5 Things You Probably Didn't Know About "All in the Family"

On January 12, 1971, the sitcom "All in the Family" premiered on CBS.  Here are 5 fascinating tidbits you might not have known about this groundbreaking show...

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Norman Lear Based Archie Bunker on His Dad In part, Norman Lear patterned Archie, the bigoted, angry father in the family, on his own father. Archie was also based in part on a similar character that appeared on the British show called “Till Death Do Us Part.” According to Lear, his father Herman called his wife names such as “dingbat” and frequently called his son “Meathead.” Lear said his father called him the “laziest and dumbest white kid I ever knew” and was narrow-minded and a racist just like the television character Archie Bunker.

The Show Originally Posted a Mature Audience Warning Because the sitcom portrayed Archie Bunker as a loud-mouthed, prejudiced man who was vocal about his views, CBS expected a real backlash from the show’s viewers. CBS even went so far as to issue a disclaimer, saying that the show intended to make human frailties, concerns and prejudices amusing to show how absurd they were. The network also elected to hire additional phone operators to handle the expected angry phone calls, but the majority of viewers seemed to understand perfectly well what was going on.

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The Mail and Calls About the Show Came as a Surprise There were many letters and phone calls about the show sent to CBS. Most of those questions, however, were about the theme song instead of complaints about Archie. This is because viewers couldn’t understand the last line in the opening theme song, “Gee, our old LaSalle ran great.”  It was bothersome enough that Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton recorded the opening theme again for season three, singing the lyrics more clearly.

It Was Difficult to Sell the Show to a Network It took a while for the sitcom to be picked up by a television network. In the original pilot, the show was named “Justice for All,” and Carroll O’Connor’s name was Archie Justice with different actors playing the parts of daughter Gloria and her husband (Meathead). Producers of the show tried to interest the ABC network in the program, going so far as changing the name of the show, shooting a new pilot, and recasting some of the roles, but the network showed no interest in it. It wasn’t until CBS was approached that the sitcom was picked up and aired.

The Series Had More Spin-Offs Than Any Other TV sitcom All In The Family was the origin of seven spin-offs, directly or indirectly. Maude with Bea Arthur as Edith’s cousin was first in 1972. Next came The Jeffersons, with Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford as Bunker neighbors who “move on up to the East Side” of Manhattan. Next was the short-lived Gloria in 1982, with Struthers raising Joey after divorcing Mike. Then came 97 episodes of Archie Bunker’s Place. And finally, 704 Hauser brought us back to the Bunker house with a new family living there in 1994. If you include spin-offs of spin-offs like Good Times (from Maude) and Checking In (from The Jeffersons), “The Bunkerverse” includes more than 860 episodes.