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Those Were the Days: Why All in the Family Still Matters (Hardcover)

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Between 1971 and 1979, All in the Family was more than just a wildly popular television sitcom that routinely drew 50 million viewers weekly. It was also a touchstone of American life, so much so that the living room chairs of the two main characters have spent the last 40 years on display at the Smithsonian. How did a show this controversial and boundary-breaking manage to become so widely beloved?

Those Were the Days is the first full-length study of this remarkable television program. Created by Norman Lear and produced by Bud Yorkin, All in the Family dared to address such taboo topics as rape, abortion, menopause, homosexuality, and racial prejudice in a way that no other sitcom had before. Through a close analysis of the sitcom’s four main characters—boorish bigot Archie Bunker, his devoted wife Edith, their feminist daughter Gloria, and her outspoken liberal husband Mike—Jim Cullen demonstrates how All in the Family was able to bridge the generation gap and appeal to a broad spectrum of American viewers in an age when a network broadcast model of television created a shared national culture.

Locating All in the Family within the larger history of American television, this book shows how it transformed the medium, not only spawning spinoffs like Maude and The Jeffersons, but also helping to inspire programs like Roseanne, Married... with Children, and The Simpsons. And it raises the question: could a show this edgy ever air on broadcast television today?

About the Author

JIM CULLEN is the author of numerous books, including The American Dream: A Short History of an Idea that Shaped a Nation (2003) and Sensing the Past: Hollywood Stars and Historical Visions (2012). A resident of Hastings on Hudson, New York, he has taught at Harvard, Brown, and Sarah Lawrence College, and is a longtime History teacher at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in New York.

Praise For…

"Little did I know about the world Archie Bunker and All in the Family were born into until I read Jim Cullen’s informed and perceptive Those Were the Days: Why All In The Family Still Matters."
— Norman Lear

"Jim Cullen's beguiling scholarship offers a nimble treatment of what was arguably American television's most influential scripted series, made in the waning days of the now bygone mass audience."
— Robert Thompson

"'All in the Family' pushed the envelope on race and gender. Has America regressed since then?" by Jim Cullen
— USA Today

"A very accessible and highly readable study that situates All in the Family aptly in its historical moment. It illuminates why the show became a landmark and what makes it so special to this day."
— Christina von Hodenberg

"From how each character evolved to the family's resemblance to real-life changes and developing social awareness, Those Were the Days provides a solid study that will serve as discussion material for any media studies or American social history classroom." 
— Donovan's Literary Services

"Those were the days: As ‘All in the Family’ turns 50, a look at why it succeeded" by Jim Cullen
— New York Daily News

"Norman Lear deserves his Golden Globe award — does America deserve him?" by Benjamin Lear
— The Foreward

Mary Baker Eddy Library podcast: Jean Stapleton and the spiritual dimensions of “All in the Family” episode
— Seekers and Scholars podcast
Product Details
ISBN: 9781978805781
ISBN-10: 1978805780
Publisher: Rutgers University Press
Publication Date: January 17th, 2020
Pages: 216
Language: English