Here's why Archie was actually missing from two episodes in season five of All in the Family
Archie was getting lost on his way to Buffalo, but Carroll O'Connor knew exactly where he stood.
If you’re an avid All in the Family fan, you might remember those strange few episodes in the Bunker home where Archie Bunker wasn’t sitting in his trademark chair, making snide remarks to Edith and Mike, or really doing much of anything at all. That’s because, for two episodes of All in the Family, Archie Bunker was missing in action on his way to a convention in Buffalo. He returns at the end of the third episode, The Longest Kiss, for about two lines before returning as a regular character during the rest of the season. All of this is played off as a misguided side adventure after Archie (after more than a few drinks) finds himself more turned around than usual on his way to the convention.
However, behind the scenes, things were just as convoluted. It turned out that Carroll O’Connor had actually left production during the fifth season of All in the Family due to “contract disputes.” One might immediately assume that O’Connor was having difficulties with salary negotiation, but in an interview with the Associated Press, he said that wasn’t necessarily the case. O’Connor, who was off the show for nearly three weeks, said, “They [newspapers] assumed it was money. Therefore, since I was making a lot of money, I was wrong. They just assumed I wanted more money.”
He then explained, “Salary was not in question, although I did want certain back money due [to] me. I wanted different working conditions. I wanted a Monday-through-Friday schedule and 12 shows off a year.” O’Connor then referenced Tandem Productions, the company that owned All in the Family. He said, “Tandem just didn’t want to change certain production practices and I wouldn’t work unless they did.”
O’Connor added, “The actor is the only one who is bound. So what does he do if he doesn’t like the show or doesn’t get along with them? He either fights to get out or fights for conditions to make the show bearable.” O’Connor, who obviously chose the latter, made sure to maintain that his issues were solely regarding his contract, not with the show itself or his fellow cast mates.
The actor also alluded to a threat Norman Lear made to write him out of the show, and said, “The series would have survived. I think it would have remained high in the ratings.”