"When I first heard about Live in Front of a Studio Audience, it seemed like one of the more overt examples of America — or maybe just broadcast television — doing its damnedest to resurrect the monoculture that presided over the country in the ’70s and ’80s," Todd VanDerWerff says of last week's ABC special tribute to The Jeffersons and All in the Family. "Back then, broadcast networks were the dominant social force, and the fact that All in the Family and The Jeffersons’ scripts weren’t going to be updated at all for the present era made me fear that the project was a simple nostalgia play. But the actual effect was something far more complicated and fascinating. By dragging these episodes out of the 1970s and into the 2010s, Live in Front of a Studio Audience offered some reassurance that our problems are not unique to our era, that we are not exclusively gifted with a world that seems to be falling apart — while also subtly insisting that overreaching presidents and the vast income gap between white and black Americans will always be with us. But if you think about that a little more, you start to realize how depressing it is to be reminded that our problems are not unique to our era, that we are not exclusively gifted with a world that seems to be falling apart. There’s a certain optimism to be found in realizing that the past isn’t as rosy as you remember it, but there’s also a kind of glum realism that sets in when you realize the script for the Jeffersons pilot — in which a newly rich black couple tries to find their place in a high-rise building — would require only the most minor of tweaks to work in 2019."
TOPICS: ABC, All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Live in Front of a Studio Audience, Norman Lear, Retro TV