American Masters (2016 Season): Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You

Air date: 10/25/2016

First Documentary About Legendary Showrunner, American Masters — Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You, Premieres Nationwide Tuesday, October 25 on PBS

Available same day on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD via PBS Distribution

Features Norman Lear, George Clooney, Jon Stewart, Amy Poehler, Mel Brooks, Lena Dunham, Carl and Rob Reiner, Russell Simmons and others

Largely responsible for the explosion of bold American television in the 1970s, writer/producer Norman Lear’s name is synonymous with the sitcom. The first documentary about the 94-year-old television legend, American Masters — Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You, premieres nationwide Tuesday, October 25 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings). PBS Distribution will release the film on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD the same day with additional bonus features.

With unprecedented access to Lear, his work and his massive personal archives, American Masters — Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You combines stories from his turbulent childhood and early career with his groundbreaking TV success (All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Good Times, Maude) and social activism. The documentary also features colorful stories from Lear’s family, friends and collaborators, including John Amos, George Clooney, Alan Horn, Bill Moyers, Rob Reiner, Phil Rosenthal and Russell Simmons, as well as cinéma vérité moments with Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Jon Stewart, Amy Poehler and Lena Dunham.

Breaking down the fourth wall to create an evocative collage where past and present intermingle, Academy Award-nominated filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (Jesus Camp, 12th & Delaware, DETROPIA for Independent Lens) reveal a psychologically rich man whose extraordinary contributions emerge from both his personal story and his own self-professed childlike view of the world. Just Another Version of You traces how a poor Jewish kid from Connecticut started writing for The Colgate Comedy Hour with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, created All in the Family and became one of TV’s most successful showrunners. All character-driven, with theatrical sets and live audiences, Lear’s TV series changed not only the face of national television but the content of national discourse. Bringing provocative subjects like war, poverty and prejudice to 120 million viewers every week, Lear proved that social change was possible through an unlikely prism – laughter – and created some of the greatest moments in television history.

Co-produced by Ewing and Grady’s Loki Films and THIRTEEN’s American Masters series, Just Another Version of You doesn’t shy away from the controversies Lear stirred with his TV series and advocacy organization People For the American Way (PFAW). The documentary also highlights his later years touring the country with the Declaration of Independence and promoting his memoir Even This I Get to Experience, spending time with his tight-knit family, and developing new productions. Just Another Version of You had its world premiere as the Opening Night selection at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.

Launched in 1986, American Masters has earned 28 Emmy Awards — including 10 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series and five for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special — 12 Peabodys, an Oscar, three Grammys, two Producers Guild Awards and many other honors. The series’ 30th anniversary season on PBS concludes this December with Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw the Future.

To further explore the lives and works of masters past and present, the American Masters website (http://pbs.org/americanmasters) offers streaming video of select films, outtakes, filmmaker interviews, educational resources and In Their Own Words: The American Masters Digital Archive: previously unreleased interviews of luminaries discussing America’s most enduring artistic and cultural giants as well as the American Masters Podcast. The series is a production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET and also seen on the WORLD channel.

American Masters — Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You is a production of Loki Films and THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC’s American Masters for WNET. Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady are directors. Suzanne Hillinger and Brent Miller are producers. JD Marlow and Enat Sidi are editors with a score by Kris Bowers. Ronan Killeen is director of photographer with additional cinematography by Sam Levy and Jenna Rosher. Michael Kantor is executive producer.

Major support for American Masters — Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You has been provided by the Jonathan D. Lewis Foundation with additional support from The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, Anne Ulnick Gumowitz, and Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family.  Funding for American Masters is provided by The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Rosalind P. Walter, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Rhoda Herrick, Michael & Helen Schaffer Foundation, Vital Projects Fund, Rolf and Elizabeth Rosenthal, The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, Lenore Hecht Foundation, Judith and Burton Resnick, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, Ellen and James S. Marcus, and public television viewers.

