TV Legend Norman Lear, Creator of Archie Bunker and More, Dies at 101


Norman Lear has died at the age of 101. He was the man who, in 1970, turned American television into a comedy. As a writer and producer, he created characters that are still part of the American cultural vocabulary. He also helped to introduce controversial themes into the American situation comedy genre.

Lear’s comedy aimed to humanize the often divisive issues that roiled the country. Even “meathead,” the Bunker’s son-in-law, played by Rob Reiner, could enjoy a ball game with his father-in-law. With “All in the Family,” set in Queens, N.Y., and its six spin-offs, “Sanford and Son,” set in Los Angeles, Lear created a comedy of a type that might get people canceled in today’s environment. At the time, these shows ranked #1 and #2 in the ratings and launched Lear’s production career.

Jack O’Brien was a media columnist at the Hearst company and he condemned “All In the Family”, saying that it would tarnish television and discredit different ethnic groups. Carroll O’Connor who played Archie had a completely different view. He said that comedy can do more than what people think. Lear’s show tended to lean left, but characters like Archie and Fred Sanford were beloved by many, much to the dismay of liberals.

Lear’s career began as a writer for the 1960s television series “Love American Style.” He wrote, produced, and developed 21 situation comedies. Most of them were in the 1970s and 1980s. Many of these have remained on air in syndication ever since.

Lear was a liberal who founded People for the American Way in 1980. This left-wing progressive advocacy organization is still active today. Lear was Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority. Its focus is on monitoring judicial nominations and countering conservative groups.

Lear, who was born into a Jewish New Haven family, said that he incorporated his upbringing as well as his father’s character into “All in the Family.” The show, which is loosely based on a British situation comedy, was a loose adaptation of the popular British series. In a sense, “All in the Family,” and many of Lear’s comedies, could be seen as Lear arguing to himself, about his upbringing, with his family and friends. This may explain why Lear does not demonize his characters when they are free to have a comedic conversation.

Lear attended college briefly after graduating high school in Hartford (Conn.) before joining the Army Air Force. He then fought in World War II.

Lear was once characterized by his critics as an agnostic Jew. However, in 2022 he embraced the Catholic Faith and was baptized in the Dominican House of Studies by a Dominican priest. Lear was influenced by his daughter who converted to Catholicism while studying at Harvard. Lear, who has been involved in many controversial activities and views over the years with his comedies, political activism, and other works, kept an open-minded mind. He even showed, at age 100, that he was willing to change direction.