Entertainment

The meaning of life and Norman Lear's 100th birthday

By FactsWow Team

Posted on: 29 Jul, 2022

This article earlier misstated the date of a special honoring Norman Lear's 100th birthday that will air on ABC. Thursday, Sept. 22 is the date for the special. Corrections have been made to this article. Norman Lear, what's left to ask you?

It was an honor to be able to communicate with the living legend of television via email on the eve of his 100th birthday, so what questions would I ask him? Does he know what life is all about? The meaning of life can be summed up in one word: tomorrow.

' What advice does he have that stands out among the rest? Over and next are two little words we don't pay enough attention to. Whenever something is over, it is over and we are on to the next. In between those words, we live in the moment, making the most of it.' Is a hot dog considered a sandwich? Hot dogs are one of my personal delights.'

He celebrates his birthday on Wednesday. With all his kids and grandkids, he planned to spend it in Vermont 'at what I call our Yiddish Hyannis Port.' 'I think I'd like to do another 100.' ABC will honor Lear on Sept. 22 with the 'star-studded' special, 'Norman Lear: 100 Years of Music and Laughter.'

The addition of another 100 would be most welcome. If only they could make copies of Lear, as actress Rita Moreno said this week, when asked about Lear's milestone birthday, 'I wish there were ways to make copies.'. How wonderful would that be? “What a super, super addition he is to humankind.”

In the words of his longtime friend Mel Brooks, 'Norman has so much to offer, I don't think 100 is nearly enough.' He is widely regarded as one of the most important figures of modern culture - so much so that you probably know everything there is to know about him by now.

As you probably know, he created and produced some of the most important TV sitcoms in the 1970s such as 'All in the Family,' 'Maude,' 'Good Times,' 'The Jeffersons,' and 'Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.'

 During those shows, he and his colleagues dealt with hot-button issues, including racism and abortion, using humor and the humanity of his characters to expose and explore what Moreno called “the foolishness of the human condition.” Not to mention that he would often have those targets laughing “their asses off.”

“How he did it is a mystery to me,” she adds. There's no doubt that you've heard of his political activism, which extended beyond his humanistic messages on television.

After founding People for the American Way in 1981, he eventually turned it into a political action committee to challenge the Moral Majority's agenda. Declare Yourself was a campaign he founded in 2004 to encourage young people to vote. His belief is that the country will be saved by its citizens if it is to be saved.

According to Lear, 'America has never been more in need of solid, caring citizens.' We have come a long way since I was born in America. As long as there are enough caring, sensible Americans who will remain dedicated to the Constitution's rights and find their way to implement them, I will remain hopeful.”

To summarize Lear's 100 years can seem an impossible task, but Rich West, a professor of family communication at Emerson College, offers a thoughtful framing, calling Lear “an electronic therapist.”As a result of his shows, people were forced to confront their own values, prejudices, and beliefs. 'And therapists are the ones who facilitate that.'

'He was unabashedly committed to presenting these provocative topics on television,' West says, citing Bea Arthur's Maude Findlay's abortion episode on 'Maude.' It aired two months before Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. Those are just a few of the many, many difficult subjects Lear tackled in his sitcoms.

As a person, you think about rape, mental health issues, inflation, alcoholism, domestic violence, and poverty. Oh, and guess what? Today, in 2022, all of those things are resonating.' West says. I believe he is an icon because of that. Not because of what he wrote, but because his themes remain relevant today. Our conversations today revolve around the same topics he wrote about in the 1970s.'

He made you feel uncomfortable with his shows. They left you feeling confused. You felt both happy and sad when you were around them. Yet they always prompted reflection long after the show's credits, if you were willing to do so,' says West. I believe that's where the critical part of his influence lies.'

Justina Machado, who played Penelope Alvarez in the Netflix reboot of 'One Day at a Time' that Norman Lear executive-produced, calls him 'an American hero,' 'a true friend' and a 'genius.' Producer Brent Miller describes him as a 'mentor in life and career,' a 'friend,' a 'partner,' and an 'inspiration.'

A close friend of Lear's, Moreno starred in the updated version of 'One Day at a Time.' The two usually cut up in public as if they are lovers fighting. She laughs at it. She says it's amazing because he hasn't changed in the most significant ways. He hasn't changed his politics.

Their radicalism may have increased just a little bit. However, they were already radical, to begin with.' Does he have genius qualities? The only reason I haven't used the word is that it's so widely used. A little bit of originality would be nice,' Moreno says. The sense of humor he has is divine.'

Thank You!

For more stories like this

Explore our website

TAP FOR MORE