The man who went from writing gags for Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis to revolutionizing what comedic television characters could say and do was the topic on a recent “MTSU On the Record” radio program.
Host Gina Logue’s interview with Jim McKairnes, an adjunct professor in MTSU’s Department of Media Arts, first aired June 21 on WMOT-FM Roots Radio 89.5 and www.wmot.org.
You can listen to their conversation via the SoundCloud link below.
Iconic TV producer and writer Norman Lear, who will turn 100 years old on July 27, expanded the content of the American situation comedy beyond routine domestic home life with such hits as “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons,” “Maude,” “One Day at a Time,” and “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.”
Long before cable television and streaming services, Lear’s shows delved into hot-button topics such as abortion, homosexuality, racism, sexism, and politics, usually pushing the boundaries of what was considered acceptable network viewing for mass audiences.
McKairnes said Lear’s dynamic legacy began when “All in the Family,” a show which pitted a blue-collar bigot against his liberal college student son-in-law, hit the airwaves Jan. 12, 1971, on CBS and remained the No. 1 show in the ratings for five consecutive years.
Although it debuted in January, it didn’t really catch fire until that summer.
“It sort of found its audience during the rerun season of 1971 when summers were a whole different beast,” McKairnes said.
“Any show that was popular had been seen already, and shows that were not were airing against reruns that perhaps people didn’t want to see again. So people started finding ‘All in the Family.’ This happened at the same time that it also swept the Emmy Awards for that season.”
McKairnes teaches an MTSU class titled “The History of American Television.” He is the author of “All in the Decade: 70 Things about ’70s TV That Turned 10 Years Into a Revolution.”
To hear previous “MTSU On the Record” programs, visit the searchable “Audio Clips” archives at www.mtsunews.com.
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