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16 Cutting-Edge Facts About All in the Family

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‘‘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.’’

That was the disclaimer that CBS ran prior to the very first episode of All in the Family. The Norman Lear creation didn’t just push the envelope, it sealed and stamped it as well. But viewers kept tuning in week after week to see stories about previously taboo topics, such as menopause, rape, homosexuality, and race relations. Crack open a can of cling peaches (in heavy syrup) and enjoy this smelting pot of behind-the-scenes tidbits.

1. THE SHOW WAS BASED ON A BRITISH SITCOM.

Norman Lear bought the rights to Till Death Do Us Part in the late 1960s after reading about the BBC series, which ran for 10 years beginning in 1965, in Variety. Alf Garnett (Warren Mitchell) was a working-class conservative who lived in London’s East End with his wife, daughter, and liberal layabout Liverpudlian son-in-law. Alf had opinions on just about everything, and was quite vocal in his dislike of Americans, Catholics, homosexuals, and anyone else who was “different” than him.

2. ARCHIE BUNKER WAS ORIGINALLY ARCHIE JUSTICE.

Lear thought that the BBC show’s set-up—a middle-aged, blue collar conservative man who never hesitated to express his racist viewpoints, his doting wife, and his liberal daughter and son-in-law—could be mined for humor for American audiences. Justice for All, as the show was called in his original pilot script, starred Carroll O’Connor as Archie Justice and Jean Stapleton as his wife, Edith. Kelly Jean Peters and Tim McIntire rounded out the cast as Gloria and Richard (Meathead’s original name). ABC passed on the show, however; their main complaint being Archie and Edith’s lack of chemistry with the younger actors. Lear recast the roles with Candy Azzara and Chip Oliver, changed the name of the show to Those Were the Days and shot a new pilot, but ABC was still uninterested.

3. CBS’S “RURAL PURGE” HELPED ALL IN THE FAMILY TO FINALLY GET ON THE AIR.

When Robert Wood became president of CBS in 1969 he made a bold move and cancelled several of the network’s long-running (and still-successful) “rural” shows, including Green Acres, Petticoat Junction, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Mayberry R.F.D. The latest market research showed that advertisers were attracted to a younger demographic, which to Wood meant less corn pone and more cutting-edge and socially relevant shows. Norman Lear’s revamped pilot—now called All in the Family and co-starring Sally Struthers and Rob Reiner as Gloria and Michael Stivic—was deemed relevant enough and premiered on the network in 1971 as a summer replacement series.

4. MUCH OF ARCHIE BUNKER WAS BASED ON NORMAN LEAR’S FATHER.

Herman Lear frequently told his son that he was the “laziest white kid I’ve ever seen” and called him “Meathead.” He also referred to his wife as a “Dingbat” and told her to “stifle.” (In an affectionate way, of course.) “King” Lear, as he was known to his family, also had a living room chair reserved for his use only. And the reason that the characters on not only All in the Family, but all other Norman Lear productions, seemed to be constantly shouting is because the entire Lear family always seemed to speak at top volume.

5. MICKEY ROONEY TURNED DOWN THE ROLE OF ARCHIE.

When Norman Lear pitched the series to Rooney, he only got as far as describing Archie as “a bigot who uses words like ‘spade’” before Mickey interrupted him. “Norm,” said the actor with a penchant for shortening names, “they’re going to kill you, shoot you dead in the streets.” Carroll O’Connor read for the role after Rooney’s refusal and had landed the part by the time he got to page three of the pilot script. But even he was dubious about the show and told Lear that CBS would cancel it after six weeks tops.

