From 1971 to 1979, families sat down and watched nine seasons of Archie Bunker, a working-class bigot and his family life. Carroll O’Connor, Jean Stapleton, Sally Struthers, and Rob Reiner brought some of our favorite characters to life. With that being said, there’s probably a good chuck of facts about the show that you didn’t know before. So that’s where we step in, as we’ve compiled a nice list of facts that you most likely weren’t aware of but are about to be.
Based on British TV
Till Death Do Us Part is the name of the British television version, which All in the Family is based off of. Which sounds like a lot more fun than interior design school.
Mickey Rooney almost starred in the show!
Hmm, it’s safe to say that if Carroll O’Connor didn’t portray Archie Bunker, things would have worked out quite differently. Well as it turns out Mickey Rooney was first offered the position but he turned it down, saying “it was too controversial for TV”.
The show saw TWO pilot pitches
So after ABC saw the show’s pilot, they went ahead and requested a second pilot. The reason? They didn’t like the actors. Originally Candice Azzara and Chip Oliver played the roles of the Bunkers’ daughter and son-in-law. Sounds crazier than interior design school!
An iconic kissing sequence!
Good ol’ Archie Bunker, everyone’s favorite “lovable bigot”, on the show. Well there was an iconic scene where Bunker gets kissed by Sammy Davis, you know the one. Welp that interracial kissing scene got THE biggest laugh in the show’s history.
The Rural Purge made room for All in the Family.
So back then CBS had tons of old southern television shows on air. However when they were all canceled, aka the Rural Purge, tons of new programming was ordered up. Ding-ding, that includes All in the Family.
Harrison Ford almost joined the show!
Michael Stivic is the Polish-American hippie who has a huge heart but is stubborn and he does not agree with Archie Bunker whatsoever. Well, that role originally was offered to Harrison Ford! But as you know, obviously he turned it down.
All in the Family was thought up by Norman Lear, who found inspiration close to home. Hyman is Norman’s father and it was his dad that provided the basis for Archie’s character. Although in a lighter, funnier way. Better than trudging through interior design school.
CBS tried to regulate the screenwriters
CBS kept sending Norman Lear memos when he was developing the first 13 episodes. Basically CBS were instruction him which words he could and could not use. See, they did want something “edgy” but you know, not that edgy. Lear totally ignored each memo.
Rob Reiner was the key to production!
It wasn’t until Rob Reiner was cast as Michael Stivic that All in the Family saw the light of day! That’s pretty incredible, eh?
Carroll O’Connor actually wrote the lyrics for the closing song on the show. As such the closing theme song was lovingly titled ‘Remembering You’.
All in the Family initially had another name
Oh man, the original title for the show was actually Those Were the Days. Although at the time, a song of the same name became increasingly popular which forced the production team to change the show’s title. Thank goodness.
Now just about everyone in the production team thought that there would be massive public backlash because of Archie Bunker’s crude nature. However that didn’t happen whatsoever!
The Bunker family initially had a different name
So not only did the show originally have a different name, but so did the Bunker family name. Initially, the Bunker’s last name was ‘Justice’ and at that time, the show was actually called, ‘Justice For All’. Makes me think that one should stick to interior design school or maybe not.
Harrison Ford had been turned off by Archie Bunker
Get this, the reason that Harrison Ford say no to the Archie Bunker role… Well he was actually offended by his character and he beloved that the audience would despise the character. Furthermore, he personally believed that the show would flop.
Sally Struthers ended her run on the show negatively
In earlier seasons, it was known that Sally Struthers was known to be fed up with just how static her part was. Therefore in 1974, she actually sued in order to get out of her contract.
Archie Bunker almost got killed off
Yeah, Caroll O’Connor was also unhappy with the show at one point. So much so that he had a massive contract dispute when he demanded 12 weeks of vacation and $64K in backpay. That’s when Norman Lear responded to the “threats” and filmed three episodes without Archie. Moreover he threatened to kill off Archie’s character.
