Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear's All in the Family and The Jeffersons

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Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear's All in the Family and The Jeffersons
Based onAll in the Family and The Jeffersons
by Norman Lear
Directed byAndy Fisher
James Burrows (segments)
Opening theme
  • "Those Were the Days" performed by Woody Harrelson and Marisa Tomei
  • "Movin' On Up" performed by Jennifer Hudson
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
Executive producer(s)
CinematographyGary Baum
Running time90 minutes[1]
Production company(s)
DistributorSony Pictures Home Entertainment
Original networkABC
Original releaseMay 22, 2019 (2019-05-22)

Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear's All in the Family and The Jeffersons is a television special that was broadcast by ABC on May 22, 2019. Conceptualized and hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, the special featured live recreations of episodes of the sitcom All in the Family and its spin-off The Jeffersons, featuring all-star casting.

The special focused upon two episodes involving George Jefferson (who was played in the special by Jamie Foxx), with All in the Family represented by "Henry's Farewell"—the character's on-screen debut, and "A Friend in Need"—the first episode of The Jeffersons. The original episodes aired in 1973 and 1975 on CBS respectively.

The special was seen by 10.4 million viewers. A repeat of the special was seen by 2.49 million viewers.


All in the Family is about a typical working-class Caucasian family living in Queens, New York. Its patriarch is Archie Bunker (O'Connor), an outspoken, narrow-minded man. Archie's wife Edith (Jean Stapleton) is sweet and understanding, though somewhat naïve and uneducated; her husband sometimes disparagingly calls her "dingbat". Their one child, Gloria (Sally Struthers), is generally kind and good-natured like her mother, but displays traces of her father's stubbornness and temper; unlike them, however, she is a feminist. Gloria is married to college student Michael Stivic (Reiner) – referred to as "Meathead" by Archie – whose values are likewise influenced and shaped by the counterculture of the 1960s. The two couples represent the real-life clash of values between the Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers. For much of the series, the Stivics live in the Bunkers' home to save money, providing abundant opportunity for them to irritate each other.

The show is set in the Astoria section of Queens, with the vast majority of scenes taking place in the Bunkers' home at 704 Hauser Street. Occasional scenes take place in other locations, especially during later seasons, such as Kelsey's Bar, a neighborhood tavern where Archie spends a good deal of time and eventually purchases, and the Stivics' home after Mike and Gloria move to the house next door. The house seen in the opening is at 89-70 Cooper Avenue near the junction of the Glendale, Forest Hills, and Rego Park sections of Queens.[2] Supporting characters represent the demographics of the neighborhood, especially the Jeffersons, a black family, who live in the house next door in the early seasons.

The Jeffersons focuses on George and Louise Jefferson, a prosperous African-American couple who have been able to move from Queens to Manhattan owing to the success of George's dry-cleaner chain. The show was launched as the second spin-off of All in the Family, on which the Jeffersons had been the neighbors of Archie and Edith Bunker.[3][4] The show was the creation of Norman Lear.[3][5] The Jeffersons eventually evolved into more of a traditional sitcom but did reference such issues as alcoholism, racism, suicide, gun control, being transgender, and adult illiteracy. The epithets "nigger" and "honky" were used occasionally, especially during the earlier seasons.[6][7]


Episodes recreated[edit]

SeriesTitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateOriginal
episode no.
All in the Family"Henry's Farewell"Bob LaHendro and John RichDon NichollOctober 20, 1973 (1973-10-20)Season 4
Episode 6
The Bunkers and the Jeffersons have a farewell party for Henry, where Archie incites another argument.
The Jeffersons"A Friend in Need"Jack SheaStory by : Barry Harman & Harve Brosten
Teleplay by : Don Nicholl, Michael Ross, Bernie West, Barry Harman & Harve Brosten
January 18, 1975 (1975-01-18)Season 1
Episode 1
When they experience growing pains in their posh new digs, George demands that Louise hire her friend as their maid. However, when the couple ends up hiring sassy maid Florence instead, George and Weezy learn you can "move on up" without looking down upon others.