6. THE FUTURE MRS. REINER ALMOST PLAYED MRS. STIVIC.

Rob Reiner’s girlfriend (and eventual wife) Penny Marshall was a finalist for the role of Gloria. She and Sally Struthers were each summoned before the “suits” to read lines and do improv with Reiner (who had already been cast as Michael Stivic). Since Reiner and Marshall were living together at the time, Struthers had a feeling that Reiner would intentionally work better with Penny, so she went into the final audition without nerves and just gave it her all. Years later she asked Lear why she’d been chosen, and the producer told her that Penny Marshall had given a better reading, but that she resembled Jean Stapleton too much. He explained that it had been decided that Gloria would be Daddy’s Little Girl, so (with brutal honesty) she’d gotten the part because she had “a fat face and blue eyes like Carroll O’Connor.”

7. CBS WANTED “EDGY,” BUT WITHIN REASON.

While the scripts for the 13 contracted episodes were being written, Lear received a memo from the CBS Program Practices department detailing the words and phrases that should be avoided at all costs (based on their focus group research). For example, the network requested that homosexual terminology should be kept to a minimum—that “queer” and “fairy” should be used sparingly, and “regular fella” was preferable to “straight.” Lear’s response to these admonishments was to ignore them, as can be witnessed in the fifth episode of the first season, “Judging Books by Covers”:

Of course, the payoff came in the twist ending to this episode, when it was revealed that not only was Roger a “regular fella,” but that Archie’s burly former professional football player friend Steve was not.

8. THE EXPECTED VIEWER BACKLASH NEVER MATERIALIZED.

Despite the disclaimer posted prior to the first episode, CBS still braced for the worst the night All in the Family premiered. They hired dozens of extra operators at the network’s switchboard to handle the barrage of outraged telephone calls they were sure would follow. Much to their surprise, only a handful of viewers were offended enough to call. Indeed, as the series continued, network executives (and the show’s creative team) were shocked to find that contrary to their original intent, Americans seemed to embrace Archie Bunker rather than be repulsed by him. “Archie Bunker for President” bumper stickers and campaign buttons were all the rage, and a paperback called The Wit and Wisdom of Archie Bunker became a bestseller.

9. THEY DID RECEIVE A LOT OF CALLS AND MAIL ABOUT THE THEME SONG, THOUGH.

Viewers asked the same question over and over during the show’s first two seasons: What is the second to last line of the opening theme song? Folks had so much trouble understanding “Gee, our old LaSalle ran great” that O’Connor and Stapleton re-recorded it prior to season three and carefully enunciated the mystery lyric. (The LaSalle was a high-end General Motors model that was manufactured from 1927 until 1940.)

10. CARROLL O’CONNOR WROTE THE LYRICS FOR THE CLOSING THEME SONG.

Roger Kellaway wrote the instrumental “Remembering You,” which played over the closing credits of All in the Family. After the first season ended, O’Connor approached Kellaway and asked if he’d mind if he (O’Connor) wrote some lyrics to go with his music. Kellaway agreed, and even though the lyrics are never heard, O’Connor received a co-writing credit—and royalties—for the tune. In case you’re curious about the lyrics, here’s O’Connor performing the song on The Flip Wilson Show:

11. FOUR ARCHIE-LESS EPISODES WERE TAPED DURING A SALARY DISPUTE.

O’Connor went missing in action for three weeks in July of 1974 in a protest over his wages and working conditions. He claimed that Tandem Productions owed him $64,000 in back pay and he also wanted 12 weeks of vacation during his 24-week work schedule. Norman Lear countered by filming three Archie-less episodes (beginning with “Where’s Archie?” in season five) and made it known on the set that if O’Connor continued to hold out, the Archie character would be killed in some sort of accident, and that Stretch Cunningham (James Cromwell) would eventually move in with the Bunkers to provide a male foil for the family. Stretch “died” two seasons later; Cromwell told the New York Post that O’Connor had asked for him to be written out of the series “because I was getting too many laughs. Actually, he did me a great favor, because I might have ended up as another Fonzie, an actor totally identified with one character.”

