“All in the Family” was notable for many things — including the fact that it spawned seven other TV series. The influential sitcom was controversial when it first aired on 50 years ago on Jan. 12, 1971, and it went on to confront numerous issues that hadn’t previously been portrayed on television. The show’s spin-off series continued to break boundaries with discussions of abortion, alcoholism and racism. The characters and mood set by “All in the Family” left a big mark on television history, including these seven spin-offs:
The title character, played by Bea Arthur, was a tall, ultra-liberal feminist who drove Archie crazy; she was introduced in as Edith’s cousin in two “All in the Family” episodes in the 1971-72 season.
The two-part season opener for “Maude” in 1973 dealt with the alcoholism of her husband Walter (Bill Macy). Variety said it “underscored that sitcoms this year are treading more realistic areas than the dramatic series.”
Also in the second season, Maude decided to have an abortion. In his autobiography, “Even This I Get to Experience,” Lear wrote that “a relatively small group of agitators, especially when convinced God is on their side, can move corporate America to quake with fear and make decisions in total disregard of the Constitution.”
Almost as well known, but less controversial was the Nov. 10, 1975, episode of Maude talking to her psychiatrist. Arthur was the only actor seen for the entire half-hour.
“Good Times” (1974-79)
It was a spinoff of a spinoff, centering on Maude’s maid Florida (Esther Rolle) and her family.
Lear said “Good Times” (created by Mike Evans and Eric Monte) was the “first full Black family on television,” meaning two parents and more than one kid. Lead actors Rolle and John Amos felt a huge responsibility for that. The sitcom’s breakout star was Jimmie J.J. Walker, with his trademark phrase “Dy-no-mite!”
Also worth noting: in the fifth season, Janet Jackson joined the cast.
“The Jeffersons” (1975-85)
The sitcom was about the black family who had lived next door to the Bunkers, but “Good Times” was partly responsible. In his autobiography, Lear wrote that three members of the Black Panther Party came to his office at CBS, complaining about “Good Times”: “Every time you see a Black man on the tube, he is dirt poor, wears shit clothes, can’t afford nothing. That’s bullshit.”
Lear and associate Al Burton talked about a possible show in which a Black family is “moving on up to the East Side.” The series was created by Don Nicholl, Michael Ross and Bernie West, and developed by Lear. It starred Sherman Hemsley and Isobel Sanford, with Marla Gibbs as the Jeffersons’ maid Florence and Roxie Roker and Franklin Cover as the racially mixed couple upstairs, a real sitcom innovation. It became Tandem’s longest running show, with 11 seasons.
“Archie Bunker’s Place” (1979-1983)
This show debuted after the wrap of “All in the Family.” Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor) and his new partner Murray (Martin Balsam) run a tavern in Queens. The series also featured Danielle Brisebois as Stephanie, the young daughter of Edith’s step-cousin who had moved in with the Bunkers in the final season of “AITF.” Brisebois had been a hit in Broadway’s “Annie.” (She later became an Oscar-nominated songwriter.)
Edith and Gloria appeared occasionally at first, then Jean Stapleton wanted to make a clean break and Sally Struthers got her own show.
“Checking In” (1981)
Marla Gibbs of “The Jeffersons” got her own sitcom as Florence, who left her job as a housekeeper to work in a hotel. “Checking In,” created by Mike Milligan and Jay Moriarty, only lasted for four episodes, one of the few Tandem/TAT sitcoms that wasn’t a success. Gibbs then returned to “The Jeffersons.”
Gloria Bunker Stivic became a single mom after Mike left her, so she got a job in a veterinary office. “Gloria” was created by Joe Gannon, Patt Shea and Harriett Weiss, developed by Dan Guntzelman and Steve Marshall; all episodes were directed by Dan Claver. The sitcom featured Burgess Meredith and Jo de Winter, and lasted one season.
“704 Hauser” (1994)
More than 20 years after “AITF,” Lear created “704 Hauser,” the address of the Bunkers’ former house, again inhabited by two battling generations. The twist was that the older generation were the liberals (with John Amos again starring, but in a different role, and Lynnie Godfrey) while their son was an arch-conservative (T.E. Russell) who dated the girl down the block (Maura Tierney). Only five of the six taped episodes were aired, in April and May 1994.
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