When the original All in the Family and The Jeffersons creator Norman Lear was told his classic TV series “would not work today,” it was all the motivation he needed to prove the public wrong. Now, according to Deadline, an Oscar-caliber, star-studded cast is set to light up prime time for a one-night live TV special reviving the ’70s classics.
All in the Family was a beacon of political and social conversations in American homes for almost a full decade during a crucial time for race relations. From 1971 through 1979, the series followed Archie Bunker (played by Carroll O’Connor), a lovable yet brash, bigoted, conservative working-class husband. He’s a WWII veteran and a no-nonsense, toxic masculine, homophobic, meat-eating, sports-watching man’s man. There are no safe spaces, no emotional-support animals or political correctness, and no (willing) apologies given in the Bunker household. Antics ensue as Archie frequently clashes with his super-liberal son-in-law and daughter, while his wife, Edith (Jean Stapleton), tries to keep the peace by softening her husband’s heart and championing trendy topics like women’s rights and calling out racism.
The success of All in the Family led to the spin-off sitcom The Jeffersons, which followed George and Louise Jefferson, a married black couple who lived next door to the Bunkers. The show, which ran from 1975 to 1985, became one of TV’s longest-running shows featuring black actors. As George and Weezie moved on up to the East Side of wealth and success, the show started a new conversation of black American upward mobility, a conversation that would later be deepened with family sitcoms such as The Cosby Show. With George Jefferson’s biting and brutal truths spoken, the series highlighted what it was really like to be a black man in a white man’s working world. Notably, with the introduction of characters Tom and Helen Willis (played by Franklin Cover and Roxie Roker), The Jeffersons also became the first show with an interracial couple in the spotlight (unless you count Ricky and Lucy).
The live event—which Lear is hosting with Jimmy Kimmel—will feature a remake of one episode from each ’70s classic, with James Burrows directing both episodes. Joining them as executive producers are Brent Miller, Adam McKay, Justin Theroux, and Will Ferrell (who is also in the cast).
According to Deadline:
Woody Harrelson will play Archie Bunker, with Marisa Tomei as wife Edith in the recreation of All In The Family. Jamie Foxx and Wanda Sykes take the roles of George and Louise Jefferson in the All in the Family spinoff, The Jeffersons.
Ellie Kemper will play Gloria Stivic, Will Ferrell will appear as Tom Willis and Justina Machado is set to play Florence Johnston, with more casting announcements to come.
Kimmel, who described the event as a “dream come true,” said, “The fact that a group of Oscar winners eagerly agreed to play these iconic characters is testament to the greatness of these shows and their creator, Norman Lear.”
Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear’s “All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons” will air Wednesday, May 22, 8-9:30 p.m. ET.
Correction: Sept. 22, 2019, 11:53 a.m. ET: This story has been edited to remove unattributed text.