Legendary producer Norman Lear turns 100, and his milestone works

Legendary producer Norman Lear turns 100, and his milestone works

Updated on July 29, 2022 18:53 PM by Michael Davis

Century for the Legend

Norman Lear is celebrating his 100th birthday on Wednesday, and one constant that has remained with the legendary author and maker all these years is his palpable optimism. The architect behind such landmark shows as All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Good Times, The Facts of Life, Sanford and Son, and Diff'rent Strokes sat down with E.T.'s Kevin Frazier to talk about the impact the storylines from those famous shows are still intelligent of today's America.

He also shared his perspective on addressing some of the more sensitive subjects, like race, abortion, and sexuality. Those subjects, somehow, continue to be several sensitive decades later, yet Lear is confident.

Changed the face of television

"I've said this as of late as yesterday or the prior day, I would rather not wake up in the morning without trust and faith later on," he tells E.T. Lear himself is gobsmacked at the possibility of celebrating a hundred years. Yet, the milestone birthday offers him a chance to consider how he changed the face of television and what genuinely defines an All-American family.

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Some build moves

Lear was the first to prominently feature an interracial couple in Thomas and Helen Willis, portrayed by Franklin Cover and Roxie Roker, respectively, on The Jeffersons. Lear fostered some of T.V.'s most famous characters, including Jimmie Walker's James Evans Jr. (on the other hand, J.J.) on Good Times.

However, even Lear admits that words are just words on paper, and said words don't become fully awake until actors breathe life into them. Take, for instance, Walker's "Dynomite" line, which Walker transformed into "Dy-No-Mite!" A phrase everlastingly carved in mainstream society legend.

Related: Norman Lear, How Lucky Am I? His 100th Birthday Celebration With His Wonderful Family In Vermont

The controversial episodes

In any case, while reminiscing about his shows, the trailblazer tells E.T. he's not one to lament any of his work, including the then-controversial episode of Maude that aired in 1972 and addressed Maude Findlay's abortion in the two-part episode named "Maude's Dilemma." Those episodes, coincidentally, aired two months before the United States Supreme Court's landmark decision on Roe v. Wade, which has since been upset.

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Protest over Maude's episode

Lear, a genius ahead of his time and never one afraid to push the boundaries, had a problem with the idea that Maude suffered a miscarriage instead of having an abortion, mainly because he considered the miscarriage storyline a "cop-out."

In that episode, Maude looks to Walter for assurances about making the ideal decision and forging ahead with an abortion. Walter responds, "In the privacy of our own lives, you're doing the best thing."

While the episodes attracted hundreds of letters of protest and some affiliates ruled against airing the episodes, Lear is as pleased as ever for sticking to his principles, and it's not lost on him that a woman's all in all correct to choose is in danger.

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The influential person in television

Lear is arguably the most influential maker in the history of television, so it's no surprise that his whole library can now be streamed on Freebee from Amazon. What's more, reboots of his shows Who's the Boss? And Mary Hartman is also in the works, and he's presently the oldest-ever Emmy nominee in history, thanks to his collaboration with Jimmy Kimmel on Live in Front of a Studio Audience

The Facts of Life and Different Strokes are up for two Emmys (Variety Special and Production Design). Lear, Kimmel, and Brent Miller serve as chief producers.

Celebrating 100 years of Lear

Lear has, without a doubt, left his stamp on television. After all, he's also the person who gave George Clooney one of his first major TV roles on The Facts of Life, Regina King (227), and, of course, Janet Jackson (Good Times).

The legendary maker's great birthday won't wind down anytime soon. He'll be regarded with an ABC special named Norman Lear: 100 Years of Music and Laughter, which airs on September 22.

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