The special was announced on April 19, 2019: Kimmel has deemed All in the Family and The Jeffersons as his favorite TV series of all-time,[8] and stated that "the fact that a group of Oscar winners eagerly agreed to play these iconic characters is a testament to the greatness of these shows and their creator, Norman Lear."[9] On May 10, 2019, it was announced that Anthony Anderson, Ike Barinholtz, and Sean Hayes would be part of the cast.[10]

Live in Front of a Studio Audience was broadcast from the Sony Pictures Studios lot in Culver City, California.[11] Many of the details regarding the special, including which episodes would be performed, guest stars, and other aspects, were kept as surprises to encourage viewership. Lear remarked that "the whole thing was Jimmy's idea", and that the two shows' relevance remained the same in the current political climate, explaining that "seriously, the most amazing thing is listening to these two shows where we agreed word for word — we would not change a word, and nothing has been changed". Lear also hoped that the special could become a larger franchise in its own right.[1]

Justina Machado was originally announced as playing Florence Johnston: however, during the live broadcast, original The Jeffersons cast member Marla Gibbs made a surprise appearance to reprise her role as Florence.[12][13] Veteran actress Fran Bennett portrayed Mother Jefferson.[14] The original episodes aired in 1973 and 1975 on CBS respectively.[15]


Critical response[edit]

Film critic Caroline Framke of Variety felt that "with meticulous attention to set detail and wig shapes, ABC's live staging of 'Henry's Farewell' and 'A Friend in Need' managed to feel both like an artifact of a nostalgic past and the urgent present", noting that Archie had "retained his notoriously ugly streaks of sexism and racism", while the word "nigger" had to be censored from the Jeffersons episode due to current broadcast standards.[16] Framke similarly noted that "some of the punchlines reveal[ed] their age, but as Lear warned us ahead of time, far more hit close to home" (especially if one were to, for example, "swap out every Nixon mention for Trump"), and that "the deja vu does tend to create an extra depressing level to the proceedings." She felt that most of the starring roles were trying to "impersonate" their original actors with mixed results (also noting that Jamie Foxx had broken character to point out his flubbed line, blurting out that "[everyone's] sitting at home thinking their TV is messed up"),[17] but that Marisa Tomei "stole just about every scene", and that they were backed by a supporting cast that "more often than not, have had ample experience on their own comedies borne of the Lear tradition". She concluded that "TV could frankly do a whole lot worse than gathering talented performers to tackle smart, topical comedy with such visceral joy that they're practically vibrating off the screen. That the material remains so stubbornly timely is a bonus — and a warning."[16]


The special was seen by 10.4 million viewers, with a 1.7 share among viewers 18–49, making it the most-watched program of the night. The live special was followed by a half-hour retrospective on the two shows, All About All in the Family & The Jeffersons (seen by 7.9 million), and the series finale[18] of Whiskey Cavalier (3.64 million).[19][20] The special also gave ABC its most watched season-closing Wednesday since 2007.[21][22]

An encore presentation of the special and retrospective were aired on May 25, 2019, with a 0.4/2 rating/share and 2.49 million viewers.[23][24]


Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Variety Special (Live) Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear's All in the Family and The Jeffersons Pending [25]
Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special James Burrows and Andy Fisher Pending
Outstanding Production Design for a Variety Special Bernard Vyzga, Richard Rohrer and Ron Olsen Pending


