Norman Lear had no idea he was doing anything groundbreaking when he started work on ''All in the Family''

Lear had no idea the impact that he'd make.

Norman Lear was talented enough to dive headfirst into the forefront of making history multiple times, seeing as he's responsible for more than a handful of shows that we now consider to be timeless classics and the best of the best.

But back when Lear was first developing All in the Family, back when people were more familiar with the premise of Till Death Do Us Part, Lear didn't have any idea that the show would be such a trailblazer. 

According to Rock Me On the Water by Ronald Brownstein, Lear said, "I never, ever remembered thinking, Oh, we're doing something outlandish, riotously different. I wasn't on any mission. And I don't think I knew I was breaking such ground."

Lear wasn't even overly indulgent in television as a viewer at the time; He said, "I didn't watch Petticoat Junction, for Chrissake. I didn't watch Beverly Hillbillies. I didn't know what I was doing." One thing Lear was aware of at the time, according to Brownstein's book, was the money to be gained if the series were able to make it into syndication. There, Lear knew there was money to be made in reruns.

Still, Lear was able to protect the show with a fierceness that proved to be integral to the lasting impact of the show. More than once, he threatened CBS with his departure if they tried to refuse to air some more shocking All in the Family plotlines that Lear and the writers had in mind. While Lear wasn't aware of the major breakthrough he had on his hands, he undoubtedly knew that he more than deserved an opportunity to say what he wanted to say.

Still, Lear being unaware of what All in the Family would become isn't an indication of cluelessness, but rather an intentional act of mindfulness from Lear, who simply tried to focus on the here and now when he could. In an interview with NPR, he said, "Two little words we don't pay enough attention to: over and next. When something is over, it is over and we are on to the next. And I like to think about the hammock in the middle of those two words."

He continued, "That's living in the moment. That's the moment I believe I'm living as I complete this sentence. And it couldn't be more important to me."

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7 Comments

LoveMETV22 6 months ago
"Norman Lear had no idea he was doing anything groundbreaking when he started work on
All in the Family."
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Guess that makes sense as there probably weren't a lot of other programs that were a specific match to "AITF", to gauge it with.
Andybandit 6 months ago
I enjoyed watching good times and Sanford on MeTv aired it on the 9th. Better than watching A Brady Christmas.
LoveMETV22 Andybandit 6 months ago
Yes. I wish they would do some crossover with shows like "GT, S&S and a few others as well, that are shown on their other networks.

Where MeTV is kind of classic based as opposed to one specific genre, they could fit a few of those shows into different program blocks (JMO).
Andybandit 6 months ago
NL sure did make an impression on the Tv show, that is way they were so good.
Runeshaper 6 months ago
Lear definitely made some big impacts with All in the Family.
LoveMETV22 Runeshaper 6 months ago
Yes. He certainly did.
Pacificsun 6 months ago
To the degree that NL was busy in the moment being a creator, producer and network negotiator. I'm sure his attention was focused on just getting that Show on television, and keeping it there. And hoping to Gad that it wouldn't be thrown off due to complaints. But, after the premier, he's on his way!


According to Rock Me On the Water by Ronald Brownstein, Lear said, "I never, ever remembered thinking, Oh, we're doing something outlandish, riotously different. I wasn't on any mission. And I don't think I knew I was breaking such ground."

However, the above quote is quite self-serving. Was it supposed to feature his faux-humility. Or a short break he took living under a rock. For one thing, few producers put (or get) the final version of their Series on air without focus groups. Like, many! The networks wouldn't proceed without them. So, NL accessed a lot of comments even before it aired. And in such a way that the test-viewers didn't need to be self-conscious or worried about their most honest comments. If everyone "hated" it do you think he would've fearlessly proceeded anyway? Not quite. Now, it might've been polished and sanitized for American viewers. Given that these British originals were much more outlandish. But no way was NL anything but convinced regarding his novelty. We've also (meaning Classic TV viewers) read a lot of articles and interviews tracking NL's fame along the way. And NL would have much rather taken all the credit for being a television visionary, instead.
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