TV sitcom creator dies at 101 – .

Norman Lear was a TV sitcom legend who created classic shows including “All in the Family” and “Sanford and Son.” 

Norman Lear’s legacy 

Lear began his television career in the early 1950s, writing sketches for comedy teams including Rowan and Martin, Martin and Lewis, and others. The first series he created was “The Deputy,” a western starring Henry Fonda (1905–1982) that ran on CBS from 1959 to 1961. It was a moderate success, but bigger TV hits were in store. 

All in the Family 

Lear’s big idea for the 1970s was a show about a working-class family, based on the British sitcom “Till Death Us Do Part.” When he first pitched “All in the Family” to ABC, they rejected it, even after he retooled the show and shot a second pilot. The third time proved a charm, as CBS picked up the series. After a slow start, “All in the Family” became a sitcom classic, winning 20 Emmy Awards and breaking new ground by dealing frankly with serious issues including racism, abortion, and breast cancer in ways that no other TV show had done before. 

Lear went on to develop additional hit series. “All in the Family” spawned the spin-offs “Maude,” “The Jeffersons,” and “Good Times.” The popular “Sanford and Son” was based on the British show “Steptoe and Son.” Additionally, he created “One Day at a Time” and “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.” 

Lear also worked in movies. He wrote and produced “Divorce American Style,” directed “Cold Turkey,” and produced several films directed by Rob Reiner, including “This Is Spinal Tap” and “The Princess Bride.” 

Activism 

Lear supported liberal causes and spoke out against the involvement of religion in politics. He founded People for the American Way, an advocacy organization developed in opposition to the Rev. Jerry Falwell’s (1933–2007) Moral Majority. He also created the nonprofit campaign Declare Yourself, aimed at encouraging young people to register and vote. 

Awards and honors 

Lear was one of the first seven inductees into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1984. He received five Emmy Awards and two Peabody Awards, and was nominated for an Academy Award. In 1999, President Bill Clinton awarded Lear the National Medal of Arts, and in 2017, Lear received the Kennedy Center Honors. 

Lear on his distinctive TV shows 

“I never thought of the shows as groundbreaking, because every American understood so easily what they were all about. The issues were around their dinner tables. The language was in their school yards. It was nothing new. Before ‘All in the Family,’ there were a lot of families on television, but the biggest problem they faced was Mom dented the fender or the boss is coming to dinner and the roast is ruined. America had no racial problems, no economic problems. Women didn’t get breast cancer; men didn’t get hypertension.”—from a 2014 interview for the Harvard Business Review 

Tributes to Norman Lear 

Full obituary: Variety 

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