Produced and developed by Norman Lear, the groundbreaking sitcom ALL IN THE FAMILYcontinued to evolve in the sixth season without losing any of its controversial edge or its popularity; it was the #1 series for the fifth year in a row. Mike (Rob Reiner) and Gloria (Sally Struthers) finally move out of the Bunker household - and right into the house next door, where the Jeffersons used to live. But the big news for Archie (Carroll O'Connor) and Edith (Jean Stapleton) is that their "little goil" is pregnant. Gloria later gives birth in a special two-part episode. Once the baby is home, two generations of parents clash over how to raise little Joey Stivic. The show courted further controversy when a real toy company released "Archie Bunker's Grandson" in honor of baby Joey, the first anatomically correct male doll! Nominated for an Emmy® Award for "Outstanding Comedy Series" for its sixth straight year, ALL IN THE FAMILY was also nominated for two Golden Globe® Awards this season. With
The more things change, the more they stay the same? When it comes to All in the Family
, the answer is an unqualified yes
and no. Considering the show's tremendous popularity (this sixth season, spanning 1975 and '76, was the fifth straight year it held down the top spot in the Nielsen ratings), creator-producer Norman Lear was unlikely to make any drastic adjustments to the basic formula. And sure enough, in these 24 episodes (on three discs, sans
bonus features), the four main characters--Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor, brilliant as ever), ditzy wife Edith (Jean Stapleton), daughter Gloria (Sally Struthers), and contentious son-in-law Mike Stivic (Rob Reiner)--and their relationships remain the obvious focal point. What's more, while it's true that various new developments, including Mike and Gloria's move next door (to the house once occupied by the Jeffersons), her pregnancy, and the birth of little Joey, are more than cosmetic and account for the lion's share of the storylines, All in the Family
's basic dynamic remains one of the strongest and most instantly recognizable in TV sitcom history. Ditto the writers' penchant for the trenchant; social issues include tolerance and homophobia (Archie saves a woman's life with "mouth-to-mouth restitution," only to discover that "she" is a transvestite), women's rights (Gloria gets fired for being pregnant), vigilantism (Archie fends off a mugger with illegal tear gas), religion (Archie wants his grandson baptized and raised as a Christian, but Mike has other ideas), and so on. And now more than ever, some of the language will seem a little shocking, as Archie regularly uses a variant of the gay slur that got Grey's Anatomy
cast member Isaiah Washington in very hot water more than three decades later.
Some changes, however, are a little more profound. The kinder, gentler Archie who began to appear a few seasons back is more in effect now; an extended and largely improvised scene in which he coddles his infant grandson is surprisingly tender, and when he hugs Mike after Joey is born, longtime viewers might wonder if what on earth has happened to TV's most unrepentant, close-minded bigot. But hey, even cavemen evolved, and the Archie Bunker we see in Season 6 bears an increasing resemblance to a character he most surely inspired, one who usually ends up removing his foot from his mouth long enough to do the right thing: Homer Simpson. --Sam Graham