Norman Lear, the writer, director and producer who revolutionized prime time television with such topical hits as “All in the Family” and “Maude” and propelled political and social turmoil into the once-insulated world of sitcoms, has died. He was 101.
Lear died Tuesday night in his sleep, surrounded by family at his home in Los Angeles, said Lara Bergthold, a spokesperson for his family.
A liberal activist with an eye for mainstream entertainment, Lear fashioned bold and controversial comedies that were embraced by TV sitcom viewers who long had to watch the evening news to find out what was going on in the world. His shows helped define prime time comedy in the 1970s and after, launched the careers of such young performers as Rob Reiner and Valerie Bertinelli and made Carroll O’Connor, Bea Arthur and Redd Foxx among others into middle-aged superstars.
His signature production was “All in the Family,” which was immersed in the headlines of the day, while also drawing upon Lear’s childhood memories of his tempestuous father. Racism, feminism, and the Vietnam War were flashpoints in the sitcom featuring blue collar conservative Archie Bunker, played by O’Connor, and liberal son-in-law Mike Stivic (Reiner). Jean Stapleton co-starred as Archie’s befuddled, but good-hearted wife, Edith, and Sally Struthers played the Bunkers’ daughter, Gloria, who often clashed with Archie on behalf of her husband.