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.”
Happy Xmas (Strike Is Over)!
The AMPTP and SAG-AFTRA have reached an interim agreement. Here’s what that means for TV and movies
Christmas has arrived early! The SAG-AFTRA strike is finally over after 118 days — making it the longest actor’s strike in history. After a summer spent picketing and pleading with studios, actors are back to work as of 12:01 am Thursday, November 9th. Here’s what that means for them, for us, and for film and TV in general.
When did the actor's strike end?
After two weeks of arduous negotiating, SAG-AFTRA voted unanimously to approve the new deal laid out by the studios. Details are emerging slowly about the exact terms of the deal but the headline is this: it’s looking good for actors, and great for movie-goers.
The SAG-AFTRA statement read:
“In a contract valued at over one billion dollars, we have achieved a deal of extraordinary scope that includes "above-pattern" minimum compensation increases, unprecedented provisions for consent and compensation that will protect members from the threat of AI, and for the first time establishes a streaming participation bonus. Our Pension & Health caps have been substantially raised, which will bring much-needed value to our plans. In addition, the deal includes numerous improvements for multiple categories including outsize compensation increases for background performers, and critical contract provisions protecting diverse communities.”
Items on the original list of grievances included: the use of AI, actors' compensation and residuals, healthcare and other union benefits, and more. We can assume that most of these were addressed in the deal. Like the WGA strike of the summer, which lasted 143 days, actors can hope to see some fundamental changes in the business — hopefully for the better.
A parade of press tours
One thing we’ve missed during the strike? Press tours. Martin Scorcese - coming off a recent wave of TikTok fame thanks to his daughter - carried out a heroic press tour of one for Killer of the Flower Moon and the few films that received waivers had to feed our thirst for magazine interviews and red carpets. The cast of Priscilla and The Iron Claw … we thank you for your service.
But now, everyone is back to work. After saying no to events, awards, and press junkets, actors have to get back in front of the cameras and beg us to go watch their movies — balance is restored.
Other films coming out soon might have to scramble to put together some sort of press. Titles we’re expecting by the end of the year include The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Trolls, Napoleon, Anyone But You, The Boys In The Boat, Saltburn, Eileen, Ferrari, The Color Purple, and more.
What movies and TV shows are filming now?
I’m sure many actors got calls summoning them back to the studio ASAP! Studios are prioritizing films with an original release date of early 2024, hoping to get them out in time. For example, It Ends With Us, the adaptation of the global Colleen Hoover hit is slated for February 2024. Can Blake Lively and Justin Baldoni pull it off? We’ll see.
Other high-priority films include a whole lotta sequels. Marvel Studios/Disney’s Deadpool 3 starring Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, directed by Shawn Levy was around half complete when the strike began. Paramount has been thinking about the Roman Empire as they anxiously await to finish Gladiator 2 over in Europe, while Warner Bros’ Tim Burton-directed Beetlejuice 2 just needs two days on set to wrap things up (allegedly). Clint Eastwood’s Juror No. 2 is another one hoping to wrap up soon with around a dozen days left. Then, there’s Sony’s Venom 3 for all the Spiderman/Tom Hardy lovers.
Needless to say, Hollywood’s gonna be busy.
What movies and TV shows will still be delayed?
Though the strike ending is great news for all, some films and TV shows have already been pushed back longer than we can take. Dune: Part Two won’t hit cinemas until March 2024, Zendaya’s Challengers with Mike Faist and Josh O'Connor won’t bless us until April 2026 and The White Lotus Season 3 won’t even be back until 2025. Other delays include Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Kraven the Hunter and the next Spider-Verse movie. Stranger Things has even said they’ll have to use technology to make the actors look younger in the final season, which we likely won’t see until 2027. Wake me up when that’s finally out.
“Obviously, we’d like to try to preserve a summer of films,” Bob Iger of Disney told CNBC earlier in the negotiation cycle. “The entire industry is focused on that. We don’t have much time to do that.”
Despite the delays, what SAG-AFTRA leaves us with is hope. The statement said: “We have arrived at a contract that will enable SAG-AFTRA members from every category to build sustainable careers. Many thousands of performers now and into the future will benefit from this work.”
Solidarity with all workers!