ALL IN THE FAMILY — 7 Spin-Offs From TV’s Most Spun-Off Sitcom
When All In The Family debuted in 1971, few people suspected it would be responsible for more spin-offs than any other sitcom in television history.
Creator Norman Lear was just happy the Bunkers were on the air. He had endured a tortured development process that included two pilots rejected by ABC and multiple recasts. To make matters worse, when the show finally debuted on CBS, it was largely ignored by the public. Ratings for the first season were poor, and the network didn’t exactly shout about it from the antenna-covered rooftops.
“CBS was nervous,” Rob Reiner (Mike aka “Meathead”) told PBS in 2016. “They were saying, essentially, ‘We won’t have anything to do with this show.’”
All of that changed on May 9, 1971, when All In The Family won Emmys for Best Comedy, Best New Series, and Best Actress for Jean Stapleton (Edith Bunker). CBS quickly pivoted, scheduling rebroadcasts of the first 13 episodes that summer. A national phenomenon was born.
Before we go any further, a few words about math. All In The Family directly spun off five situation comedies between 1972 and 1994. Five is a lot, but it’s not a record. Happy Days also had five spin-offs between 1976 and 1979. But what Happy Days didn’t have were spin-offs of spin-offs. If you include those in All In The Family’s grand total — and you must, because they wouldn’t exist otherwise — All In The Family begat 7 shows, 860 episodes, and more than 400 hours of network television. That’s not just impressive, it’s historic.
Here are the shows that make up the Archie Bunker Extended Universe a.k.a. The Bunker-Verse!
0. All In The Family (1971–1979 — 205 episodes plus two un-aired pilots)
We can’t talk about the offspring without a few words about the parent. All In The Family is one of the most transformative sitcoms in the history of the medium, if not the most. Thanks to Lear and his characters, ‘70s TV audiences saw and heard things they never had before in primetime. The series endured for nine seasons, but the show we think of when we think of All In The Family really ended in season 8 when Gloria (Sally Struthers) and her husband “Meathead” (Reiner) moved to California. The ninth season feels more like the first of Archie Bunker’s Place, with the introduction of Stephanie (nine-year-old Danielle Brisebois), less screen time for Jean Stapleton as Edith, and a greater reliance on the bar.
Don’t miss on getTV: Everything, but especially the first episode Meet The Bunkers (airdate January 12, 1971) and the last Too Good Edith (April 8, 1979). The series is bookended in a very creative way.
1. Maude (1972–1978 — 141 episodes plus pilot on All In The Family)
In the season two episode Cousin Maude’s Visit, Edith’s liberal cousin Maude Findlay (Beatrice Arthur) comes to help out when the Bunkers are sick with the flu. After 25 episodes, Lear had finally found someone who could go toe-to-toe with Carroll O’Connor’s Archie. Arthur was such a hit as Maude that Lear developed a series for her, with the second season finale of All In The Family acting as the “backdoor pilot” for the spinoff. Archie and Edith travel up to wealthy Tuckahoe, New York for the wedding of Maude’s daughter Carol (played in this episode by Marcia Rodd and in the series by Adrienne Barbeau). The pilot even has the series’ signature catchphrase, “God will get you for that, Walter,” which Maude uses to express her displeasure with husband Walter (Bill Macy), owner of an appliance shop. Fun fact: Both Macy and Rodd played different characters on All In The Family just weeks before Lear cast them on Maude.
Don’t miss on getTV: Cousin Maude’s Visit (December 11, 1971) and Maude (March 11, 1972).
2. Good Times (1974–1979 — 133 episodes)
Stage actress Esther Rolle shows up in the third episode of Maude as Florida, an African–American housecleaner who has little patience for Maude’s political correctness. As he had done with Bea Arthur on All In The Family, Lear immediately recognized a breakout character and quickly began developing a spinoff for Florida with writers Eric Monte (Cooley High) and Mike Evans (Lionel on All In The Family). Maude also introduced John Amos as Florida’s husband “Henry“ — later changed to James — and established their marital dynamic in preparation for the spinoff. Oddly, when Good Times began in February of 1974, no mention was made of Maude or how the Evanses got from New York to the Chicago. In that regard, Good Times is more like a reboot of Rolle and Amos’s characters than a spinoff.
Don’t miss on getTV: Both John Amos and Ja’Net DuBois (neighbor Willona Woods) appeared on Sanford And Son before they were cast on Good Times. See Amos in the episode A Visit From Lena Horne (January 12, 1973) and DuBois in Sanford And Son And Sister Makes Three (December 1, 1972).
