That old adage “the third time’s the charm” certainly worked for “All in the Family” when finding actors to play Gloria and Meathead.
Why the third time? Well, before the initial show aired on CBS there were two other pilots made. Those two pilots featured other actors in those two roles. The third and final pilot for “All in the Family” nailed down Sally Struthers as Gloria Stivic and Rob Reiner as Michael Stivic.
Obviously, Archie Bunker, played by Carroll O’Connor, famously tagged Stivic with his Meathead moniker.
But let’s look at the two other pilots presented by executive producer Norman Lear and his business partner Bud Yorkin.
ABC Gets Two Pilots For Future ‘All in the Family’ Show
In 1968, they pitched the show to ABC. That pilot is called “Justice For All” and has O’Connor play “Archie Justice” and Jean Stapleton play his wife Edith. Those two roles were in each pilot and through the series’ entrance on CBS.
But this 1968 pilot had actress Kelly Jean Peter play Gloria and Tim MacIntire play Richard (Meathead).
ABC couldn’t make up its mind, so it ordered up another pilot. That one is called “Those Were The Days” and uses the previous pilot script. Candy Azzara plays Gloria and Chip Oliver plays the Meathead role.
Well, ABC decided to pass on the show altogether. Lear later said in an interview that “they were afraid” (meaning ABC) to put “All in the Family” on their network.
Struthers, Reiner Take Hold Of Roles In Final Pilot
CBS gave Lear, his cast, and crew the go-ahead. Struthers and Reiner took those two roles and made them their own.
Now Lear did consider Rob Reiner, whose father was Carl Reiner of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” fame, for the role in 1968. But Lear thought Rob was too young. When the show took its place on CBS’ schedule, Rob Reiner looked old enough to play that role in Lear’s mind.
There you go. Three different pilots are made before the right Gloria-Meathead combination are formed for “All in the Family.”
It is a fortuitous match for Struthers and Reiner, who managed to always get under Archie’s skin for their liberal beliefs.