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At 98, Norman Lear received his 16th career Emmy A nomination for ABC’s reimagining of his classic ’70s sitcoms, Live in Front of a Studio Audience: “All in the Family” and “Good Times.” It’s extra special for the TV icon, though, because his wife, Lyn Davis Lear, 73, also is up for an award as an exec producer of Netflix documentary The Great Hack. “We are probably the oldest couple to be nominated,” he says, chuckling. Lear and creative partner Brent Miller opened up about how they wrangled their A-list cast, why they stuck to the old scripts word for word and what show is next.
Given the live format, was there anything that went wrong or that you didn’t anticipate?
NORMAN LEAR I can’t remember anything that went wrong.
BRENT MILLER No, but in terms of what wasn’t at all what we had planned or hoped for was the fact that our president of the United States was being impeached that night. So we had to battle with the various demands of news wanting to cover that when we were hoping to go live.
The episode began with a note from Norman cautioning viewers about the language and themes they were about to see. What went into that decision?
MILLER [We started it on] The Jeffersons [in 2018 because it] used language that some people haven’t heard on broadcast television in a long time. And the use of the N-word, specifically, was something we wanted to be sensitive around when we were doing this same script 40 years later. There were many conversations that went on behind the scenes about whether certain words would be modified or changed out of respect for today’s culture. At the end of the day, all the actors and producers agreed that we signed up to do the script as it was written in the ’70s, and that’s the script we want to do. But we wanted to acknowledge we’re not operating in a vacuum.
How did you decide which episodes to revisit?
MILLER We collectively decided to see which of these felt most relevant to the times we are living. And that was something that was an embarrassment of riches because you could choose any episode from either of those series from all of the seasons they aired and it would have worked well — but these happened to feature storylines that Norman loved and were important to him.
Which show would you like to do next?
LEAR I’d like to do Maude. It would be fascinating to see. I’m thinking about the abortion episode — I don’t like saying it that way — the Maude episode that dealt with that subject. Forty years later, it’s a more sensitive subject that it was then. But I would take any episode. I loved the show so much.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in the Aug. 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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