 

About Loki Films

Owned and operated by Emmy- and Academy Award-nominated filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, Loki Films is a New York production company that has been lauded for shining a light on unknown worlds and taking an honest approach to delicate subject matter. Noted films include “DETROPIA” (PBS), “Jesus Camp” (A&E), “12th & Delaware” (HBO), “Freakonomics” (Magnolia) and “The Boys of Baraka” (PBS). Ewing and Grady are members of the Directors Guild of America and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

 

About WNET

WNET is America’s flagship PBS station and parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21. WNET also operates NJTV, the statewide public media network in New Jersey. Through its broadcast channels, three cable services (KidsThirteen, Create and World) and online streaming sites, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than five million viewers each week. WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend, Charlie Rose and a range of documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings. WNET’s groundbreaking series for children and young adults include Get the Math, Oh Noah! and Cyberchase as well as Mission US, the award-winning interactive history game. WNET highlights the tri-state’s unique culture and diverse communities through NYC-ARTS, Reel 13, NJTV News with Mary Alice Williams and MetroFocus, the daily multi-platform news magazine focusing on the New York region. In addition, WNET produces online-only programming including the award-winning series about gender identity, First Person, and an intergenerational look at tech and pop culture, The Chatterbox with Kevin and Grandma Lill. In 2015, THIRTEEN launched Passport, an online streaming service which allows members to see new and archival THIRTEEN and PBS programming anytime, anywhere: www.thirteen.org/passport.

 

 

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Photos
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Norman Lear, circa 1969-70. Credit: Courtesy of Norman Lear

Norman Lear Credit: Courtesy of Norman Lear

Norman Lear. Credit: Courtesy of Norman Lear

“American Masters – Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You” co-director Rachel Grady of Loki Films Credit: Courtesy of Loki Films

“American Masters” series executive producer Michael Kantor. Credit: Joseph Sinnott ©2014 WNET. All rights reserved

Norman Lear in Coney Island as seen in “American Masters – Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You” Credit: Loki Films / Photo by: Omar Mullick

Norman Lear in Coney Island as seen in “American Masters – Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You” Credit: Loki Films / Photo by: Omar Mullick

Keaton Nigel Cooke as “Young Norman” in “American Masters – Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You” Credit: Loki Films / Photo by: Sam Levy

(l to r) Norman Lear and “Young Norman” (actor Keaton Nigel Cooke) in “American Masters – Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You” Credit: Loki Films / Photo by: Ronan Killeen

“American Masters – Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You” co-director Heidi Ewing of Loki Films Credit: Loki Films / Photo by: Robbie Lee

(l to r) “American Masters – Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You” director Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady of Loki Films Credit: Loki Films / Photographer: Robbie Lee

Norman Lear during his army days. Credit: Courtesy of Act III Productions

(l to r) Frances Lear and Norman Lear. Credit: Courtesy of Act III Productions

(l to r) Norman Lear, Jerry Lewis and writer Ed Simmons all worked together on "The Colgate Comedy Hour". Credit: Courtesy of Act III Productions

(l to r) Jean Stapleton, Carroll O'Connor, Norman Lear, Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers on the set of "All in the Family" Credit: CBS Photo Archive

(l to r) Carroll O'Connor and Jean Stapleton on the set of "All in the Family" Credit: CBS Photo Archive

Norman Lear. Credit: Bison Archives.

Norman Lear. Credit: Bison Archives

Norman Lear speaking at a People For the American Way (PFAW) event. Lear founded PFAW. Credit: People for the American Way

Norman Lear's son Ben recreates his father's army photo. Credit: Courtesy of Act III Productions

Norman Lear. Credit: Linda Solomon

Norman Lear. Credit: CBS, photographed by CBS photographer: Tony Esparza.

Norman Lear. Credit: CBS, photographed by CBS photographer: Tony Esparza

Norman and Lyn Lear with family. Pictured (l to r): Kate Lear LaPook, Jonathan LaPook (top), Noah LaPook (bottom), Lyn Lear, Brianna Lear, Griffin Katz (below Brianna), Zoe Katz (bottom, below Griffin), Daniel LaPook, Norman Lear, Maddie Lear, Ben Lear, Maggie Lear Katz, and Dan Katz Credit: Courtesy of Act III Productions.

Norman Lear. Credit: Courtesy of Act III Productions

Norman Lear, circa 1920s. Credit: Courtesy of Act III Productions

Norman Lear during his army days. Credit: Courtesy of Act III Productions.

Norman Lear on the Coney Island boardwalk. Credit: Courtesy of Act III Productions

Norman Lear during his army days. Courtesy of Act III Productions

Norman Lear with his parents Herman and Jeanette, sister Claire and first wife Charlotte. Credit: Courtesy of Act III Productions

Back, top row, l to r: Carl Reiner, Anne Bancroft, Frances Lear, Pat Gelbart, Carol DeLuise and Dom DeLuise Bottom row, l to r: Larry Gelbart, Mel Brooks, Norman Lear and Estelle Reiner Credit: Courtesy of Act III Productions

(l to r) Dean Martin, Norman Lear, writer Ed Simmons and Jerry Lewis all worked together on "The Colgate Comedy Hour" Credit: Courtesy of Act III Productions