Goodbye, Jean!

Posted by M ws On Sunday, June 2, 2013 1 comments
I was filled with much sadness when I read about the news Jean Stapleton's demise. My primary and lower secondary school days were filled with discussions with my peers about "All in the Family", "Little House on the Prairie", "Green Acres", "Gomer Pyle", "Big Valley" "High Chaparral", "Hawaii Five-O", "Starsky and Kutch", "Colombo" and other unforgettable tv series. Of all, Jean's character in "All in the Family" injected much humour into my life as a growing teen as it gave me a very realistic view of life in a family.

I am not sure if I like Jean's character because she looks so much like my third aunt in Sausalito who is now in a nursing home. Her features, facial expressions and style of talking not forgetting mannerisms are just like that of my Aunt Chee Yee. The most unforgettable element of this series is of course the chemistry between her and Archie Bunker. Of special mention is the spontaneous singing of the theme song which you can watch HERE. Meet the Bunkers can be viewed HERE.

According to The New York Times:

Jean Stapleton, the character actress whose portrayal of a slow-witted, big-hearted and submissive — up to a point — housewife on the groundbreaking series “All in the Family” made her, along with Mary Tyler Moore and Bea Arthur, not only one of the foremost women in television comedy in the 1970s but a symbol of emergent feminism in American popular culture, died on Friday at her home in New York City. She was 90.

Her agent, David Shaul, confirmed her death.

Ms. Stapleton, though never an ingĂ©nue or a leading lady, was an accomplished theater actress with a few television credits when the producer Norman Lear, who had seen her in the musical “Damn Yankees” on Broadway, asked her to audition for a new series. The audition, for a character named Edith Bunker, changed her life.

The show, initially called “Those Were the Days,” was Mr. Lear’s adaptation, for an American audience, of an English series called “Till Death Us Do Part,” about a working-class couple in east London who held reactionary and racist views.

It took shape slowly. The producers filmed three different pilots, the show changed networks to CBS from ABC, and Ms. Stapleton acted in a film directed by Mr. Lear, “Cold Turkey,” before “All in the Family,” as it was finally called, was first broadcast in January 1971.

For three or four months, hampered by mixed reviews, it struggled to find an audience, but when it did, it became one of the most popular shows in television, finishing first in the Nielsen ratings for five consecutive seasons and winning four consecutive Emmy Awards for outstanding comedy series. Ms. Stapleton won three Emmys of her own, in 1971, ’72 and ’78.

“All in the Family” was set in Queens. Most of the action took place in the well-worn but comfortable living room of the Bunker family, led by an irascible loading-dock worker named Archie whose attitudes toward anyone not exactly like him — that is, white, male, conservative and rabidly patriotic — were condescending, smug and demonstrably foolish. Memorably played by Carroll O’Connor, Archie bullied his wife, patronized his daughter, Gloria (Sally Struthers), and infuriated and was infuriated by his live-in son-in-law, a liberal student, Michael Stivic (Rob Reiner), whom he not-so-affectionately called Meathead.

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May she rest in peace always.

CLICK HERE to watch old episodes of "All in the Family".

I managed to find an excellent analysis of Norman Lear's "All in the Family".


All in the Family represents a turning point for the American situation comedy. This 1970's program made a formal and thematic break with such predecessors as Father Knows Best and The Donna Reed Show. From a liberal perspective, Archie Bunker, the father/husband/protagonist of the show, hardly knows best as evidenced by his racial slurs and patriarchal ideals, and Edith Bunker, the mother/wife of the show, hardly deals with the same parenting crises of Donna Reed. The creative force behind this politically charged sitcom was Norman Lear.

All in the Family tackled the American mythology with a portrayal of realistic issues. Issues of contemporary society like homosexuality, racism, sexism, and economic uncertainty, were portrayed in ways never seen before in such shows like The Andy Griffith Show and I Love Lucy.

Archie's blatant bigotry represented a callous on America's soul. What All in the Family initiated, other Lear programs perpetuated. Maude subjected its viewers to Maude getting an abortion, later going through menopause, her husband's bout with alcoholism, and other politically motivated issues.

The Jeffersons presented the first interracial couple to appear as regular characters on a sitcom. One Day at a Time presented the first divorced single parent in the history of the American sitcom. The above shows also conveyed a continuity in form. The shows' form complimented its realistic themes by portraying the characters and sets in a stage-production manner with live audiences to react instantly to the story. Along with accomplishing many firsts in situation comedy, Lear's programs offered a view of society more analogous to the issues occurring outside of the television box.

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1 comments to Goodbye, Jean!

  1. says:

    patches Hi ... exactly my words, "Goodbye Jean" when I read the article (and if I had not been at the Club to read the papers, which we have stopped buying) I wouldn't have come across it.
    Following you with relish and look forward to another cuppa in the not too long future!? :) Take care.

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