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Old 07-06-2018, 04:29 AM   #1
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Question In hindsight, were Norman Lear's '70s era sitcoms overrated

I've heard the argument that All in the Family was really only good for the first four seasons. After that, the actors (especially Carroll O'Connor) started mugging for the camera, and were sorely in need of a director who could rein them in.

Meanwhile, whereas Maude was a great character, the show surrounded her a with poor supporting cast. Good Times was essentially (with all of the criticisms directed at the JJ character) an updated minstrel show.

However, The Jeffersons worked when compared to the others because it didn't really try to be more than it was, a comedy. And most of the cast gelled perfectly (George, Weezy, Florence, Mother Jefferson, etc).
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Old 07-06-2018, 04:41 AM   #2
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Most of Norman Lear's comedies were groundbreaking. They were not only popular, most of them were also critically acclaimed. Sure, there were dud episodes of all of the series, but the social issues the Lear sitcoms produced were revolutionary for their time; they influenced millions of Americans' opinions.
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Old 07-06-2018, 08:37 AM   #3
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The Jeffersons is my favorite sitcom from the 70s.

Some say the Lear sitcoms were "groundbreaking and influential" but they didn't influence me one bit. I enjoy the sitcoms but I don't let them make up my mind.
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Old 07-06-2018, 10:27 AM   #4
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RetroGuy is right. Norman Lear's sitcoms were groundbreaking, especially All in the Family. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was also in that genre as a comedy soap opera that also explored controversial subjects.
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Old 09-02-2018, 11:54 AM   #5
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Count me in as "groundbreaking" as well, even if the show went south after the third if not fourth season, with overt politics being toned down in favor of more generic sitcom fare with drama. How does one keep the same overt structure in place successfully for so long to begin with?

"Overrated" might apply to the downward years 5-9 as the shows became more "dramedy", Archie is gone for numerous episodes (and being an ensemble piece, his not being there hurt the show), then came later years when they flip-flop and go from not having children to having a child, insultingly bad product placement ads (Joey's boxing game) that didn't try hard on many messages while ignoring the biggest ones Michael from seasons 1-3 would have pounced on in half a second... the show was so doldrums-driven much like other late-70s sitcoms (no wonder the industry had problems until NBC hit it big in 1984) that only the very special sweeps week episodes with the token issue have any lasting power, so the makers knew when to go all out to keep the show fresh enough for when the more generic episodes got done. How many times did they have to do Archie being tempted to cheat (he didn't but it's nice to see 40- and 50-somethings still interested in doing things)? The first attempt with Loomis was fantastic. I recall a multipart episode later on where they may as well have been making a soap opera instead. The show was still ahead of its time in some ways (e.g. Beverly), but as with all shows the ideas run out and reinventing the show during its run doesn't always work. I'm amazed TBBT has held up as much as it had over its self-reinventions.

In real life, Norman didn't really solve any problems but he raised awareness (and,no easy task, made a lot of money off) of them. That's admittedly impressive.
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Old 09-03-2018, 03:24 AM   #6
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http://comforttv.blogspot.com/2017/0...of-norman.html

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I acknowledge that All In the Family, Maude, One Day At a Time, The Jeffersons and Good Times are classic TV, either as a result of their quality or enduring appeal. Classic TV shows from the 1970s often serve as comfort TV as well. But this is one of those times when, at least for me, they do not.

Itís not because they were groundbreaking Ė a trait that implies shaking up the status quo. That Girl and The Mary Tyler Moore Show and I Spy and other comfort TV staples also share that distinction. The difference to me is that with the Lear shows, the controversial or incendiary elements were always at the forefront. It became what they were about, instead of being just one ingredient in the situation comedy stew.

As a result, they shared another common denominator that disqualifies them from comfort TV status Ė anger.

Quick Ė whatís the first thing that comes to mind when you think of All In the Family? Itís probably Archie and Mike in a heated argument over politics, or Archie calling his wife a dingbat. On The Jeffersons, a deluxe apartment in the sky did little to assuage Georgeís seething resentment over past indignities. And Julie on One Day At a Time was always yelling about something.

Sure there were laughs along the way as well. But when I think of Comfort TV I donít think about shows that consist largely of people screaming at each other. I get enough of that on Facebook.

Norman Lear proved that television comedy could incorporate contemporary issues into stories. And since television reflects culture more than shapes it, itís probable that if Lear hadnít done it someone else would have, and perhaps not as well.

But the fact that sitcoms can be provocative doesnít mean they have to be, or even that they should be. Where I get perturbed is when cultural critics suggest that Learís shows were better, or more important, because they engaged such topics.

I am not trying to demean Norman Learís legacy. His shows deservedly achieved both popular and critical success. All In the Family alone earned more than 20 Emmys.

But there is a tendency in art, including television, to pat itself on the back more when itís Ďedgy,í as evidenced by the current Emmy dominance of cable and streaming shows over more traditional network fare.

Itís fine to prefer television that confronts current event issues, but 20 or 40 years later a joke about school busing or Richard Nixon doesnít pack the same punch. And itís just as difficult to write a good sitcom episode about more benign topics, and make it funny and appealing. In fact Iíd argue itís more challenging, because you canít lift material from the newspaper.

And if you believe doing so makes Maude more substantial, and a series like Father Knows Best more antiquated, watch an episode of both and get back to me.
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Old 01-12-2019, 01:53 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TMC View Post
I've heard the argument that All in the Family was really only good for the first four seasons. After that, the actors (especially Carroll O'Connor) started mugging for the camera, and were sorely in need of a director who could rein them in.

Meanwhile, whereas Maude was a great character, the show surrounded her a with poor supporting cast. Good Times was essentially (with all of the criticisms directed at the JJ character) an updated minstrel show.

However, The Jeffersons worked when compared to the others because it didn't really try to be more than it was, a comedy. And most of the cast gelled perfectly (George, Weezy, Florence, Mother Jefferson, etc).
I agree with much of much of what you said especially about Good Times. But I never felt the way you do about Carroll O’Connor; I thought he was always right on the money as an actor in AITF.
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Old 01-12-2019, 01:59 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by tlc38tlc38 View Post
The Jeffersons is my favorite sitcom from the 70s.

Some say the Lear sitcoms were "groundbreaking and influential" but they didn't influence me one bit. I enjoy the sitcoms but I don't let them make up my mind.
I disagree with you about his shows NOT being “ground-breaking and influential”. AITF turned television on it’s head and was EASILY 25 years ahead of its time.

However, just because a show is influential and groundbreaking, doesn’t mean it’s going to change someone’s mind. None of his shows really did for me. What “influential and groundbreaking” mean to me is that a show ”MAKES YOU THINK” and re-examine your views, whether you change them or not. And my opinion, MANY of his shows were highly successful in that regard.
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Old 01-12-2019, 02:03 PM   #9
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Yes, they were/are overrated. Preachy/message shows become outdated faster than any other type because the public grows tired of issues that never get resolved and they move on to something else.
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Old 01-12-2019, 02:08 PM   #10
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Yes, they were/are overrated. Preachy/message shows become outdated faster than any other type because the public grows tired of issues that never get resolved and they move on to something else.
I disagree. AITF, for example was the #1 rated show for quite a few years in a row, and widely in sindication today, nearly 50 years later. Maude, The Jeffersons as well are still widely viewed.

This being said though, Learís shows are not everyoneís cup of tea. They can sometimes have an in-your-face quality to them, that some may not care for.
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