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Tim Norton
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I enjoyed this post but the jokes on "All In The Family" were seldom predictable. The show was revolutionary from the start; a household headed by an obvious bigot during a particularly fraught time in American culture. The bigot was somehow rendered sympathetic at times, not for his bigotry, but for his cultural dissonance on full display. If anything, Mike was more a cultural archetype then Archie ever was. In that show, the jokes were good but they were not the point. The jokes were the bridge or the dash of comic relief before huge topics were tackled in an unvarnished way. Shakespeare comes to mind. The most brilliant episode for me was when Archie invited a friend over for Thanksgiving dinner who had lost a son in Vietnam. Mike invited a friend who had dodged the draft and gone to Canada during the war. The Carter amnesty allowed him to come back. The tension at that Thanksgiving table was palpable but Norman Lear was not content to let that pot sit unstirred. By the end of the episode, both generations of men had reached an understanding and even found grudging respect for each other but only after airing their grief and resentments. The process of human understanding was respecting and even elevated. Norman Lear is a genius and he dragged American culture, kicking and screaming, to a newer day where truth could be addressed wonderfully in a three camera sitcom format. He is an all time great.
Obviously, I meant to write Glen Charles and Les Charles at the end of my other post. A typo should not mar their genius.
The brilliance, pathos and dark import of "I'll Be Seeing You" has never lost its power. Diane was always so sympathetic to me because she made every effort to fit in at the bar and as she once said, "No one here has made any effort to understand my sensibilities." The unrelenting abuse she took from Carla would be called a hostile workplace today. The indifference she encountered left her refinement and education to rot and her battles with Sam made her literally draw Sam a picture through Semenko to be seen, appreciated and understood. She was desperate for basic emotional intimacy after her childhood loneliness drove her to her books. In "Endless Slumper", she jokes about going home to get into bed with "The Brothers Karamazov", a perfect metaphor for books not meeting her primary human needs. The nose pulling and slap fight were comic and tragic but trained actors as Danson and Long were, there seemed to be real force to those blows. Maybe their off stage frustrations were being expatiated as well. The tension in that final long scene was executed perfectly and Shelley in particular was fascinating to watch as it unfolded. I was left disgusted at Sam's willing propensity for violent intent and Diane left as the same island she had always been. She was a fish out of water but not for lack of trying to shake that label. Shelley Long infused Diane with a durable humanity that was only brought low when she and Sam resorted to violence. It was the finest work of Shelley's career. Mere words had finally failed Sam and Diane for good. Diane's later voluntary stint in a mental hospital was perhaps inevitable given what she had faced overall. This was brave and historic television and it still moves me 30 plus years later. Glen and Less Charles have achieved a masterpiece.
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Mar 14, 2015