Best Reasons to Talk with Normal Lear

Christina Knight | October 20, 2016
Sitcom television writer/producer Norman Lear

Sitcom television writer/producer Norman Lear. Photo courtesy of Norman Lear.

Updated after the show premiere on October 25

Largely responsible for the explosion of edgy American television in the 1970s, writer/producer Norman Lear’s name is synonymous with the sitcom (All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Good TimesMaude, Sanford and Son, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, One Day at a Time). Watch Lear speak frankly about his career, childhood and extended family in the new American Masters documentary Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You.

Best Reasons to Make a Beeline for Norman Lear at a Happy Hour

1. He’s one of the few American Masters still alive

You know the fantasy question — if you could have dinner with any person in history, who would it be? Save dinner for later and begin your evening with a very lively spirit. Norman Lear is one of the most influential people in seven decades of sitcom television, and no one has to be raised from the grave.

2. Lear has a hot new show in development

The 94-year-old has a legendary past in sitcom television, but ask him about his upcoming Netflix production. He’s revamping his 1970s show One Day at a Time as a portrait of a Cuban-American family, starring Rita Moreno! Get ready to binge watch 13 episodes.

3. You watched any of Lear’s seven sitcoms an an adult in the 1970s and couldn’t believe what was coming out of characters’ mouths and the issues raised

Racism, abortion, homosexuality, bigotry and sexism — Norman Lear brought issues to the masses through comedy. Lear said to Smashing Interviews Magazine, “Before that show [All in the Family], the biggest problem one of the earlier ones faced was, ‘The roast is ruined, and the boss is coming to dinner. Oh, what is the family going to do?'”

4. You watched All in the Family as a kid in the 1970s and didn’t understand why a man like Archie Bunker got to be on television

In the 1970s your television diet included re-runs of straight-laced programs that gave you a window into other homes, as in My Three Sons, Family Affair, and the offbeat but apolitical I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched. Then came All in the Family, with Archie Bunker, a grumpy, close-minded, bigoted patriarch. He wasn’t a nice man, so why was everyone laughing?

5. Norman Lear is a great conversationalist

Norman Lear American Masters film

(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

He can tell a story or ask you for yours. Here’s some conversation starters, taken from Norman Lear’s recent interviews:

“My bumper sticker reads, ‘just another version of you,’ which is kind of what I mean at heart. You know, I think we are versions of one another in our common humanity.” — from the film, Just Another Version of You.

“I like singing naked. And, I think of it as: nobody has ever, not any group of scientists anywhere on earth, proved that that is not the secret to longevity: Singing naked.” — as told to Parade on October 17.

“Live in the moment. Understand that when someone says “over and next,” those two words are more important than we know. Over and next. When something’s over, it’s over, and we’re all onto next. If there was a hammock in the middle between those two words, “over and next,” that would be what is meant by living in the moment.” — as told to Smashing Interviews Magazine, September 30.

Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You

The PBS broadcast premiere of American Masters – Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You took place Tuesday, October 25 at 9pm on THIRTEEN. 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 and social activism. The film also features colorful stories from Lear’s family, friends and collaborators.

Watch the full episode, see clips from the film and view other programs from American Masters!