On the air from 1971 to 1979, All In The Family was a staple television show many of us watched with our parents.
‘‘The program you are about to see is All in the Family. It seeks to throw a humorous spotlight on our frailties, prejudices, and concerns. By making them a source of laughter, we hope to show—in a mature fashion—just how absurd they are,'" was the disclaimer that CBS ran before the start of the first episode.
Not only did the show push the envelope, it went so far past the line that it kept viewers tuning in week after week to see stories about previously taboo topics.
With outrageous subjects including race relations, menopause, rape and homosexuality, it's only natural that crazy things happened behind the scenes. Buckle up, Meathead, because these facts will blow your mind.
1. It was based on a British comedy
The creator of All In The Family bought the rights to BBC series Till Death Do Us Part that ran for ten years at the beginning of 1965. About a working-class conservative man living with his wife, daughter and liberal son-in-law, his opinions were much like Archie Bunker's.
2. Archie Bunker went by a different name
The original script pilot episode named the show Justice for All starred Carroll O'Connor as Archie Justice and Jean Stapleton as his wife, Edith. They then cast Kelly Jean Peters and Tim McIntire for Gloria and Richard (Meathead's original name), but ABC passed on the show saying that the older cast lacked chemistry with the younger actors.
Recasting the roles of Archie and Edith with Candy Azzara and Chip Oliver, changing the name of the show to Those Were The Days, they shot a new pilot, but ABC was still not interested.
3. A Revamp of CBS helped the show to finally get on the air
Robert Wood became president of CBS in 1969 and made the bold decision to cancel several long-time running shows on the network. This including Green Acres, Petticoat Junction, The Beverly Hillbillies and Mayberry R.F.D. Market research at the time showed that audience wanted more cutting-edge and socially relevant shows.
This paved the way for Lear's revamped pilot, now called All In The Family with recasting the roles of Gloria and Michael with Sally Struthers and Rob Reiner.
The show ended up premiering on the network in 1971 as a summer replacement show.
4. Archie Bunker was inspired by Lear's father
Norman Lear's father, Herman, often told his son that he was the lazy, and called him "Meathead." He also referred to his wife as "Dingbat" and told her to "stifle" on several occasions, catch phrases we all remember well from the show.
Mr. Lear also had a chair in the living room that only he could sit in. Sound familiar?
5. Mickey Rooney turned down the role of Archie
After reading the script, Rooney said that all the racist banter would not succeed on the show. Even after O'Connor got the part, he was skeptical of the show saying that CBS would cancel it after six weeks.
6. Harrison Ford also turned down a role
The future Star Wars star was originally approached to play the role of Bunker's ultra-liberal son-in-law, Michael "Meathead" Stivic. Funny enough, I can see him in the role.
7. They prepared for view backlash that never came
After the first episode, CBS was ready for a barrage of outraged phone calls to come. Hiring dozens of extra operators for the network's switchboard, it turns out that to their surprise only a handful of people were offended enough to call.
8. They did get a lot of calls about the theme song though
Viewers did have a have the same question over and over for the network though. What was the second to last line of the opening theme song?
Turns out people had trouble understanding the line “Gee, our old LaSalle ran great” so O'Connor and Stapleton re-recorded the track before the third season and enunciated the mystery line. The LaSalle was a high-end General Motors car that was made between 1927 and 1940.
9. O'Connor wrote the lyrics for the closing theme song
The instrumental "Remembering You" which played over the closing credits of the show was written by Roger Kellaway. At the end of the first season, O'Connor wrote some lyrics to go along with the music.
Did you remember that?
10. It was the first show to feature full frontal male nudity
Shattering another taboo in 1976, All In The Family showed full frontal male nudity for the first time on American prime-time television. The nudity was of three-week baby Joey Stivic, and was tastefully filmed and relevant to the plot.
11. The "Sock and Shoe" debate was based on a real-life incident
When O'Connor dropped by Reiner's dressing room one day while he was getting dressed, he say his habit of putting on a sock and a shoe before dressing the other foot. O'Connor was baffled by his procedure, and proceeded to lecture him on the correct way of doing it. Later, relaying the incident to the writers, it was added to the episode "Gloria Sings the Blues."
12. The show inspired seven spin-off series
How many do you remember watching? The Jeffersons, Maude, Good Times, Archie Bunker's Place, Gloria and 702 Hauser Street. After All In The Family ended, O'Connor unsuccessfully sued Lear for profits from The Jeffersons.