Jean Stapleton is actually an incredible singer
Even though there is a notion on the show that Edith Bunker cannot sing, Jean Stapleton can. Stapleton got her start on Broadway, so yeah, talented singer is an understatement.
Edith’s voice was a byproduct of stage theater
Jean Stapleton portrayed the incredible Edith Bunker and if there’s one thing we remember most, it’s her nasally voice. Turns out that when Stapleton performed on the Broadway show Damn Yankees, she had a bit of a nasally voice. Well she loved it so much that she incorporated it for the show!
What a Wig
Believe it or not but Rob Reiner actually started to go bald early on which meant that the production team kept a ton of wigs on hand for the actor. Could be worse, he could be cramming for an interior design school final or something.
Scott Brady was almost a part of the show
Scott Brady, from the Western television show Shotgun Slade, did in fact turn down the role of Archie Bunker. But hey, he did come back four times on the series in the role of Joe Foley.
All in the Family was almost filmed in black and white
Yup, Norman Lear originally really wanted to air the show in only black and white. Because that’s how the British version, Till Death Us Do Part, had been. However CBS refused and so, Lear actually had the set furnished in only neutral tones. Everything seemed quite devoid of color. Even the costume designer Rita Riggs said that Lear wanted sepia tones so that viewers felt like they were looking at a family album.
All in the Family broke through some boundaries
Let’s talk about full frontal male nudity for a minute. Well first of all All in the Family was the first program to air such nudity. Who you may be wondering? Oh that would be Joey Stivic, the three week baby.
There have been seven spin off shows!
Seven! Seven different television shows all stemmed from All in the Family over 15 years. This includes Maude, The Jeffersons, Gloria, Archie Bunker’s Place, and 704 Hauser.
The famous sock and shoe debate was a true story
Rob Reiner and Carroll O’Connor really did get into a huge debate while in their dressing rooms about what was the proper way to put on socks and shoes. Later when Reiner told the story to Norman Lear, he thought it was hilarious and even added it as a scene in the show. Classic!
Carroll O’Connor fought for equal billing in the credits
When Norman Lear first approached O’Connor and informed him that his name would be first in the second season, O’Connor made Lear change this. O’Connor wanted Jean Stapleton to get in as co-lead. That’s exactly what happened.
Norman Lear held the role of George Jefferson for Sherman Hemsley
Remember when the Jefferson’s are introduced for the first time? Well we don’t actually see George, only Louise. The reason? Sherman Hemsley was stuck working on another production. Instead of re-casting the role, Norman Lear held on and waited for Hemsley to return.
The first toilet flush in TV history
Back then, toilets were thought to be 100% taboo, especially on television. Yeah All in the Family didn’t care about that so they wound up as the first ever network television show to air the sound of a toilet flushing. Interesting? Very!
Carroll O’Connor lived in Italy when he was cast
That’s right, Carroll O’Connor was actually living in Italy when he was informed he got the role of Archie Bunker. As a result, the producers paid for O’Connor to return to the states to start filming.
Jean Stapleton passed on a huge product for All in the Family
Jean Stapleton was actually cast in the film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory but she turned it down. Stapleton wanted to carry on doing All in the Family!
First TV show to be shot before a studio audience since the ‘50s
In the 1960’s, many sitcoms filmed in this single-camera format without a live audience, and instead used a laugh track to simulate an audience response. However Lear chose to do a multiple-camera format with tape in front of a live audience. This then became the norm for television in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s.
First comedy series filmed on videotape
Remember the previous fact about tape? Yeah, All in the Family were the first to do so! This took everyone back to early live television and often, the show gets compared to that of The Honeymooners.
In 1975, CBS cut episodes of the show by three whole minutes so they could play more commercials. However Norman Lear hated this and even offered CBS more money to include the three minutes, but CBS declined.
