Between 1971 and 1979, All in the Family was more than just a wildly popular television sitcom that routinely drew 50 million viewers weekly. It was also a touchstone of American life, so much so that the living room chairs of the two main characters have spent the last 40 years on display at the Smithsonian. How did a show this controversial and boundary-breaking manage to become so widely beloved?
Those Were the Days is the first full-length study of this remarkable television program. Created by Norman Lear and produced by Bud Yorkin, All in the Family dared to address such taboo topics as rape, abortion, menopause, homosexuality, and racial prejudice in a way that no other sitcom had before. Through a close analysis of the sitcom’s four main characters—boorish bigot Archie Bunker, his devoted wife Edith, their feminist daughter Gloria, and her outspoken liberal husband Mike—Jim Cullen demonstrates how All in the Family was able to bridge the generation gap and appeal to a broad spectrum of American viewers in an age when a network broadcast model of television created a shared national culture.
Locating All in the Family within the larger history of American television, this book shows how it transformed the medium, not only spawning spinoffs like Maude and The Jeffersons, but also helping to inspire programs like Roseanne, Married... with Children, and The Simpsons. And it raises the question: could a show this edgy ever air on broadcast television today?