In the fall of 1970, two shows appeared on television that really changed the media; All in the Family and Monday Night Football. Both were novel approaches to long standing issues.
All in the Family was a situation comedy but with an effectively understated message. It showed a family in Queens, New York with problems within the family and intertwined with the social and economic climate at the time. While this was a loving family, it was dysfunctional. It was the first time a television series portrayed the family in a more realistic fashion. There are tensions within every family that should not be ignored. Generally, creator Norman Lear mixed humor with this tension and it made the message easier to accept. The show relieved us from some guilt feelings. Now we knew families were not like the silly innocent nonsense of Leave it to Beaver, Father Know Best, and Meet the Nelsons. We did not feel as bad about our own family problems.
Let’s look deeper into Father Knows Best. Billy Gray, who played Bud on that program, is today somewhat ashamed of his role. He stated, and correctly so , that it was corny and gave America a false impression of what families were all about. Robert Young won Emmy Awards from Father Knows Best. Looking back, it was a waste of a very talented actor. I prefer his movies and never watched Marcus Welby.
In addition, All in the Family helped us defuse tensions that stemmed from the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, and crime. Two shows were spinoffs from All in the Family-the Jefferson and Maude. If there are more, I am unaware of them. Each week I looked forward to watching Carrol O’Connor, Jean Stapleton, Rob Reiner, and Sally Struthers. In laughing at them we were laughing at ourselves.
I will talk about Monday Night Football later.