"Live in Front of a Studio Audience was a different kind of experiment, and a worthy one to try," says Alan Sepinwall. "I wouldn’t have wanted to see the setting updated to the present, even if the fans in the bleachers didn’t get references to people like segregationist Georgia governor Lester Maddox. Nor did anyone need to rewrite the scripts from scratch. But it would have been nice if (Woody) Harrelson, (Jamie) Foxx and some of the others had played their parts like they’d never seen the old shows. These are great actors! Seeing Woody Harrelson play Carroll O’Connor playing Archie Bunker was cute. Seeing his own direct take on Archie could have been a revelatory experience. There was enough of interest last night to be worth trying again, whether with more Lear shows or another classic. (Say, a Cheers script with Channing Tatum and Constance Wu as Sam and Diane?) Hopefully, though, the next attempt will try to be its own thing rather than just a lovingly slavish recreation."
Live in Front of a Studio Audience worked on multiple levels: "It was effective as a televised stage play; as, yes, an admittedly nostalgia-riddled exercise in watching contemporary actors try to nail the mannerisms of old sitcom characters; and as a reminder that the same social issues addressed in these nearly 50-year-old comedies remain relevant today," says Jen Chaney, adding: "Overall, everyone in the cast seemed to enjoy themselves and that gave this whole ABC experiment, directed by distinguished sitcom vet James Burrows, the type of verve that can’t be replicated in pre-recorded scripted fare. Given how well it went, I wouldn’t be surprised if ABC makes the live sitcom its version of the live musicals that NBC and Fox regularly stage. Even if it is a blatant nostalgia play, bringing some old TV history into the present seems like a smart move for ABC — and a reason for the rest of us to actually watch live network television for a change."
It was imperfect and messy, but ABC should do more of these specials: "The experience of watching a really rough preview performance was what came to mind repeatedly during ABC's Wednesday night special Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear's All in the Family and The Jeffersons," says Daniel Fienberg. "The cumbersomely titled dream project from Jimmy Kimmel felt like a star-studded goof at least as much as it felt like a validation of the timeless genius of Norman Lear. With more time to rehearse and prepare and refine, I think you'd have seen interpretations more tailored to the actors and less beholden to the originals. You'd surely have gotten tighter timing and more sense that the stars had been off-book for longer than a day or two. But you also probably wouldn't have gotten Woody Harrelson and Jamie Foxx and Will Ferrell and Marisa Tomei and Kerry Washington and Ike Barinholtz and Wanda Sykes to join forces for a TV production. My bottom-line thought was the slightly contradictory sensation that Live in Front of a Studio Audience was imperfect and frequently messy and that I really, really hope that ABC does this again."