Norman Lear: Legendary TV Producer Dead at 101

Norman Lear, the legendary producer behind many television series and specials, has died at the age of 101 in Los Angeles.

What is there to say about Lear that has not already been said? Many people tuned in for his 100th birthday special in September 2022. Age didn’t slow him down in his final years as he also produced remakes of both One Day at a Time and Good Times. In recent years, there were a number of specials on ABC that introduced Lear’s work to a new generation of audiences: Live in Front of a Studio Audience. But still, when one hears his name, they tend to think of the following series (among others, of course):

  • All in the Family
  • Maude
  • Sanford and Son
  • One Day at a Time
  • The Jeffersons
  • Good Times

Among the many accolades:

  • 6 Primetime Emmy Awards
  • 2 Peabody Awards
  • National Medal of Arts
  • Kennedy Center Honors
  • Television Academy Hall of Fame

All in all, Lear was groundbreaking as a producer. He also brought satire to primetime television in a way that nobody could ever imagine. Where Archie Bunker was a conservative, prejudiced, working-class Republican on All in the Family, Maude Findlay was quite the opposite: a liberal, feminist, upper-middle-class Democrat. And yet, people tuned in to watch both series when they aired.

In addition to his work as a TV producer, Lear was also a longtime activist and funded progressive causes. It goes all the way back to when he was nine years old. This was his first encounter with antisemitic Catholic radio priest Father Charles Coughlin on the radio. Lear also discussed this experience over a decade ago during an interview with Guy Raz on NPR.

“I discovered Father Coughlin in bed one afternoon or evening. And suddenly, I’m listening to a man condemning one of our great heroes, FDR, you know, in my family, and speaking kindly of the Nazi movement, about which we were just learning in Germany and his dislike of Jews… It scared the hell out of me because it was the first time I learned that I was, quote, “different.” And I started to pay a lot more attention to people who were even more different in the eyes of people like Father Coughlin. And I think my political interest and sensitivities started there.”

The famed producer penned his memoir, Even This I Get to Experience, back in 2014. The book runs nearly 500 pages but it’s among the best Hollywood memoirs that I’ve read. A documentary, Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You, would follow in 2016.

Speaking for myself, I was honored to meet the legend himself during the Critics Choice Awards in 2020. It is certainly among a number of highlights in a year that was otherwise a long blur. However, much like meeting Adam Sandler on the same evening, it is a moment that I will never forget.

May Norman Lear’s memory be a blessing. Baruch dayan ha’emet (Blessed is the true judge).

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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