Norman Lear revealed All in the Family's British roots

The producer spilled the beans (and toast!)

Sony Pictures Television

Who influences the influencers?

All in the Family marked a massive sea change in the American sitcom. No longer did shows have to be delicate, handling controversial matters with white gloves. Instead, because of this one brilliant pioneering show, TV shows were able to embrace more of humanity's many sides.

But what paved the way for All in the Family? Surely, something had to break some ground before the groundbreaking sitcom debuted. What set the table so that All in the Family could serve us?

According to the series' executive producer, Norman Lear, the answer comes from across the pond. In 1971's All in the Family - Official Magazine No. 1, Lear explains how a show from the UK led the way for his most famous TV family.

"Some years ago I read about a TV program being done in England called 'Til Death Do Us Part. What I read indicated to me that the show was simply about a son-in-law living in his father-in-law's home and that the two of them fought about everything. It sounded like a show about the generation gap— for real. It was an immediate sensation in England and I had a feeling if it were properly translated it could be a hit in the United States, too. So I went about securing the American rights and ABC agreed to finance it. That was four years ago."

So, while the source material originated in the UK, Lear was able to find what was universal about it, ensuring the show would connect with audiences not just in the States, but everywhere else as well.

"All in the Family is an attempt to be realistic, to show how a slice of American society really lives and thinks. Archie Bunker is a bigot out of fear and ignorance— but he isn't a vicious man, a hater. Still, he expresses his attitudes and prejudices in ways that drive his liberal son-in-law Mike up the wall."

Truly an insightful look at intergenerational communication!

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8 Comments

Jimtypes 16 days ago
What would truly be interesting would be if METV were to run the British sitcom before All In The Family and show American audiences the differences and similarities in the shows.
Jeffrey 18 days ago
I knew some of that but not all. Thank you MeTV! Also a lot of American Game Shows were and are based on British Versions. Like "The Weakest Link", and others I can't think of right now. And "Ghosts".
Jeffrey Jeffrey 18 days ago
Another which just came to me, "Diff'rent Strokes", in which a Wealthy Single White man adopts 2 Black brothers, Willis and Arnold.
DocForbin 18 days ago
"All in the Family" wasn't the only Norman Lear produced show that was based on a Britcom. "Sanford and Son" was based on "Steptoe and Son".
DocForbin DocForbin 18 days ago
There were quite a few other American sitcoms in the 1970s and 1980s that were based on Britcoms as well. "Three's Company" was based on "Man About the House" while "Too Close for Comfort" was based on "Keep It in the Family". More recently, "The Office" was based on a similarly-named Britcom.
McGillahooala DocForbin 18 days ago
Not only Three’s Company, but also The Ropers and Three’s A Crowd. All three were based in British series.
Runeshaper 18 days ago
That is super interesting! Thanks for sharing, MeTV (-:
McGillahooala 18 days ago
Yes, Norman Lear was quite the ripoff artist.
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