From the vantage point of the early 21st century, it is hard to imagine the shocking impact of All in the Family's premiere episode, "Meet the Bunkers," in which the world was introduced to Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor), who apparently never met a minority group he liked and whose vocabulary was sprinkled with outrageous racial epithets. Also introduced in this landmark episode are Archie's slow-witted but good-hearted wife, Edith (Jean Stapleton), aka "Dingbat"; Archie's airheaded daughter, Gloria (Sally Struthers); and Gloria's grad-student husband, Mike (Rob Reiner), a flaming liberal and the bane of Archie's existence. Additionally, this opening episode features the first appearance of Mike Evans as Lionel Jefferson, a black youth who delights in needling Archie without his knowing it. Several of the series' earliest episodes have become classics of their kind. Among the highlights: Archie writes a fan letter to President Nixon, fakes a back injury after a minor traffic accident, worries that some "colored" will be the recipient when he donates a pint of blood, wrongfully assumes that he knows a homosexual when he sees one, and is in for a major shock when he is reunited with an old army buddy. In other stories, the black Jefferson family moves into Archie's lily-white neighborhood (and in the process, Isabel Sanford makes her first appearance as Louise Jefferson); Gloria "discovers" women's lib after a few chauvinistic comments from husband Mike, and in another episode learns that she is pregnant (but not, alas for long); and Edith serves on a jury, inevitably emerging as the sole holdout in an otherwise unanimous "guilty" verdict. Ratings for All in the Family's first season were shaky, but that wasn't the series' fault. Several CBS affiliates, nervous about the series' controversial content, delayed the program's telecast to the low-rated late evening hours, while other affiliates refused to run the show at all. But, thanks to word-of-mouth and a torrent of positive criticism in the mainstream press, All in the Family survived its freshman year, and by the end of season two, the series was America's top-rated program.
Cast & Crew
- Carroll O'Connor - Archie Bunker
- Jean Stapleton - Edith Bunker
- Sally Struthers - Gloria Bunker Stivic
- Rob Reiner - Mike Stivic
- Mike Evans - Lionel Jefferson