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Norman Lear has explained why he didn’t want to move into Archie Bunker’s Place.
During a Sundance Film Festival chat with Lena Dunham on Friday, the All in the Family creator was asked about how a showrunner knows when to end a series (as Dunham’s Girls recently announced its sixth and final season).
It turns out that during the ninth season of the controversial but critically acclaimed, groundbreaking CBS show, Rob Reiner felt it was time to wrap things up, while Jean Stapleton was fine whether or not they continued on past the 1979 series finale. However, Carroll O’Connor wanted to keep chugging along.
“The only one who didn’t [want to stop] was Carroll, and he was the most difficult,” said Lear. “It was very difficult dealing with him as Archie Bunker — I worshipped the ground he walked on, there couldn’t be another Archie Bunker in the history of the world, he inhabited it like no one else could. Having said that, it was very difficult.
“He went on to do Archie Bunker’s Place — I didn’t want that to happen, and I prevented it from happening for some months. My partners and the network, of course, wanted it,” Lear continued regarding the spinoff, which ran for four seasons on CBS until 1983. Unlike All in the Family, which took place largely in the Bunker family home, Archie Bunker’s Place was set primarily in the local tavern Archie owned, and was not filmed with a live studio audience.
“The only time I met Mr. [William] Paley, who owned the network, was when he called to ask me to lunch, nine years later, to talk about wanting Archie Bunker’s Place on air,” he noted. “The only way it got on was when [he] called me to his office and had four or five pages of names of people who would be out of work if the show didn’t go on. And so the show went on.”
Lear — who is the subject of a new documentary at Sundance — didn’t get specific about how O’Connor was “difficult,” but did add afterward, “He didn’t understand the character the way I felt I wished him to be, and he was the character! God, that’s all so interesting and complicated. It’s hard to be a human being, have you noticed that?”
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