12. SALLY STRUTHERS ALSO HAD CONTRACT ISSUES.

Struthers was itching to work in films and had scored an audition for the lead in the 1975 John Schlesinger film The Day of the Locust. But when All in the Family producers refused to give her time off if she landed the role, she took them to court. Tandem Productions countered by enforcing a provision in her contract that prevented her from appearing as an actress or celebrity anywhere other than on All in the Family. Karen Black eventually won the part in The Day of the Locust, and Gloria was absent from two episodes (“Archie the Hero” and “Archie the Donor”) while the whole kerfuffle was settled.

13. THE SHOW ONCE FEATURED FULL FRONTAL MALE NUDITY.

All in the Family shattered another taboo in 1976 when full frontal male nudity was shown for the first time on American network primetime television. Of course, the male in question was three-week old baby Joey Stivic, and the nudity was both tastefully filmed and germane to the plot. Later that same year, Ideal released an official Archie Bunker’s Grandson Joey Stivic doll that was “physically correct.”

14. THE FAMOUS “SOCK AND SHOE” DEBATE WAS BASED ON A REAL-LIFE INCIDENT.

Reiner stated in an interview that O’Connor happened to drop by his dressing room one day while he was getting dressed. Reiner’s habit is to put a sock and a shoe on one foot before dressing the other foot. O’Connor was nonplussed and proceeded to lecture Reiner on the “correct” way to don footwear. Reiner related the incident to the writers, who included it in a scene in “Gloria Sings the Blues."

15. SAMMY DAVIS JR. CAUSED THE LONGEST LAUGH RECORDED ON THE SERIES.

O’Connor and Sammy Davis Jr. were good friends in real life, and All in the Family was Davis’ favorite TV show. So at his request, a guest spot was arranged for him in season two’s “Sammy’s Visit.” The kiss at the end was O’Connor’s idea, and the audience reaction was the loudest and longest laugh in the history of the series.

16. EDITH DID NOT DIE ON THE SHOW.

Many viewers seem to recall an episode of All in the Family where Edith had passed away and was being mourned, but it never happened. The poignant scene where Archie wept while holding Edith’s pink slipper and asked how she could leave him happened in the first episode of the second season of Archie Bunker’s Place, the All in the Family spin-off series.

Additional Sources:
Even This I Get to Experience
, by Norman Lear
Archie & Edith, Mike & Gloria: The Tumultuous History of All in the Family, by Donna McCrohan
Norman Lear Interview
, The Archive of American Television
Carroll O'Connor Interview, The Archive of American Television
Jean Stapleton Interview, The Archive of American Television
Rob Reiner Interview, The Archive of American Television
"The Great Divide," The New Yorker
"The Many Beginnings of All in the Family," Splitsider
Nashua Telegraph, October 25, 1974
Sioux City Journal, February 11, 2014
Toledo Blade, June 12, 1975

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30 Memorable Quotes from Carrie Fisher
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Just days after suffering a heart attack aboard a flight en route to Los Angeles, beloved actress, author, and screenwriter Carrie Fisher passed away at the age of 60 on December 27, 2016. Though she’ll always be most closely associated with her role as Princess Leia in Star Wars, Fisher’s life was like something out of its own Hollywood movie. Born in Beverly Hills on this day in 1956, Fisher was born into show business royalty as the daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds.

In addition to her work in front of the camera, Fisher built up an impressive resume behind the scenes, too, most notably as a writer; in addition to several memoirs and semi-autobiographical novels, including Wishful Drinking, Surrender the Pink, Delusions of Grandma, The Best Awful, Postcards from the Edge, and The Princess Diarist (which was released last month), she was also an in-demand script doctor who counted Sister Act, Hook, Lethal Weapon 3, and The Wedding Singer among her credits.

Though she struggled with alcoholism, drug addiction, and mental illness, Fisher always maintained a sense of humor—as evidenced by the 30 memorable quotes below.

ON GROWING UP IN HOLLYWOOD

“I am truly a product of Hollywood in-breeding. When two celebrities mate, someone like me is the result.”

“I was born into big celebrity. It could only diminish.”

“At a certain point in my early twenties, my mother started to become worried about my obviously ever-increasing drug ingestion. So she ended up doing what any concerned parent would do. She called Cary Grant.”

