All in the Family

One of television’s most ground-breaking TV shows, All in the Family, debuted on CBS on January 12, 1971…so folks who used the top ticket above to attend a taping had no idea what to expect. The show had been developed for ABC and its pilot was taped twice, both times with Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton in the leads, though with other actors playing the kids each time. When CBS bought the third version of the pilot, the network was in a transition period, dumping shows that skewed older and/or to rural audiences. They were trying to reposition the network for younger, more urban viewers and Norman Lear’s new series was a daring step in that direction.

The show was not an immediate hit. When its early airings were noticed at all, it was to discuss the coarse, bigoted language employed by its central character, Archie Bunker. But CBS stuck with it and audiences discovered it about the time the first thirteen episodes were in rerun. When it was moved from Tuesday nights at 9:30 to Saturday nights at 8:00, it became not only a smash hit but the leader of a new wave of television comedy.

I attended a taping of All in the Family in 1972. What I recall most about the evening was that the warm-up, done by Norman Lear himself, was very long and he kept (a) plucking ladies out of the audience and dancing the tango with them in the aisles, and (b) urging us to watch his new series, Maude. The episode itself had Vincent Gardenia and Rue McClanahan playing a couple that had placed an ad for wife-swapping, and Edith Bunker innocently answered it. Soon after, Gardenia came back as a semi-regular, along with Betty Garrett, while Ms. McClanahan went over to Maude. Before long, there would be other spin-offs, like The Jeffersons, starring Isabel Sanford, Sherman Hemsley and Mike Evans, whose names can be seen on some of the above tickets.