  1. ^ a b Patten, Dominic (May 22, 2019). "Norman Lear & Producer Brent Miller On 'All In The Family' & 'The Jeffersons' Live Redux Tonight & A Potential Franchise". Deadline Hollywood. United States: Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved May 22, 2019.
  2. ^ "ZIP Code Lookup". USPS. Washington, D.C.: U. S. Government. Retrieved May 22, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Adams, Val (January 18, 1975). "'The Jeffersons' premiere on CBS in 1975". New York Daily News. New York City: Tribune Publishing. Retrieved May 22, 2019.
  4. ^ Robinson, Louie (January 1976). "The Jeffersons: A look at life on black America's new 'Striver's Row'". Ebony. Chicago: Ebony Media Operations, LLC. Retrieved May 22, 2019.
  5. ^ Deane, Pam. "The Jeffersons". Encyclopedia of Television. Chicago: Museum of Broadcast Communications. Retrieved May 22, 2019.
  6. ^ Leonard, David J.; Guerrero, Lisa (2013). African Americans on Television: Race-ing for Ratings. Santa Barbara, California: Praeger Publishers. ISBN 978-0275995157.
  7. ^ Cadet, Danielle (July 25, 2012). "'The Jeffersons': How Sherman Hemsley And The Sitcom Changed The Landscape Of American Television". HuffPost. New York City: AOL. Retrieved May 22, 2019.
  8. ^ Patten, Dominic (May 23, 2019). "'All in the Family' & 'The Jeffersons' Live Shines With Jamie Foxx's Flub, Surprise Guest & More Than Nostalgia". Deadline Hollywood. United States: Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved May 23, 2019.
  9. ^ Lenker, Maureen Lee (April 19, 2019). "Jimmy Kimmel, all-star cast to recreate All in the Family, The Jeffersons episodes in live special". Entertainment Weekly. New York City: Meredith Corporation. Retrieved May 22, 2019.
  10. ^ Lenker, Maureen Lee (May 10, 2019). "ABC's live sitcom event adds Anthony Anderson, Ike Barinholtz, Sean Hayes, and more to cast". Entertainment Weekly. New York City: Meredith Corporation. Retrieved May 22, 2019.
  11. ^ SchneiderVariety, Michael (May 21, 2019). "Inside Jimmy Kimmel and Norman Lear's 'All in the Family' and 'The Jeffersons' Live Remake Special". New York City: Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved May 22, 2019.
  12. ^ Lenker, Maureen Lee (May 22, 2019). "Original Jeffersons cast member made surprise cameo on Live in Front of a Studio Audience". Entertainment Weekly. New York City: Meredith Corporation. Retrieved May 22, 2019.
  13. ^ Roots, Kimberly (May 22, 2019). "The Jeffersons' Marla Gibbs Reprises Role of Florence in Surprise Live Appearance — Watch Video". TVLine. United States: Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved May 23, 2019.
  14. ^ Mason, Charlie (May 22, 2019). "The Jeffersons Live Recap: Did the Cast Make It Look Weezy… Er, Easy?". TVLine. United States: Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved May 23, 2019.
  15. ^ Keveney, Bill (May 23, 2019). "Famous cast sticks live-TV landing in Norman Lear's 'All in the Family,' 'The Jeffersons'". USA Today. McLean, Virginia: Gannett Company. Retrieved May 24, 2019.
  16. ^ a b SchneiderVariety, Michael (May 22, 2019). "TV Review: ABC's Live 'All in the Family' and 'The Jeffersons'". New York City: Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved May 22, 2019.
  17. ^ Nemetz, Dave (May 23, 2019). "All in the Family: Jamie Foxx Flubs Line, Breaks Character on Live TV — Watch". TVLine. United States: TVLine Media, LLC. (Penske Media Corporation). Retrieved May 23, 2019.
  18. ^ "'Whiskey Cavalier' Not Being Revived By ABC, Showrunner Says". The Wrap. Retrieved May 24, 2019.
  19. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (May 23, 2019). "'Whiskey Cavalier': ABC Explores Bringing Back Canceled Series For Season 2". Deadline Hollywood. United States: Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved May 23, 2019.
  20. ^ Otterson, Joe; Otterson, Joe (May 23, 2019). "TV Ratings: ABC's 'Live in Front of a Studio Audience' Easily Tops Wednesday". Variety. New York City: Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved May 23, 2019.
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ Welch, Alex (May 26, 2019). "TV Ratings Saturday: 'Ransom' season finale stays steady". TV by the Numbers. Calabasas, California: Tribune Media. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  24. ^ de Moraes, Lisa (May 23, 2019). "ABC To Repeat Performance Of Norman Lear Sitcoms 'All In The Family,' 'The Jeffersons'". Deadline Hollywood. United States: Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved May 30, 2019.
  25. ^ "Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear's "All in the Family" and "The Jeffersons"". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved July 16, 2019.

External links[edit]