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The award winning All in the Family pushed the envelope in many ways, which is ultimately what made it America’s number one television series for most of its nine year run. So provocative and edgy, the show opened with the following warning statement: “The program you are about to see is All in the Family. It seeks to throw a humorous spotlight on our frailties, prejudices, and concerns. By making them a source of laughter, we hope to show—in a mature fashion—just how absurd they are.” Not much was off-limits in this groundbreaking sitcom, and they tackled such controversial topics as rape, racism, women’s liberation, the Vietnam war, homosexuality, menopause and death. Working class protagonist Archie Bunker was about as rude and crass as it gets, yet was somehow lovable at the same time. Here are some behind the scenes issues from Norman Lear’s social-comedy classic.

1. The producers were prepared for a big backlash

The CBS network knew they were pushing buttons with this show, and they were prepared to deal with the backlash. They actually hired dozens of extra phone operators to work the switchboards to deal with anticipated angry callers…but those calls never came.

all in the family

2. Sally Struthers sort of lucked into her role

Actor Rob Reiner’s wife at the time, Penny Marshall, almost got the role of Gloria after he had been cast as hippy Michael “Meathead” Stivic. Sally Struthers later asked why she got the part instead and was told it was because she had “a fat face and blue eyes like Carroll O’Connor.” Penny had done a better audition but she looked too much like Jean Stapleton, and they preferred a paternal resemblance for Archie’s “little goil.”

all in the family

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