“I was street smart, but unfortunately the street was Rodeo Drive.”

“If anything, my mother taught me how to sur-thrive. That's my word for it.”

ON AGING

“As you get older, the pickings get slimmer, but the people don't.”

ON INSTANT GRATIFICATION

“Instant gratification takes too long.”

ON THE LEGACY OF STAR WARS

“People are still asking me if I knew Star Wars was going to be that big of a hit. Yes, we all knew. The only one who didn't know was George.”

“Leia follows me like a vague smell.”

“I signed my likeness away. Every time I look in the mirror, I have to send Lucas a couple of bucks.”

“People see me and they squeal like tropical birds or seals stranded on the beach.”

“You're not really famous until you’re a Pez dispenser.”

ON THE FLEETING NATURE OF SUCCESS

“There is no point at which you can say, 'Well, I'm successful now. I might as well take a nap.'”

ON DEALING WITH MENTAL ILLNESS

“I'm very sane about how crazy I am.”

ON RESENTMENT

“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die."

ON LOVE

“Someone has to stand still for you to love them. My choices are always on the run.”

“I've got to stop getting obsessed with human beings and fall in love with a chair. Chairs have everything human beings have to offer, and less, which is obviously what I need. Less emotional feedback, less warmth, less approval, less patience, and less response. The less the merrier. Chairs it is. I must furnish my heart with feelings for furniture.”

“I don’t hate hardly ever, and when I love, I love for miles and miles. A love so big it should either be outlawed or it should have a capital and its own currency.”

ON EMOTIONS

“The only thing worse than being hurt is everyone knowing that you're hurt.”

ON RELATIONSHIPS

“I envy people who have the capacity to sit with another human being and find them endlessly interesting, I would rather watch TV. Of course this becomes eventually known to the other person.”

ON HOLLYWOOD

“Acting engenders and harbors qualities that are best left way behind in adolescence.”

“You can't find any true closeness in Hollywood, because everybody does the fake closeness so well.”

“It's a man's world and show business is a man's meal, with women generously sprinkled through it like overqualified spice.”

ON FEAR

“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”

ON LIFE

“I don’t want life to imitate art. I want life to be art.”

“No motive is pure. No one is good or bad-but a hearty mix of both. And sometimes life actually gives to you by taking away.”

“If my life wasn't funny it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.”

“I shot through my twenties like a luminous thread through a dark needle, blazing toward my destination: Nowhere.”

“My life is like a lone, forgotten Q-Tip in the second-to-last drawer.”

ON DEATH

“You know what's funny about death? I mean other than absolutely nothing at all? You'd think we could remember finding out we weren't immortal. Sometimes I see children sobbing at airports and I think, 'Aww. They've just been told.'”

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12 Admissible Facts About Judge Judy
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Judge Judith Sheindlin was 54 years old when her namesake TV show premiered on September 16, 1996. Two years later the diminutive (5’1”) adjudicator was trouncing the powerhouse Oprah Winfrey Show in the Nielsen ratings. Today, she is one of the highest paid TV celebrities, earning $47 million per year—which she will continue to do through 2020, thanks to a new extended contract.

Fervent fans are familiar with Judge Judy’s more outrageous cases, like The Tupperware Lady and the eBay Cell Phone Scammer, but they might not know some of these fun facts about both the show and the woman behind it, who turns 75 years old today.

1. THAT GRUFF, NO-NONSENSE STYLE OF JURISPRUDENCE IS NOT AN ACT.

Judge Judy spent a little over 20 years in New York City’s family court system, where she earned a reputation early in her career for being blunt, impatient, and tough-talking. “I can’t stand stupid, and I can’t stand slow,” was one of her oft-repeated “Judyisms” at that time. She also frequently warned attorneys appearing before her: "I want first-time offenders to think of their appearance in my courtroom as the second-worst experience of their lives ... circumcision being the first." 60 Minutes filmed her in action as part of a 1993 profile, and while her hair color and eyebrows have softened since then, her impatient rants and verbal smackdowns haven’t changed a bit.

