- Paperback: 207 pages
- Publisher: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers (October 27, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0786427639
- ISBN-13: 978-0786427635
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #741,844 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Sitcoms of Norman Lear
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The viewpoint that Campbell maintains throughout the book is to show us the mission of Norman Lear to regard television not as mindless, but as sensible--entertainment that informs and challenges our assumptions of people and the world while amusing us. If there is indeed a Golden Age of television, Campbell makes a great case for that age to be headlined by Normal Lear. Campbell shows us how Lear challenged the rigid confines of 'appropriateness' on national airwaves. These challenges weren't to just shock or dismay the people of America, as many have bastardized the idea of artistic challenge, but to present on television the world people lived in--how they talked and what issues they were discussing--not a fantasy world where housewives happily did their chores in pearls and father (who puffed on a pipe in the living room while perusing the evening edition) always did know best. Lear clearly wanted to present actual people on television, who didn't always say or do the perfect thing, but came across as completely human in the way that neighbors or friends or relatives were human.
Campbell has good insight into this mission of Lear's and presents it with a thorough and critical perspective. The chapter on _All in the Family_ is especially insightful. The show is one that people still debate to this day, since it opened corridors of thought and action that have still to be emulated properly in television culture. He shows us how Archie Bunker could spout ignorant and hateful speech, but care deeply for his family and his own way of life. He shows us how Edith was a mixture of tame housewife but a center of compassion and wisdom, how Meathead could both yell furiously at his father-in-law and love him dearly.
But don't think that Campbell uses his first book as a mere infomercial for Norman Lear DVD sets--Campbell addresses the conflicts that occured backstage and with the networks to show that such a creative endeavor was not always easy. Lear fought with network execs, with Carroll O'Connor, and with directors. Clearly, such important work did not churn out like butter. Campbell also shows us some of Lear's failures, the shows that never quite got out of the gate, the conflicts that could even get Lear away from his own shows.
With such a broad, historical perspective, Campbell is not always able to express clearly the essence of the humor in Lear's shows, and this humor is truly one of the things that makes Lear's work immortal. Lear was able to address serious social issues with such honesty and real-to-life reflectivity that audiences were laughing not just at others but also at themselves and the world they lived in. But this is just the first offering from a young and promising writer who clearly has a lot to give to the world. Campbell has such a high level of insight and perspective that he can bring life to any subject he is drawn to tackle, and his next project will also be a joy to read.