Norman Lear, TV Producer of All in the Family and Influential Liberal Advocate, Dies at 101

Norman Lear, writer-producer-developer, who revolutionised American comedy with such bold, hugely popular early-’70s sitcoms such as All in the Family and Sanford and Son died on Tuesday. He was 101, reported Variety.

Lear’s publicist confirmed to Variety that he died of natural causes at his Los Angeles residence. A private service for immediate family members will be held in the coming days. According to Variety, “Thank you for the moving outpouring of love and support in honor of our wonderful husband, father, and grandfather,” Lear’s family said in a statement. “Norman lived a life of creativity, tenacity, and empathy. He deeply loved our country and spent a lifetime helping to preserve its founding ideals of justice and equality for all. Knowing and loving him has been the greatest of gifts. We ask for your understanding as we mourn privately in celebration of this remarkable human being.” Norman Lear, Legendary TV Producer Aged 101, Passes Away at His Los Angeles Home.

When Lear came up with the idea for a new sitcom based on a popular British show about a conservative, outspokenly bigoted working-class man and his fractious Queens family, he had already established himself as a top comedy writer, having received an Oscar nomination for his screenplay for Divorce American Style in 1968. All in the Family was an instant smash, reportedly with viewers of all political stripes. Lear’s shows were the first to address the important political, cultural, and social issues of the day – racism, abortion, homosexuality, and the Vietnam War – by incorporating incisive new wrinkles into the classic domestic comedy formula. Two 1977 episodes of All in the Family dealt with the attempted rape of lead character Archie Bunker’s wife Edith. Their fresh outrageousness made them into great ratings successes: Family and Sanford, both based on a Los Angeles Black family, rated first and second in the country for a while.

All in the Family spawned no less than six spin-offs. Family received four Emmys in 1971-73, as well as a Peabody Award in 1977 for Lear, “for giving us comedy with a social conscience.” (In 2016, he got a second Peabody Award for his career achievements.) Some of Lear’s other works challenged TV traditions. One Day at a Time (1975-84), a new concept for a sitcom, with a single mother of two young girls as its lead. Similarly, Diff’rent Strokes (1978-1986) depicted the maturation of two Black children adopted by a wealthy white businessman. Other series created by Lear were meta long before the phrase existed. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (1976-77) parodied the distorted drama of daytime soaps; while the show was never picked up by a network, it became a beloved off-the-wall entry in syndication. Hartman had its own eccentric spinoff, Fernwood 2 Night, a parody chat show set in a small Ohio town; the show was eventually retooled as America 2-Night, with the setting shifted to Los Angeles. Lear always insisted that the underlying formula for his comedies was always the same: keep ’em laughing. Evan Ellingson Dies at 35; Actor Was Best Known For His Roles in CSI-Miami, My Sister’s Keeper, 24, and More.

Norman Lear No More:

His extensive career was documented in the 2016 documentary Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You. He later hosted the podcast All of the Above With Norman Lear and wrote a memoir. Even This I Get to Experience was released in 2014. He was also an executive producer for the documentary Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided to Go For It. He is survived by his third wife Lyn Davis, six children and four grandchildren, reported Variety.

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