Norman Lear’s work was an integral part of American life in the second half of the 20th Century. Television programs like Maude, Sanford and Son, and The Jeffersons dragged television out of the 1950s and into the real world. As Variety states: “Lear’s shows were the first to address the serious political, cultural and social flashpoints of the day – racism, abortion, feminism, homosexuality, the Vietnam war – by working pointed new wrinkles into the standard domestic comedy formula. No subject was taboo: Two 1977 episodes of All in the Family revolved around the attempted rape of lead character Archie Bunker’s wife Edith.”
All in the Family, which ran on CBS from 1971 to 1979, typified the clash of generations. Middle-aged bigot Archie Bunker – played by Carrol O’Connor – was a right-wing King Lear in Queens, raging at the radical changes in society. Archie didn’t let ignorance get in the way of his opinions; once he argued that people who lived in communes were communists. The thing is, the old dog was actually capable of learning new tricks. Archie never evolved into any kind of saint. But over the nine seasons "Family" aired, experience taught Archie the benefits of listening to (and respecting) viewpoints far different from his own.
All in the Family was the jewel in Lear’s crown, but don’t forget the highly popular shows One Day at a Time (which featured Bonnie Franklin as a divorcee raising two daughters in the Midwest) and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (with Louise Lasser as the titular figure in a parody of soap opera conventions). Good or bad, Lear’s work was never indifferent.
More recently, you may have heard about Lear’s lively activism. His TV shows were themselves arguments for free and unfettered speech, and Lear supported a slate of liberal causes. In 1981 he founded People for the American Way. The organization’s website describes the ways that PFAW has “engaged cultural and community leaders and individual activists in campaigns promoting freedom of expression, civic engagement, fair courts, and legal and lived equality for LGBTQ people.”
Lear’s life was a long and fulfilling one. In 1978 he was given the first of two Peabody Awards, the most prestigious award in television. “To Norman Lear,” it reads, “...for giving us comedy with a social conscience. He uses humor to give us a better understanding of social issues. He lets us laugh at our own shortcomings and prejudices, and while doing this, maintains the highest entertainment standards.”
A pioneer, a gadfly of the state, a mensch. To paraphrase a lyric from All in the Family’s theme song, “Mister, we could use a guy like Norman Lear again.”
Anderson Cooper’s Drunken Laughter Is Still the Highlight of the New Year
2021 has already brought good news: A Barbara Walters impression can still team up with tequila shots to turn Anderson Cooper into a beautiful, hysterical mess.
“Saturday Night Live” alum Cheri Oteri joins @AndersonCooper and @Andy Cohen for New Year’s Eve and revives her ico… https://t.co/TguEYQE8XO— CNN (@CNN) 1609466811.0
In honor of national treasure Anderson Cooper, we joyfully bring you this flashback from one year ago, when our collective attention was once again on his eye crinkles of hope. Remember our innocence then? Neither do we, but at least we still have Anderson Cooper's giggles.
Originally published on Jan 1, 2020
No doubt the coming year will offer plenty of apocalyptic weather events and political drama that will have us all pulling our hair out — election day here we come! But the good news is that the new year has already produced one of those rare, shining moments of pure joy that make it possible to crawl out of bed and face the ugliness of the world each morning.
'SNL' alum revives Barbara Walters character, Anderson Cooper loses itwww.youtube.com
It's all thanks to an unlikely petition on Change.org, recalling an iconic TV slogan from 15 years past. Barbara Walters, who hosted the ABC program 20/20 until 2004, would always open the show with the phrase, "I'm Barbara Walters, and this is 20/20."
The petition to have her host the annual ball drop and ring in the New Year with that phrase was started in January of 2019, and by the end of December it had only managed to collect around 7,000 signatures. It wasn't enough to make that vision a reality, but it was enough to get a shout out in CNN's New Year's Eve coverage. And with the help of a former SNL cast member and several scorching shots of tequila, that shout out turned into something truly spectacular.
This is 2020www.youtube.com
It's maybe not that surprising that CNN was unable to get the real, 90-year-old Barbara Walters to brave the crowds and the cold of Times Square for the midnight announcement.
Fortunately, Cheri Oteri was on hand to provide the next best thing. Reprising the impression of Walters that she perfected in her days on SNL, Oteri brushed off a suggestion that she could return to The View, and instead pitched a reality show following Walters' jet-setting lifestyle, populated by a cast of geriatric former celebrities and some imaginary senior-specific dating apps, such as "Loose Skin."
The material itself is worth a laugh, and if you're old enough to have a memory of Barbara Walters on 20/20, then you probably know how good Oteri's impression is, but what makes the moment truly special is Anderson Cooper's hysterical, buckled-over laughter.
As it turns out, the shots of tequila that co-host Andy Cohen kept giving to Cooper as the night wore on really did their job, leaving Cooper loose and goofy by the time Oteri started turning to the camera to deliver, "This is 2020." The pure joy he unleashes as a result is impossible to resist.
What makes it even better is going back to see footage of Cohen and Cooper throwing back those tequila shots and Cooper taking each one like a mouthful of pure fire. After each one goes down, Anderson Cooper's cool and collected demeanor devolves into paroxysms of shrieking, gasping disgust that finally prompt Cohen to ask, "Are you kidding?!" to which Cooper can only say, "I don't drink!"
Anderson Cooper trying to drink tequila on televisionwww.youtube.com
Clearly his lack of tolerance is a testament to that. But why don't you drink, Anderson? You're so fun when you drink!
This is not intended as an endorsement of any unhealthy habits — the best medical advice dictates that drinking should be reserved for special occasions and restricted to moderate portions — but have you ever considered getting hammered during all of your broadcasts, Anderson? It might not align with professional journalistic standards, but I'm sure that a lot more people would tune into Anderson Cooper 360 if every episode involved you attacking your throat with liquor and collapsing in a fit of giggles.
Now, thankfully, in 2021 we have another one of these joyful little gems to help us survive a world that feels like it's burning.