Sole Focus

News, Views, Rantings & Ramblings by Carey Parrish

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Location: Georgia, United States

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Saturday's Flashback

The biggest hit of the 1970's, All In The Family changed the face of television. After the tumult of sixties, where TV was still populated by ideal couples where the husband went to work every morning and was there to offer sage advice to the kids when he came home, and the wife was a typical homebody who kept the house and cooked, cleaned, did laundry, and baked cookies, producer Norman Lear brought a breath of fresh air to the small screen that ushered in a new, more realistic view of the middle class America.

Archie Bunker was a working-man from Astoria, Queens, New York. He was bigoted, opinionated, sure that he was right about everything he believed in because his views were fostered in him by a generation gone by. Archie was the first character on TV to spout words like "coon" and "hebe," and his ordinary conversation was peppered with expletives that set ministers abuzz with their Sunday sermons like a plague. Archie's wife Edith was a quiet type who was almost completely subservient to his whims, although she could occasionally give as good as she got. His daughter Gloria was more a product of the sixties with her feminist views and desire to be more than a housewife and mother. Worse, she married a Polish hippie - activist type named Mike Stivik, who she moved into the house with her parents, causing Archie even more discord with his finely chiseled views on the world.

Nothing was out of the bounds when it came to subject matter in the Bunker household either. The show tackled everything from racism to menopause to the Viet Nam war to homosexuality. Topics like this had never been mentioned on primetime TV before. It created a firestorm of controversy but the series, after a somewhat shaky start, was a monster hit with viewers. Number 1 in the ratings for a record five seasons, it has never been matched in popularity.

During the first season, Archie met his nemesis and America got another infusion of new TV blood when Edith's cousin Maude blew into the Bunker household like a hurricane. Maude was everything Archie was not. She was a woman, she was liberal, outspoken, and she could put Archie in his place like nobody ever had before. Maude, played by the legendary Beatrice Arthur, was an immediate sensation with viewers and her character was so popular that before another year passed she had not only returned to aggravate Archie again, she was also spun-off into her own top rated series, Maude, that remained on CBS for the remainder of the decade.

Here, in their first appearance together, Archie and Maude display what made them both such massive hits with audiences around the world. Still as hilariously funny almost forty years after it first aired, this episode is a classic in television history.


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