Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of All In the Family with 10 Unforgettable Episodes
“The program you are about to see is All in the Family. It seeks to throw a humorous spotlight on our frailties, prejudices and concerns. By making them a source of laughter, we hope to show—in a mature fashion—just how absurd they are.”
It’s often said that the first rule of comedy is “Don’t explain your jokes.” But that’s exactly what CBS did on January 12, 1971 when the network aired this disclaimer before the premiere of All In The Family. It’s understandable, considering the programs Norman Lear’s groundbreaking sitcom followed that night: The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, and Hee-Haw. While each is iconic in its own way, those high concept comedies would likely not have prepared audiences for the hyper-realism of Archie (Carroll O’Connor), Edith (Jean Stapleton), Gloria (Sally Struthers), and Mike (Rob Reiner).
With All In The Family, television began to grow up. The decade of primetime witches, genies, and talking horses was over, and the issues that drove dinner table conversation were now sitcom subjects. But, while All In The Family was issue-oriented, it was still fundamentally a comedy. Lear and his writers needed situations upon which to hang each week’s tale, and they did that better than any sitcom of its time. Even more refreshing: we often laughed just as hard at Mike’s knee jerk liberalism as we did at Archie’s malaprop-laden ignorance.
All In The Family never suggested that we accept Archie’s prejudices, but it did remind us that those we disagree with can still be loving spouses, parents, and friends. And that’s a perspective that still resonates strongly today.
Join us as we present some of our favorite episodes in celebration of the 50th anniversary — January 11 at 8p ET and January 12 at 5a ET! And don’t miss these unforgettable episodes — seven days a week on getTV!
1. George and Archie Make a Deal (1974)
George Jefferson attempts to secure Archie’s signature on a petition so he can run for public office. But there’s one complication: Archie, who loves to voice his opinions on politics, isn’t even registered to vote! Watching Sherman Hemsley and Carroll O’Connor face off is the sitcom equivalent of a superhero team-up. Plus, we’re reminded of a core reason George and Archie are so wary of each other: they’re very much alike. (January 11 8p ET)
2. Edith’s Accident (1971)
Say “cling peaches” to All in the Family fan and they’ll immediately reply with “in heavy syrup!” This season two episode finds Edith distraught because she had an “accident” at the supermarket. The culprit: cling peaches (in heavy syrup). The victim: a Catholic priest. Or more specifically, his car. Emmy winner Barnard Hughes(Midnight Cowboy) guest stars as the clergyman. (January 11 8:30p ET)
3. The Bunkers and the Swingers (1972)
Open marriage and “wife swapping” may have been in vogue in the 1970s, but they certainly weren’t topics for most primetime network sitcoms. So, when Archie and Edith inadvertently had a “date” with married swingers in 1972, it made headlines. Vincent Gardenia and Rue McClanahan play a middle-aged couple looking for “friends.” Only when neighbor Louise Jefferson (Isabel Sanford) sets them straight do Edith and Archie realize what’s on their dance card. Gardenia clicked with producers, who brought him back as recurring character Frank Lorenzo in season four. McClanahan joined the cast of Maude just a few weeks later. (January 11 9p ET)
4. Cousin Maude’s Visit (1971)
All In The Family begat more spin-offs than any other show in TV history, and this episode led to the first. Edith’s equally opinionated, staunchly liberal cousin Maude Findlay (Beatrice Arthur) comes to stay at the Bunkers’ when Archie, Mike and Gloria are all sick with the flu. Maude and Archie debate everything from the New Deal to his treatment of Edith – until Maude herself ends up sick. Arthur made one more appearance in March of 1972 before starring in the Lear-created Maude on CBS that September. (January 11 9:30p ET)
5. Lionel’s Engagement (1974)
Sherman Hemsley only appeared in 15 episodes of All In the Family, but they include some of the series most unforgettable moments. In this 1974 episode, we meet Lionel’s fiancée Jenny (Lynne Moody), her parents Mr. and Mrs. Willis (Charles Aidman and Kim Hamilton) and Mother Jefferson (Zara Cully). At age 82, Cully was only actor who made the cut when The Jeffersons spun off less than a year later. (January 12 5a ET)
6. Everybody Tells the Truth (1973)
The refrigerator is broken, so the Bunkers go out to dinner. There they recount a visit from a refrigerator repairman (Ken Lynch) and his apprentice (Ron Glass), each remembering the experience very differently. This episode (written by Emmy nominee Don Nicholl) is one of the broadest, most laugh-out-loud funny in the show’s run, and the Roshomon-style flashback structure is brilliantly inventive. Twenty-seven-year-old Glass — who went on to earn an Emmy nomination as Harris on Barney Miller — gives an unforgettable performance in his TV debut. (January 12 5:30a ET)
7. The First And Last Supper (1971)
Archie and Mike have tickets to the Mets game, but Edith has made plans to have dinner with the Jeffersons. George Jefferson is referenced, but his brother Henry (Mel Stewart) shows up in his place. (Sherman Hemsley was committed to the Broadway show Purlie and would not appear on All In The Family for another two years.) Oddly, when Hemsley finally joined the cast in 1973, Henry was never mentioned again (not even on The Jeffersons). Check Schedule.
8. The Draft Dodger (1976)
On Christmas Eve, a Gold Star father and a draft dodger come together around the dinner table at 704 Hauser Street. David Brewster (Renny Temple) is Mike’s high school friend, on the run from the FBI for refusing to serve. Pinky Peterson (Eugene Roche) is the father of a young soldier killed in Vietnam. World War II vet Archie becomes incensed when he discovers the truth about David, only to be calmed slightly by his friend’s healing words. This is an intense episode and, according to director Paul Bogart, it was the only All In The Family show tampered with by network censors. Check Schedule.
9. Edith’s 50th Birthday (1977)
It’s Edith’s birthday, and Gloria and Mike are planning a surprise party at their place. Archie agrees to help, leaving Edith alone in the house. A man knocks on the door claiming to be a cop and, when Edith lets him in, he attempts to sexually assault her. The potential rapist is thwarted but, in the weeks following the attack, Edith falls into a deep depression and blames herself. Only with the support of her family is she able to overcome the shock and shame. This Emmy-winning two-part episode by Bob Weiskopf and Bob Schiller is an example of All In The Family’s greatest strength: the ability to mix resonant drama with light comedy. Check Schedule.
10. Sammy’s Visit (1972)
“We had to cut the laughter, it was so long,” director John Rich said of this season two episode wherein Sammy Davis Jr. meets Archie Bunker. What follows is one of the most iconic kisses on ‘70s TV. Check Schedule.
For a complete schedule, visit the getTV website.