2. SHE BEGAN WEARING HER TRADEMARK LACE COLLAR AS SOON AS SHE WAS APPOINTED AS A JUDGE.

New York City Mayor Ed Koch appointed Judith Sheindlin to the bench in 1982, and to celebrate she and her husband Jerry—both civil servants at the time—took a $399 package trip to Greece for two weeks. While passing by a row of street kiosks with various locally made crafts for sale, she impulsively purchased a white lace collar from a vendor. She explained to her husband that male judges wore stiff-collared white dress shirts and colorful neckties that peeped out of the top of their robes, so that they had a nice colorful “buffer” between the austere black gown and their face. Female judges, however, had nothing but neck peeping out of their robes and the unforgiving black color revealed every minute of sleep deprivation as well as any skin tone irregularities. The white lace collar, she decided, would not only perk up her face but would also be a bit disarming for litigants—she could picture them thinking “That nice little lady with the lace collar sitting behind the bench couldn’t hurt a fly!”

3. DESPITE THOSE NEW YORK CITY SCENES ON THE COMMERCIAL BUMPERS, JUDGE JUDY IS TAPED IN CALIFORNIA.

Sheindlin spends 52 days per year taping her show. She flies to California via private jet every other Monday and hears cases on Tuesday and Wednesday (occasionally Thursday if there are production delays). One full week’s worth of shows are filmed each day. Many viewers, however, are fooled into thinking Judy is holding court in her native New York, thanks to the scenic Manhattan footage in between station breaks and the New York state flag behind her chair. That is, until something oh-so-unique to the west coast—like an earthquake—occurs on-camera. (Note that in the clip below, Judge Judy quickly ducks beneath her bench once the room begins to tremble.)

4. SHE IS BRIEFED ON THE CASES BEFORE SHE ARRIVES ON THE SET.

Judge Sheindlin does not go to the studio unprepared; producers FedEx the sworn statements and relevant information on each upcoming case to her home (Naples, Florida in the winter; Greenwich, Connecticut in the spring and summer) and she familiarizes herself with enough details to have some background, but not enough so that the case doesn’t appear “fresh” when she questions the litigants during filming.

5. THE CASES REALLY ARE REAL.

The production company has a staff of 60-plus researchers across the country who spend their days poring over lawsuits filed in local small claims courts. Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, they are able to photocopy cases that they think might make for interesting television and those copies are forwarded to the show’s producers. Any cases that make it to the next stage (about three percent) involve contacting the litigants involved and asking them if they’d like to forego their civil court hearing in exchange for a free trip to Los Angeles, an $850 appearance fee, and a per diem of $40 (as of 2012). An added incentive is that any judgments awarded are paid by the show, not by the plaintiff or defendant. The best cases, according to the executive producer, are those that involve litigants with a prior relationship—mother/daughter, father/son, boyfriend/girlfriend, etc. Such cases engage the audience because it’s an emotional tie that’s been broken (the recurring plot on many soap operas).

6. THE AUDIENCE, HOWEVER, IS NOT SO REAL.

Regular viewers will note that the same faces seem to pop up in the audience regularly. Those folks in the spectator seats are paid extras (often aspiring actors) who earn $8 per hour to sit and look attentive. Prospective audience members apply for the limited amount of seats by emailing their contact information along with a clear headshot to one of Judge Judy’s production coordinators (sorry, we cannot provide that info). If chosen, the spectator must dress appropriately (business casual or better) and arrive promptly for the 8:30 a.m. call time. Audience members must pass through metal detectors on their way in and are not allowed to bring cell phones or any electronic devices with them, and food, drinks and chewing gum are also verboten. Spectators are rearranged after each case so it’s not as obvious that it’s the same group of people, and the most attractive folks are always seated in the front row (it’s Hollywood, after all). The audience is instructed to talk animatedly amongst themselves in between each case so that Officer Byrd’s “Order in the court!” admonition has more impact. Bad behavior is grounds for immediate expulsion (in front of 10 million viewers, as Judge Judy likes to remind us).

