Carroll O'Connor hated the original script for the pilot of All In The Family
Even the infamous Archie Bunker had little faith in the success of the show at the beginning.
How many times have you watched an episode of All In The Family and said: "They'd never be able to make this kind of thing today." Well, if you were paying attention when the show was premiering back in 1971, you may remember those conversations were happening just as frequently, even in CBS offices.
Just before the broadcast, a message aired, letting audiences know that the show was planning to cast a "humorous spotlight on our frailties, prejudices, and concerns." CBS staffed additional workers to man their phone lines in preparation for an influx of angry phone calls from viewers who had watched the premiere.
It seemed as though everyone had some sort of problem with the pilot for All In The Family, including one very important person: Archie Bunker himself.
Norman Lear originally envisioned Carroll O'Connor as the leading role of Archie Bunker after seeing him in the 1966 film What Did You Do In the War Daddy? Lear described his impression of O'Connor to Morning Edition: "We sit at this little table and he reads. You know, I wish I could express - my entire body felt, 'Oh my god. This is Archie.'"
While impressed with O'Connor's acting chops, Lear had no idea that the actor had an interest in screenwriting as well, and wasn't shy about giving him a few notes on the pilot draft Lear had sent his way; Scratch that. A lot of notes.
According to a 2021 retrospective of the show in TIME magazine, O'Connor came to Lear's office to let him know he was not a fan of the script, specifically, that he "didn't like it from the first page to the last." After that, O'Connor reportedly returned to Lear's office a few days later with a completely rewritten pilot script. Lear wasn't ready to agree to any of O'Connor's proposed changes to the script, but O'Connor agreed to take the role nonetheless.
O'Connor's fears about the success of the show were not completely assuaged. O'Connor had been living in Rome, Italy at the time, and requested that he be given a round-trip ticket home because he was so confident in the show's failure. Still, the show became the smash hit that audiences know and love today, and O'Connor went on to win four Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Archie Bunker.
Still, even with the absolute smash success of the show and its place in viewers' hearts and minds, there's a part of us that is dying to read O'Connor's pilot of All In The Family.