Lucille Ball and her hit show I Love Lucy were HUGE in that time! However Ball was not a fan of All in the Family whatsoever. She was appalled that her show and the very “un-American” All in the Family were even running on the same network.
The Future Mrs. Reiner Almost Played Mrs. Stivic
Penny Marshall is Rob Reiner’s wife and she was actually in the running for the role of Gloria. While she was already living with Reiner, Sally Struthers believed they would have more chemistry and that she wouldn’t get the gig. With that, she gave it her all in the audition and landed the part. However one of the producers told her later on that she got the part because she had “a fat face and blue eyes like Carroll O’Connor.” Oh.
Whose Line Is It Anyway?
Remember how we said the network thought they would get a ton of backlash over the language on the show? Yeah so while that never happened, they did however get tons of calls over one very, very important question. “What is the second to last line of the opening theme song?” Turns out that no one could understand! So O’Connor and Stapleton had to re-record the part and made sure to enunciate, “Gee, our old LaSalle ran great”.
Producers wanted to use an orchestra for the theme tune but because of budgetary concerns, they instead used Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton playing at the piano. That was the right decision in the end!
At that time, All in the Family was one of the first to talk about many controversial issues that no one in U.S. network television even dared to include. Topics like racism, women’s liberation, homosexuality, religion, breast cancer, the Vietnam War, and menopause all appeared on the show.
An NFL player almost starred in the show!
Like we said, Chip Oliver originally played Michael Stivic but when the networks didn’t like his portrayal, he got the boot. However the Oakland Raider linebacker didn’t seem to take it personally.
Once Sally Struthers had sued the producers, they actually added a provision in her contract that prevented her from appearing as her All in the Family character anywhere on or off television other than the show itself.
The Life of Politics
Carroll O’Connor does not share the same views as his bigot character does. Especially in terms of politics and social issues, O’Conner is liberal on the matter!
Stapleton was there for the show’s entire original run, but after the first season of Archie Bunker’s PlaceArchie Bunker’s Place after that. Her character had a stroke and died off-camera. Stapleton said, “she had had enough of the weekly series and was anxious to leave it to resume her career on the stage and in movies.”
O’Connor and Stapleton’s reunion
O’Connor and Stapleton would reunite only in 1991 on the Donny and Marie talk show. “It was the first time they had gotten together on screen since ‘All In The Family,’ and also Donny and Marie asked if they would do their Archie and Edith voices but refused.”
When the show approached the end, Norman Lear spoke with Jean Stapleton (who was tired of her role as Edith Bunker) about how to respectfully kill Edith off. As that question, she said, “Just have her die off, she’s only fiction.” Lear paused for a minute and then replied, “Not to me, she isn’t.”
The famous catch phrases of “Meat Head”, “Dingbat”, and “Stifle” are the same words that Norman Lear heard his father day when he was a kid. Interesting!
As you know, in the show Archie Bunker refers to Michael as “Meathead”, but in later episodes it is revealed that Archie Bunker himself was known as “Meathead” back in his youth.
Lear originally planned to end the show after season 8 and the episode known as All in the Family: The Stivics Go West would be the finale. Heck there was even a goodbye party after that, complete with a People Magazine cover to commemorate the finale. However Carroll O’Connor and CBS actually wanted the show to continue! After which Lear and Tandem Productions relented but Jean Stapleton was convinced to return, while Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers were not.
The story arc about Gloria’s pregnancy and the birth of Baby Joey was actually meant for season five. But when Carroll O’Connor’s contract dispute came, some new scripts were written to explain Archie’s unexpected and sudden absence.
Carroll O’Connor and Norman Lear would fight all the time during production. Some boycotts and contract holdouts even took place because of it. O’Connor argued with Lear about the show’s direction , that sometimes he wasn’t happy with it. Furthermore, as O’Connor was a writer himself, he would rewrite some of Archie’s dialogue, which Lear would approval and sometimes he wouldn’t.