Early on Weds. Dec. 6, it was announced that legendary and prolific television producer, Norman Lear, known for creating classic television across seven decades, had died at the age of 101.
The news came from a statement made by Lear’s family that read:
“Norman lived a life of curiosity, tenacity, and empathy. He deeply loved our country and spent a lifetime helping to preserve its founding ideals of justice and equality for all. He began his career in the earliest days of live television and discovered a passion for writing about the real lives of Americans, not a glossy ideal.”
To list all of Lear’s credits would take a very long time, but he was best known for the series he created in the ’70s and ’80s, including All in the Family, Good Times, The Jeffersons, One Day at a Time and many more. These shows have been kept alive through reruns, but also via a pair of Live in Front of a Studio Audience specials in 2019 that had the scripts from his classic shows performed by many big name modern-day actors.
Lear won his most two recent Emmys (out of six won) for those specials, having received 18 Emmy nominations total. President Bill Clinton presented Lear with the National Medal of Arts in 1999, saying, “Norman Lear has held up a mirror to American society and changed the way we look at it.”
The enormous influence and inspiration Lear has had on television and everyone who has ever worked in the medium is immeasurable
Lear was born in New Haven, CT on July 27, 1922, and he joined the military in 1942 to fight during World War II as a B-17 radio operator and gunner. Lear’s television career began in 1950 after being discharged from the Army, teaming with his writing partner Ed Simmons, the two of them being hired by Jerry Lewis to write for him and Dean Martin on The Colgate Comedy Hour.)
All in the Family debuted in 1971, changing the face of television by dealing with important real-world topics like race relations, the Vietnam War, abortion, and more, starring Carroll O’Connor and future filmmaker Rob Reiner, the show receiving four Emmys and a Peabody Award in 1977. It also led to multiple spin-off shows, including Maude, starring Bea Arthur; The Jeffersons, which made a name for Sherman Hemsley; Archie Bunker’s Place; and the Gloria vehicle for Sally Struthers‘ character as a single mom.
Lear followed that series in 1974 with Good Times as well as Sanford and Son, two shows that, like The Jeffersons, put African-Americans front and center, creating a new audience of television watchers for a group that had fought hard for civil rights a decade earlier.
Lear also delved into activism, creating the non-profit People for the American Way in 1980, dedicated to supporting the Bill of Rights and to monitor violations of constitutional freedoms.
Lear only received a single Oscar nomination for writing the screenplay for Divorce, American Style.
In recent years, Lear created the LatinX-led remake of One Day at a Time for Netflix, as well as hosting a podcast called, All of the Above with Norman Lear.