When a particular talent holds a lot of sway at a network, that can manifest in quite a few ways. The result can be anything from tense contract negotiations to vanity projects to consequence-free bad behavior. (Or almost consequence-free: Hey, Roseanne.) But someone like Jimmy Kimmel, who has been one of the prominent faces on ABC for over 15 years, has largely wielded his power for good. His outspoken turn to politics in 2017 to advocate for children's health care was one instance where a man with a platform and a lot of power was fearless in a good way. Tonight, Kimmel turns that fearlessness in an artistic direction, with a star-studded LIVE TV production of two of the most formative and fearless TV series of their own era: All in the Family and The Jeffersons.
Putting a spotlight on the TV contributions of Norman Lear is never the wrong thing to do. Lear was and is a giant in the industry, and All in the Family and The Jeffersons confronted the American TV-viewing audience with the truths of a changing America. Kimmel choosing to re-create these shows ought to be telling. Lear has already had a hand in the revival of one of his series, One Day at a Time on Netflix. That show updated its characters and premise to be more relevant in the current day. For this re-staging, the producers say they'll stick to the original scripts, promising they're as relevant and controversial today as they were 40 years ago.
As far as Kimmel is concerned, he told Howard Sterns doesn't care if the audience will be too sensitive for these shows today. Which feels like a recipe for morning-after controversy. But there's no doubt that there's some timeless wisdom of Lear's to be tapped into if a producer like Kimmel so desires to find it.
SPECIAL PRESENTATION: The talent lineup for Live in Front of a Studio Audience is incredibly strong. This re-creation of two episodes of All in the Family and The Jeffersons — performed live — will include Woody Harrelson (as Archie Bunker), Marisa Tomei (as his wife, Edith), Jamie Foxx and Wanda Sykes (George and Weezy Jefferson), Ellie Kemper (as Gloria Stivic), Will Ferrell (as Tom Willis), and Justina Machado (as Florence Johnston). That's still not everybody in the universe of these two shows, so tune in to see who else shows up. 8:00 PM ET on ABC
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