Norman Lear had two reasons to celebrate on Tuesday night — his upcoming 96th birthday on Friday, and his evening in the spotlight at AARP’s first TV for Grownups Honors.
Lear, the famed producer behind “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons” and most recently, the revived “One Day at a Time,” was the honoree at the AARP event, which celebrated his revolutionary role in the industry, particularly for older audiences. Friend and “One Day at a Time” star Rita Moreno presented Lear with the award among friends and former colleagues including Bob Saget, Frances Fisher, Ed Begley Jr, John Amos, Adrienne Barbeau and host Wendie Malick.
“When people ask me how old do I feel, I always say I think of myself as the peer of whoever I’m talking to,” the producer said in his speech. “If you’re 26, I’m 26; if you’re 86, I’m 86; if you’re 12, I’m 12. I have a hard time being a grownup.”
Moreno, who admitted to having been a longtime fan of Lear’s projects, said she thought she had missed her opportunity to work with him, but collaborating on the Netflix series has been “the best thing in the whole world.”
“I’m 86, but I call him the Old Fart and call me the Fartette, and it’s fabulous to work with him,” she told Variety at the AARP honors. “He has all his faculties, he’s still very much a producer, he still has very strong opinions about how a scene should go and how it should be written. I just can’t believe my good luck.”
Moreno noted that Lear has always been an innovator, particularly with one of her favorite shows, “Maude,” which starred Beatrice Arthur as an outspoken liberal woman in the 1970s.
“I mean this was a feminist show, and I think if someone had said that word at the time half the people would say ‘Femine-what?,'” she joked. “He’s always been ahead of his time, or he’s certainly in the moment. I think what he’s done with my show ‘One Day at a Time’ is extraordinary.”
Saget also joined in on the birthday celebrations, calling Lear “one of the best people I’ve known in my entire life.” He also pointed out Lear’s ability to create and continue to run shows despite his age, saying, “The man is going to be 96 and he sounds like a 45-year-old man.”
“We need Norman Lears, we need a lot of them, we need a million of them right now,” Saget added.
In his brief moment on stage, Lear praised Moreno for her work on their show and her overall career, ending with a more emotional sentiment.
“The fact that you are all here for me thrills me, and I thank you, and I’m here for you too,” he said.
The debut event for TV for Grownups Honors was held at the Sunset Tower Hotel in Los Angeles, and was modeled after AARP’s Movies for Grownups franchise, which provides content for the 50-plus audience.