All In The Family: Dysfunction At Its Best

What made the television series, All In The Family, different from all the others that came before it? The answer is the character of Archie Bunker and the comedic genius of Carroll O’ Connor and his wonderful co-stars. Read on whether you lean to the left or the right.

The very first toilet to ever flush on television occurred on the show, All In The Family, which premiered on CBS in 1971. A dubious honor indeed, however it does signify the entrance of realism into the television sitcoms that developed from the 1950s. With the older ones, like I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners, as popular as they were, couples were never seen in bed together and never did a toilet ever dare to flush!

A spin-off from the British comedy, “Till Death Do Us Part,” All In The Family dealt with subject matter that was a lot more daring, confrontational and provocative than any show that had ever come before it. Archie Bunker was Norman Lear’s mouthpiece for the perfectly bigoted, uneducated ignoramus. Topics never covered on television before, like racism, religion, atheism, sex, homosexuality and politics were everyday fare for the Bunker family.

Did you know that Archie’s famous armchair now sits proudly in the Smithsonian Museum, a proud momento of celluloid idiocy and prejudice? The real Archie Bunker was highly educated and intelligent, and about as far removed from his television persona as could ever be imagined.

Edith Bunker, so beautifully portrayed by veteran actress, Jean Stapleton, was a simple but loving and wonderful character. Her kind, sympathetic nature made her the perfect foil to blustering, insensitive and often very stupid Archie. Daughter, Gloria (Sally Struthers). and son-in-law, Mike, (Rob Reiner), were often the objects of Archie’s wrath, particularly poor Michael whose Polish ancestry was a constant boil on Archie’s side.

Who could ever forget the episode when Sammy Davis Junior kissed Archie on his very racist cheek? How about Archie’s meeting with transvestite, Beverly La Salle, which brought to light Archie’s intolerance for anything outside the realm of his very narrow existence?

What are some of YOUR favorite episodes from this wonderul television series?

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About Marjorie Dorfman

Marjorie Dorfman is a freelance writer and former teacher originally from Brooklyn, New York. A graduate of New York University School of Education, she now lives in Doylestown, PA, with quite a few cats that keep her on her toes at all times. Originally a writer of ghostly and horror fiction, she has branched out into the world of humorous non-fiction writing in the last decade. Many of her stories have been published in various small presses throughout the country during the last twenty years. Her book of stories, "Tales For A Dark And Rainy Night", reflects her love and respect for the horror and ghost genre.