You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Emmy commemorative: Heavyweight – Norman Lear

Reign of King Lear

Through most of the 1950s and ’60s, television programmers believed the best way to success was to serve up the least objectionable programming. Don’t rock the boat too much, they figured, and large numbers of viewers will follow.

Norman Lear killed that philosophy forever.

Starting with “All in the Family,” Lear and his Tandem Prods. proved American audiences weren’t necessarily as fragile as webheads thought.

“There was this elitist notion that viewers wanted to get away from their problems, so we’ll give them escapist fare,” Lear says of the prevailing programming wisdom of the day. “But people are able to laugh at serious issues if you frame it through the right lens.”

For Lear, that meant strong characters who also had heart: Archie Bunker (“All in the Family”), Maude Findlay (“Maude”), Fred Sanford (“Sanford and Son”), Florida Evans (“Good Times”), George Jefferson (“The Jeffersons”), Ann Romano (“One Day at a Time”).

Lear’s seemed to push new envelopes with every show he produced.

“Good Times” took on poverty in black America. “Maude” examined women’s rights, including abortion. “One Day at a Time” made single moms heroes.

Former CBS and ABC program exec Harvey Shephard says viewers accepted Lear’s politically explosive shows because they were well written … and he never preached.

“Norman always allowed a sense of balance in presenting all points of view,” Shephard says. “It was a brilliant way to do comedy and help viewers see the humor that comes from serious issues.”

More TV

  • BACHELOR IN PARADISE - "Episode 501"

    TV Ratings: 'Bachelor in Paradise' Leads Monday Night

    Through most of the 1950s and ’60s, television programmers believed the best way to success was to serve up the least objectionable programming. Don’t rock the boat too much, they figured, and large numbers of viewers will follow. Norman Lear killed that philosophy forever. Starting with “All in the Family,” Lear and his Tandem Prods. […]

  • Lowell Peterson strictly Business Podcast

    Listen: WGA East Leader Lowell Peterson Guides Writers Through a Fast-Changing Business

    Through most of the 1950s and ’60s, television programmers believed the best way to success was to serve up the least objectionable programming. Don’t rock the boat too much, they figured, and large numbers of viewers will follow. Norman Lear killed that philosophy forever. Starting with “All in the Family,” Lear and his Tandem Prods. […]

  • Commercials Ads Streaming Illustration Placeholder

    Death of the Commercial Break: Why Marketers Need to Get More Creative Than Ever

    Through most of the 1950s and ’60s, television programmers believed the best way to success was to serve up the least objectionable programming. Don’t rock the boat too much, they figured, and large numbers of viewers will follow. Norman Lear killed that philosophy forever. Starting with “All in the Family,” Lear and his Tandem Prods. […]

  • Media Wars Over The Top TV

    How Hollywood Is Racing to Catch Up With Netflix

    Through most of the 1950s and ’60s, television programmers believed the best way to success was to serve up the least objectionable programming. Don’t rock the boat too much, they figured, and large numbers of viewers will follow. Norman Lear killed that philosophy forever. Starting with “All in the Family,” Lear and his Tandem Prods. […]

  • Telemundo - Mashable - el pulso

    Telemundo’s 'Un Nuevo Dia' Debuts Weekly Mashable Tech Segment

    Through most of the 1950s and ’60s, television programmers believed the best way to success was to serve up the least objectionable programming. Don’t rock the boat too much, they figured, and large numbers of viewers will follow. Norman Lear killed that philosophy forever. Starting with “All in the Family,” Lear and his Tandem Prods. […]

  • E! Sets First U.K. Original With

    E! Sets First U.K. Original With Reality Dating Show 'The Bi Life'

    Through most of the 1950s and ’60s, television programmers believed the best way to success was to serve up the least objectionable programming. Don’t rock the boat too much, they figured, and large numbers of viewers will follow. Norman Lear killed that philosophy forever. Starting with “All in the Family,” Lear and his Tandem Prods. […]

  • Les Moonves Sexual Harassment Allegations

    Leslie Moonves Quoted 'The Godfather' to Prepare for Redstone Battle

    Through most of the 1950s and ’60s, television programmers believed the best way to success was to serve up the least objectionable programming. Don’t rock the boat too much, they figured, and large numbers of viewers will follow. Norman Lear killed that philosophy forever. Starting with “All in the Family,” Lear and his Tandem Prods. […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content