×

Norman Lear on ‘Scandal’ Abortion Episode: ‘They Gave Us An Adult Moment’

Legendary producer Norman Lear had high praise for the latest “Scandal” episode in which Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) has an abortion, calling it an “adult moment, and it was nothing more or less.”

“And it was so well done. It is a helluva show,” Lear told Variety.

Lear was the creator of “Maude,” which in 1972 featured a two-part episode in which Maude Findlay (Bea Arthur) decides to go through with an abortion.

The episode, he said, initially didn’t get much of a reaction at all. It wasn’t until the show was rerun that the religious right took notice.

“And then they laid down in front of Mr. Paley’s car in New York,” he said, referring to William S. Paley, the founder of CBS. “They laid down in front of my car in L.A., because they were ready. They knew it was coming.” Still, about 65 million people tuned in to the rebroadcast.

“The important thing to me is the American people are far wiser of heart and spirit than they are given credit for,” he said. “Because when it went on the air, maybe there were a few letters that complained, but there was no organized effort to make a crime of it.”

When an effort was launched to sell the show into syndication, some stations balked. But Lear asked Betty Ford, who called herself “Maude’s Number One Fan,” to attend a party to woo station executives. She did, and the show began selling much better.

“For me, the question of abortion was proved when we did that episode,” Lear said. “Before the religious right had a chance to organize a protest or complaint, America swallowed it. It was not that big of a deal. It was nothing they didn’t hear about or talk about. Or you didn’t learn in any neighborhood in America.”

While there has been harsh criticism coming from the religious right over the “Scandal” episode, advertisers didn’t pull their spots and the network didn’t apologize. He called creator Shonda Rhimes brilliant” and Washington a “sensational actress.”

Asked whether there were still any issues, like abortion, that are the third rail for primetime TV, Lear suggested that the reaction was telling. If the response to criticism is, “You have the right to feel that way, bless you, but we’re moving on,” he says, “it’s a further sign we’re growing up.”

 

More Biz

  • Herb Dorfman Obit Dead

    Herb Dorfman, Orion Pictures Home Video Executive, Dies at 77

    Herb Dorfman, former Orion Pictures executive and a home video industry veteran, died Feb. 25 of complications from Parkinson’s disease and dementia. He was 77. Dorfman served as head of home entertainment for Orion Pictures from 1987 to late 1996. Orion was a prosperous independent studio in those days that turned out a steady stream [...]

  • Editorial use only. Hand Out HANDOUT

    Big Hit, Home to BTS, Eyes $5B Valuation in IPO Bid; Will Coronavirus Stall the Plan?

    South Korea’s Big Hit Entertainment, home to global K-pop sensations BTS, is moving toward an IPO and recently selected underwriters. Sources in the investment banking industry say JP Morgan, NH Investment & Securities, and Korea Investment & Securities were chosen as main managers early this week, while Mirae Asset Daewoo is also on board as a joint manager. [...]

  • Bob Chapek

    What Disney's Theme Parks Reveal About New CEO Bob Chapek

    Theme parks and resorts aren’t likely top of mind for the industry set when they think of Disney. But in light of the recent (and very swift) appointment of parks and consumer products head Bob Chapek to succeed Bob Iger as Disney CEO, Chapek’s recent interviews at the parks offer a few insights about the [...]

  • Justin Dini Josh Line

    ViacomCBS Promotes Josh Line and Justin Dini in Communications and Marketing

    ViacomCBS has named Comedy Central veteran Josh Line to serve as executive VP and chief brand officer for the newly enlarged company. Line will oversee all marketing strategies for the company with an emphasis on synergy efforts across a collection of brands that range from MTV, Nickelodeon, BET and Comedy Central to Paramount Pictures, CBS [...]

  • Lizzo Grammys performance

    Lizzo Hit With Copyright Suit Over 'Truth Hurts'

    Three songwriters filed a countersuit against Lizzo in federal court on Friday, alleging that they have been denied proper credit for writing her breakout hit, “Truth Hurts.” Lizzo sued the songwriters — brothers Justin and Jeremiah Raisen, as well as Justin “Yves” Rothman — last October, seeking a determination that they did not deserve credit [...]

  • Marcie Allen

    Marcie Allen Confirms She’s in Talks to Sell MAC Presents

    Marcie Allen, founder and owner of the music experiential agency MAC Presents, confirmed to Variety that she is in talks to sell the company, which she launched in 2004. Over the years the agency has engineered partnerships between major artists and brands, including the Rolling Stones, Billy Joel, Keith Urban, Green Day, John Mayer and [...]

  • media stocks - wall-street

    Stock Markets Log Historic Losses Amid Coronavirus Selloff

    U.S. corporate giants are the teeth of another wild ride on Wall Street as investors brace for the end of a week of historic losses for the Dow and other major indices. The Dow was down 357 points, or 1.3%, at the close of trading Friday, after falling more than 1,000 points early on in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content