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Norman Lear, Who Produced “Good Times” and “Sanford and Son” Dies as 101

Norman Lear is not only known for his contributions to television but also for his activism. He has been an outspoken advocate for social and political issues. Lear’s shows often reflected his progressive views. Lear founded the advocacy organization People for the American Way in 1981, focusing on issues like civil liberties and separation of church and state.

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By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

Legendary television visionary and producer Norman Lead has died at 101.

Lear was known for creating television shows featuring characters from an America that hovered closer to real life experiences and real relationships than what was previously aired on American television before his career took off at the start of the 1970s.

Lear’s career breakthrough arrived in the 1970s when he produced several highly successful and influential television sitcoms that tackled social and political issues including race. One of Lear’s most famous shows was “All in the Family,” which premiered in 1971. The show was a massive hit with viewers and critics. It depicted the blue-collar family of Archie Bunker with all of the blunt realities of American history and culture that included racism, sexism, and other societal issues through the lens of Bunker’s New York family.

Before “All in the Family,” television families were displayed as Brady Bunch bubblegum perfect with few, if any, societal or political issues ever being discussed.

Norman Lear then went on to produce over 10 series through the 1970s. Many of the TV shows featured Black families and characters. They include “The Jeffersons,” which ran from 1975 to 1985 and was a spin-off from “All in the Family.”

“The Jeffersons” followed the fictional lives of George and Weezy Jefferson as they “moved on up” to the upper east side of Manhattan. The show addressed issues of race and class and was a first of its kind by featuring a financially successful businessman navigating the racial stereotypes in American life. George Jefferson was a brash and confident character played by the late Sherman Hemsley in a way that had not been seen on television before.

The show was a contrast to another Lear depiction of the Black family: “Good Times.” Centering a Black working-class family in Chicago, “Good Times” dealt with social and economic issues while incorporating humor and memorable characters. But it also had its fair share of stereotypes which was a throwback to the Hollywood days of minstrelsy as depicted in the character of J.J. Walker. Cast member John Amos, who played the patriarch of the Walker family, famously departed “Good Times” because of the stereotyping around the J.J. Walker character.  “Good Times” ran from 1974 to 1979).

“We dealt with our differences a number of years ago,” Amos said in 2021 of Lear.

“Norman was one of the most dominant and creative forces on television at the time. He had several of the top 10 shows at the time, and there were some people that were quite jealous of him,” Amos added.

A third Black show created by Lear was “Sanford and Son” which broadcast from 1972 to 1977.  The sitcom starred Redd Foxx as Fred Sanford, a junk dealer in Los Angeles. The show was known for its humor and an extensive cast of veteran Black actors and actresses that left a memorable cultural mark on television comedy.

Lear is not only known for his contributions to television but also for his activism. He has been an outspoken advocate for social and political issues. Lear’s shows often reflected his progressive views. Lear founded the advocacy organization People for the American Way in 1981, focusing on issues like civil liberties and separation of church and state.

Norman Lear has received numerous awards for his contributions to the television industry. He has won multiple Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award, and a Kennedy Center Honor, among other awards.

Lear was born in New Haven, Connecticut, and attended Samuel J. Tilden High School in Brooklyn, New York before dropping out in 1942 to join the United States Army Air Force in World War II.

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent investigative journalist and the publisher of Black Virginia News. She is a political analyst who appears regularly on #RolandMartinUnfiltered. She can be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke


Excerpt:
Norman Lear is not only known for his contributions to television but also for his activism. He has been an outspoken advocate for social and political issues. Lear’s shows often reflected his progressive views. Lear founded the advocacy organization People for the American Way in 1981, focusing on issues like civil liberties and separation of church and state.

Photo Caption:
Norman Lear, 2017 Kennedy Center Honoree delivers remarks after receiving his Kennedy Center Honor medal at the Kennedy Center Honor Dinner at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on December 2, 2017. (Photo: U.S. State Department Photo / Public Domain)

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@LVBurke @NNPA_BlackPress #InMemoriam #NormanLear

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