3. The Jeffersons (1975–1984 — 253 episodes plus pilot on All In The Family)
Unlike Arthur and Rolle, who were spun-off quickly, the Jeffersons were on All In The Family for five seasons before they got their own show. Lionel is introduced in the pilot, and is a core cast member for season one. His mother Louise (Isabel Sanford) showed up seven episodes later when the Jeffersons bought the house next door. And Louise’s brother-in-law Henry (Mel Stewart) appears for the first time in the last episode of season one. George Jefferson (Sherman Hemsley) doesn’t make his debut until season four, because Hemsley was committed to the Broadway show Purlie. Just fifteen months after Hemsley debuted on All In The Family, George and “Wheezy” moved on up from Queens to the East Side of Manhattan.
Don’t miss on getTV: Lionel Moves Into The Neighborhood (March 2, 1971) for Sanford’s first appearance, Henry’s Farewell (October 20, 1973) for Hemsley’s debut, Lionel’s Engagement (February 9, 1974) for Mother Jefferson’s (Zara Cully) and the Willis family’s (played by different actors) first appearances, and The Jefferson’s Move Up (January 11, 1975) for the backdoor pilot.
4. Archie Bunker’s Place (1979–1983 — 97 episodes)
After eight seasons, Lear thought All In The Family had run its course, but O’Connor didn’t agree. Lear agreed to let O’Connor continue the series without him, but under one condition: he couldn’t call it All In The Family. There’s certainly no human alive who believes Archie Bunker’s Place is better than All In The Family, and there’s probably a few of us who would rather it didn’t exist at all. But, if you love Carroll O’Connor’s Archie, it’s a gift that we got to see more of him (even if the show isn’t as good).
Don’t miss on getTV: Archie Gets The Business (October 2, 1977) for the episode where Archie buys the bar from Kelsey (Frank Maxwell) and Little Miss Bunker (September 24, 1979) for the introduction of Stephanie.
5. Checking In (1981 — 4 episodes)
Marla Gibbs was the breakout star on The Jeffersons as Florence, George and Louise’s maid, so it made perfect sense to spin her off. Checking In found Florence as “executive housekeeper” at a New York City Hotel. Larry Linville (Frank Burns on MASH) plays her manager. The series was created by Mike Milligan and Jim Moriarity, both longtime writer/producers on The Jeffersons. When it flopped, Florence returned to work for George and Louise.
Don’t miss on getTV: While there’s no direct Bunker connection, Checking In does feature Liz Torres as Florence’s assistant. All In The Family fans will recognize Torres as Teresa Betancourt, the hospital worker who rents Mike And Gloria’s room when they move out. She appeared in seven episodes in 1976–77, so watch any of those!
6. Gloria (1982–1983 — 21 episodes plus unaired pilot)
This ill-advised spinoff featured Struthers returning as the title character, now a single mom raising her son Joey (Christian Jacobs) after Mike left her and moved to a commune with one of his students. If you love All In The Family and its iconic characters, the concept alone is problematic. And the series (which co-starred Oscar nominee Burgess Meredith as a vet) didn’t do much to win anybody over. O’Connor didn’t like it either, apparently. His writers on Archie Bunker’s Place wrote a pilot for Struthers that CBS rejected and O’Connor had no further involvement, despite the fact that he was still playing Archie Bunker.
Don’t miss on getTV: Two All In The Family episodes set up the circumstances of Gloria: The Stivics Go West (March 19, 1978) where Mike takes a job as a teacher and California, Here We Are (December 17, 1978) where Mike and Gloria separate (but reconcile).
7. 704 Hauser (1994 — 6 episodes)
Lear created this series, which had an inventive concept: an African-American family moves into the house formerly occupied by Archie Bunker. 704 Hauser flips the Archie/Meathead dynamic by making Ernie Cumberbatch (John Amos) the liberal and his son Thurgood Marshall Cumberbatch (T.E. Russell) the conservative. Ernie’s wife is played by Lynnie Godfrey and Goodie’s girlfriend — who is white and Jewish — is played by Maura Tierney. Besides being set in the same house, the only direct All In The Family connection comes with Casey Siemaszko playing grown-up Joey Stivic. In reality, Joey (born 1975) would have only been 19, but Siemaszko was 33. Even though it flopped, 704 Hauser has a special place in the heart of many Norman Lear fans. It brought back the star of Good Times — John Amos — in an update of All In The Family that uses a plot point (interracial relationship) of The Jeffersons. It’s like a Norman Lear’s Greatest Hits!
Don’t miss on getTV: Lear got the name “Cumberbatch’ from an early episode of of All In The Family called Writing The President (January 19, 1971). Archie mentions a friend from the old neighborhood named Cumberbatch.
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