Breaking Down Why Norman Lear Was the King of Television Creators

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If you watched any TV in the 1970’s, chances are you saw a program written or produced by the iconic Norman Lear, who passed away Tuesday at the age of 101. “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons,” “Maude,” “One Day at a Time,” and dozens of other ground-breaking shows all were created, shaped, or refined under his insightful watch. Robert Thompson, professor of TV and popular culture at Syracuse University, appeared on 710 WOR’s Len Berman and Michael Riedel in the Morning program to better illustrate how far-reaching and indelible Lear’s influence was on America’s culture and psyche.

“You know, we cannot be too hyperbolic about how important he was,” Thompson told Berman and Riedel. “I would put him on the very top of the heap of the most influential guys in American television entertainment… ‘All in the Family’ comes out [in 1971], five years in a row it’s number one. It deals with every issue you can possibly imagine that entertainment TV ignored, and all of television changed immediately thereafter… and Lear, of course, was right at the center of it.”

Not content to rest on his laurels and step aside, though, Thompson said that Lear was still working up until recently. “In fact, Norman Lear continued to remake his stuff today. Two great examples: ‘One Day at a Time’ was rebooted for streaming and was one of the really finest shows to come out of the last ten years; I think it’s an underappreciated show. And then, Lear did remake ‘All in the Family’ today when he teamed up with Jimmy Kimmel… and they took those old scripts and they redid them with new actors.”

Thompson also took a moment to comment on today’s pop culture super-duper-star, Taylor Swift, who became the first entertainer ever named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. “Of all the other people that were in on the short list… Taylor Swift is going to move more Time magazines- yes that still exists- off the newsstand- I’m not sure if THOSE still exist- than Jerome Powell on the cover.”

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