7. JUDGE JUDY DRESSES CASUALLY FOR THE JOB.

Sheindlin has been known to publicly chastise litigants who come to her courtroom in skimpy clothing or “beach attire,” but behind that bench and under that robe she is usually sporting jeans and a tank top or T-shirt.

8. OFFICER BYRD IS A REAL BAILIFF.

Brooklyn native Petri Hawkins Byrd earned his B.Sc. degree from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 1989 and started working in the Brooklyn Family Court system. He first worked with Judge Sheindlin when he transferred to the Manhattan Family Court. “We [the court officers] used to call her the Joan Rivers of the judicial system,” he recalled in a 2004 interview. “She was just hilarious.” Byrd relocated to San Mateo, California in 1990 to work as a Special Deputy U.S. Marshal and a few years later he read an item in Liz Smith’s gossip column about Sheindlin’s upcoming TV show. He sent his old colleague a congratulatory letter and added, “If you need a bailiff, I still look good in uniform.”

9. DESPITE HIS SOMETIMES IMPOSING COURTROOM DEMEANOR, OFFICER BYRD IS ALSO A VERY FUNNY GUY.

He is a talented impressionist, but his sense of humor almost cost him his job—or so he thought at the time. Once, back when he was working with the feisty Judge Sheindlin in New York, he donned her robe and reading glasses to entertain his co-workers with a barrage of Judyisms. Of course, as always seems to happen when one mocks the boss in the workplace, he was caught in the act.

10. THE OCCASIONAL CELEBRITY RELIES ON JUDGE JUDY’S BRAND OF JUSTICE.

Depending upon your own definition of “celebrity”, of course. Actress Roz Kelly (Pinky Tuscadero on Happy Days) appeared on the show in 1996 as the plaintiff, suing her plastic surgeon for a leaky breast implant that was impeding her acting career. One year later, former Sex Pistol John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten) appeared as a defendant when drummer Robert Williams, who was hired to support Lydon on a solo tour, sued the singer for lost wages and an assault. Despite Lydon’s occasional bad courtroom behavior, the decision was made in his favor.

11. THE STAR ORIGINALLY DIDN’T WANT THE SHOW NAMED AFTER HER.

Sheindlin first envisioned calling her show Hot Bench, a term used frequently in the appellate court, but the producers wisely advised her that the term was meaningless to TV viewers who didn’t work in the legal system. Her next thought was Judy Justice, since she’d overheard her court officers warning deadbeat parents who were delinquent in child support payments that they were in for a load of "Judy Justice" if they weren’t prepared to cough up some money. In retrospect, Sheindlin realized the wisdom in calling the show Judge Judy: She couldn’t be easily replaced, as the various judges had been on The People’s Court. However, after 19 years on the air, she still does not refer to herself by that sobriquet; whether introducing herself to someone or advertising her show in a promotional clip, she is always either “Judge Sheindlin” or “Judge Judy Sheindlin.”

12. JUDGE SHEINDLIN INHERITED HER SENSE OF HUMOR FROM HER FATHER.

Murray Blum, Judy’s beloved father, was a dentist whose office was in the family home. In those days—before sedation dentistry was an option—a dentist’s best tool to distract nervous patients was the gift of gab, and Murray became a master storyteller out of necessity. Years of listening to her father at the dinner table and at family gatherings taught Judy how to deliver a punchline. One evening outside of a hotel in Hollywood, Sheindlin was approached by a woman who introduced herself as Lorna Berle. She told the judge that her husband Milton was a huge fan and asked if she would mind talking to him for a moment. The elderly comic slowly emerged from a limo and Judy greeted him by singing the theme song to Texaco Star Theater, her favorite TV show as a child. Milton Berle complimented her in return, saying “Kid, you’ve got great comic timing.”

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