R.I.P. Norman Lear, TV legend who created All in the Family, Sanford and Son, and much more

There was no topic off limits for the legendary producer and writer. Lear was 101.

Image credit: The Everett Collection

Legendary writer and producer Norman Lear revolutionized American television with daring and hilarious series for multiple decades of his long career. 

His long resume included hit-series such as All in the Family, Sanford and Son, The Jeffersons, Maude and many more. Many of Lear's famous scripts touched on topics that included racism, abortion, war and other topics that many struggled to not only talk about in real life, much less show on TV.

All in the Family became an immediate hit and propelled the writer along with Tandem Productions into the limelight. There was no subject too taboo for Lear. Watching any of his hit series, including All in the Family, could prove that.

For a time, both All in the Family and Sanford and Son ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the country. His set of hit series made it seem like there was no stopping Lear, and he didn't stop after his initial success. If there was a show you enjoyed on TV in the '70s or '80s — it was often from Lear.

All in the Family was so successful it was nominated for multiple Emmy Awards and received numerous accolades during its run. This bold sitcom known for its controversial themes set the stage for future shows to come.

This led to Lear being nominated for a 1977 Peabody Award for "giving us comedy with a social conscience." Lear was awarded a second Peabody Award in 2016 for his career achievements. 

Some of Lear's other pieces of work included: One Day at a Time, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Fernwood 2 Night and more.

What he and Tandem Productions did was put all of our "cultural dirty laundry" on display for thousands to relate and react to each week; Bigotry, illiteracy, race, poverty, irresponsibility and stereotypes were all topics Lear wasn't afraid of. 

He was both praised and condemned for putting these social problems on television for all to see, and with the controversy swirling around him, he broke new ground and new records. 

"Everything we do asks the viewer to face his problems," Lear said in a 1975 interview with Calgary Herald. "It's done with humor. People are laughing. But they are also observing the human condition in which they are surviving."

Lear called on his fans to look within themselves while watching characters such as Archie, Fred Sanford, Michael Evans and more onscreen. He believed all of his shows met the "intellectual curiosity" of viewers. His message was to become aware of yourself, and instead of being an Archie Bunker, learn from those mistakes that make us human. 

In 1985, Lear saved Stand by Me when the studio producing the movie was sold and planned to cancel the project. Rob Reiner, who Lear had worked with on All in the Family, had just started his directing career, and was directing the Stephen King adaptation. Lear gave $8 million of his own money to complete the film, citing his faith in Reiner. The movie is now often considered one of the best movies of all time.

Lear has been honored with a place in the Television Academy's Hall of Fame, a lifetime achievement award from the Producers Guild of America and multiple awards from the Writers Guild of America. He was also a recipient of the National Medal of Arts in 1999 and was given Kennedy Center Honors in 2017.

He played a major part in making television the medium it is today. He was 101.

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17 Comments

Cougar90 2 months ago
"No topic was off limits". That was the problem. Because of him all sit-coms had to have an edge to them. The politics had priority over the comedy.
ncadams27 Cougar90 2 months ago
I agree. His shows had a strong left-wing slant that makes them seem dated today. His two top shows were based on British shows, Till Death Do Us Part and Steptoe and Son.
KellyO ncadams27 1 month ago
If their “left wing slant” makes them dated, I wish the past would rush back in. We needed these shows at that time to push archaic ideals like racism, sexism, homophobia, out the window and see a country as equal and accepting through Civil Rights, Women’s Rights and Gay Rights. They also made us think about that war happening in that small country called Vietnam instead of believing we all lived in Mayberry. They took away the stupid “Hillbilly Humor” of BHB or Green Acres and forced people to see a different world. Sadly it is dated because we have sunk into an abyss of hate and willful ignorance. Everyone would rather watch reality stupidity than have to use their brain. RIP Norman Lear, the man who brought controversial programming that changed television and a country. Sorry it didn’t last. This liberal slant is taking her soapbox and leaving now..
GioLovesMash 2 months ago
metv is doing a R.I.P. Norman Lear,
CortneyNicole 2 months ago
RIP Mr. Norman Lear, Thank you for everything I enjoy all the old shows.
Jeffrey 2 months ago
That's a nice article, MeTV, but I thought he died earlier this year or last. But you don't say when Norman Lear died this year. What month and date.
Jeffrey 2 months ago
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KentuckyPhil69 2 months ago
RIP Mr. Lear!!! You not only were a genius, you were a prophet as well!! The shows you created were true treasures!!! Prayers to your loved ones and God bless and keep you as well!!!🙏💔😞😢
Sway 2 months ago
RIP Norman Lear. Thank you for serving our country in WW II. Thank you for all the contributions to TV and movies. So prolific and trailblazing.
WordsmithWorks 2 months ago
When people talk about a trailblazer, they're talking about Norman Lear. Half of what's on television wouldn't have been possible without him opening the doors.
CoreyC 2 months ago
Norman Lear brought TV comedies to the modern era by not being afraid to deal with the hard issues.
CoreyC 2 months ago
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genZmetv 2 months ago
Well, I'm not celebrating at this news or anything, but I still don't like his shows.
Jeffrey genZmetv 2 months ago
Well, You're in the Minority then. Most people love them.
Jeffrey 2 months ago
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Runeshaper 2 months ago
R.I.P. Norman Lear and THANK YOU for everything (-:
Tresix 2 months ago
Farewell to the man who gave us the Bunkers, the Stivics, the Sanfords, the Jeffersons, the Findlays, the Evanses, and the Coopers. TV probably wouldn’t have been the same without Mr. Lear.
LoveMETV22 2 months ago
R.I.P. Norman Lear. Legendary in his contribution to television in so many ways.
Rick 2 months ago
His contribution to television is impossible to measure. What a great man, in a field that doesn't get the respect it deserves.
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