All in the Family was one of the biggest shows on television. At the same time, it was one of the most important. It didn’t change the way shows were recorded like I Love Lucy. Nor did it break any other ground as far as technological advances. However, it pushed the envelope in the way of content. It held an untarnished mirror up to the ugliest parts of the American psyche and allowed us all to laugh at them. It took Archie Bunker, a mean-spirited bigot, and made him the butt of joke after joke. In that way, Norman Lear and the rest of the team behind the show changed television.
The fact that All in the Family continues to be popular even over four decades after the final episode aired is a testament to its quality. At the same time, the show helped to launch the careers of both Sally Struthers and Rob Reiner.
Today, there’s no denying the impact that All in the Family had. However, the show’s creator Norman Lear had to work hard to get it on the air. The first few pilots failed. Before that, several popular actors turned down roles on the show because of the main character. In fact, Richard Dreyfuss and Harrison Ford both turned down the role of Mike because of Archie. When Lear approached Mickey Rooney for the part of Archie, Rooney didn’t even let the showrunner finish his pitch. He said that they would shoot Lear in the streets for the things he wanted his main character to say.
CBS expected a huge backlash from All in the Family. They went so far as to hire telephone operators just to take complaint calls about the show’s content. Also, they ran a disclaimer at the beginning of the show. However, audiences loved it. It shocked them. But, they couldn’t get enough.
The Final Episode of All in the Family
The series finale of All in the Family aired forty-two years ago today. After nine seasons and 205 episodes, it was time for audiences to say goodbye to the show. In the episode, titled. “Too Good Edith,” Edith faces a major health issue. She has an acute case of phlebitis. This is a condition where blood clots form in the legs. In some cases, it’s just a minor annoyance. In others, it can be fatal because the clots can break off and travel to the lungs.
The finale of All in the Family sees Edith hiding that condition from Archie. While doing so, she is on her feet preparing St. Patrick’s Day dinner. Before she can finish the meal, she admits to Archie that she can’t be on her feet anymore. The pain is just too much. So, they call a doctor.
After all is said and done, Archie scolds Edith for hiding her condition from him. He tells her that she has to tell him when she is not feeling well. He goes on to tell her that he can’t lose her. Because without her, he is nothing.
This is a rare sweet moment for the couple. However, it was also a commentary on the dynamic of All in the Family. Archie was never meant to be funny. He was the joke, not the comedian. It was Edith, as his foil, that brought a large portion of the comedy to the classic sitcom.
All in the Family spawned several spinoff shows and is still popular in both home video releases and in syndication. It mad have ended over four decades ago but audiences still can’t get enough of the Bunker family.