The World in Norman Lear's Perspective

The World in Norman Lear’s Perspective

Published on

December 6, 2023


FashionMR Editor

Thirty years ago, twenty-eight-year-old Norman Lear took a redeye flight from New York and landed at LAX. His partner at the window, Ed Simmons, thought aloud about the success of the night before—the first show Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis had written together had been a huge smash. Lear remembers that everyone was talking about the showperson’s exaggeration.


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“How many of those people did we make laugh last night?” Simmons thought to himself as he stared at the lights of Los Angeles. Thirty years later, at fifty-eight, Lear was flying east for a testimonial dinner when he gazed down at the nation’s heart and wondered whether he had made every American laugh at least once.


Over half of the nation watched Lear’s weekly comedies, which attracted 120 million viewers by the mid-1970s. His enormous success gave him a degree of authority and clout never before seen in the entertainment industry. Lear’s television series, such as “All in the Family,” rose to fame and became cultural icons. Revenues were estimated to be $5 million in 1972 and reached a $100 million syndication library by 1979.


Lear’s impact went beyond entertainment; presidents and other political leaders started to seek him out. Son of a door-to-door salesperson, he became an influential participant in public debates, signing petitions and voicing his thoughts. Despite his fame, Lear was modest, neat, and meticulous; he was well-known for his fitted clothes and trademark canvas porkpie hat.


Lear has a calm, precise approach to speaking, punctuated by powerful, short expressions of devotion. He goes so far as to embrace opponents in tense censorship disputes with CBS out of a desire to be liked. But it was hard for network executives to like him. Although he was yet to become a well-known or wealthy person in the industry, Lear had become a successful comedy writer, and in 1971, CBS needed him more than he needed it.


ABC produced a handful of pilots of a BBC series, “Until Death Us Do Part,” which Lear bought American rights to in the late 1960s. After a while, the network abandoned the initiative; nevertheless, CBS took it up warily in 1970. Notwithstanding the network’s anticipations, Lear showed courage, assumed control over his firm, and took calculated risks to establish himself as a prominent figure in the entertainment industry.


Lear was dubbed a pain in the ass for CBS in addition to receiving praise for his bravery in being able to make decisions and manage his show. The FCC and the networks launched Family Hour in 1975 in response to the difficulties caused by Lear’s nontraditional method of producing television shows.


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