had warnings put on the first two episodes.
It read, “The program you are about to see is All In The Family. It seeks to throw a humorous spotlight on our frailties, prejudices, and concerns. By making them a source of laughter, we hope to show – in a mature fashion – just how absurd they are.”
‘All in the Family’ Gains Traction With Their Viewers
Two pilots before the third one stuck with CBS were made, according to GetTV. Those versions carried “Suggested for the mature audience” taglines at the beginning.
Obviously, TV programmers were worried about the work being done by executive producer Norman Lear. Once the show hit CBS, viewers were intrigued by the characters. The warnings were dropped after those first two shows.
Regular viewers began to find something worthwhile in Archie Bunker. They liked what he was representing, which was totally opposite of the beliefs and stances of actor Carroll O’Connor. It’s a credit to his acting ability that people started buying into Bunker’s words.
Pretty soon, the back-and-forth conversations between Bunker and Mike Stivic, played by Rob Reiner, became fodder for viewers. They loved seeing “Arch” stick up to “Meathead” in some classic dialogue written for both actors.
Rob Reiner: Archie Wasn’t Supposed To Be ‘Lovable’
Now people might have the idea that Archie Bunker was supposed to be a sweetheart on “All in the Family.” Maybe that’s why Lear made sure writers gave O’Connor so many zingers.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Reiner said that Bunker was not supposed to be a lovable character at all.
“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 these years later, new audiences are still finding themselves attracted to the Bunker thought process.