Norman Lear, the television writer and producer who introduced the world to beloved 70s comedies including All in the Family and Sanford and Son, has died. He passed away at his Los Angeles home on Tuesday. He was 101.
The TV legend’s publicist confirmed that he died of natural causes. His immediate family plans to hold a private service in his memory.
Norman Lear dominated television through the ’70s and early ’80s, changing the game by shying away from the idyllic family image an instead choosing to blend topical subjects with sitcom humor.
Before breaking into entertainment, Lear joined the US Air Force in 1942. After fighting in World War II, he was discharged in 1945. He then began a career as a publicist, moving himself and his family from Connecticut to California.
As his renowned entertainment career shows, his time as a publicist wasn’t where he found his stride. He eventually transitioned into producing, and it was in this field that Lear became a legend.
Norman Lear Changed the Face of Sitcoms Forever
As a producer, he created many iconic sitcoms, establishing an entirely new genre as he went. With shows like All in the Family, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, and The Jeffersons, Lear proved that a socially-realistic sitcom was not only possible but could become popular. In 1984, Norman Lear was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame for his efforts.
For Lear, however, changing the landscape of television forever wasn’t even a conscious thought. Though there’s a clear divide between pre- and post-Norman Lear in television, he never saw his work as world-changing.
“I didn’t see it changing television at all. We had a Judeo-Christian ethic hanging around a couple thousand years that didn’t help erase racism at all. So the notion of the little half-hour comedy changing things is something I think is silly.”
And yet his impact is undeniable. Rather than the shining, problem-free worlds showcased in television of the past, Lear took a realistic approach to his characters that carried through the decades and into television of today.
“You looked around television in those years,” Norman Lear told the New York Times in a 2012 interview, referring to the 1960s, “and the biggest problem any family faced was ‘Mother dented the car, and how do you keep Dad from finding out’; ‘the boss is coming to dinner, and the roast’s ruined.’ The message that was sending out was that we didn’t have any problems.”
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