His birthday is Wednesday. He planned to spend it in Vermont “in what I call the Yiddish port of Hyannis with all my children and grandchildren. Right now, I feel like I can do 100 seconds.” ABC will honor Lear on September 22, with a promise to be a “star-studded” special titled ” Norman Lear: 100 Years of Music and Laughter.
100 seconds will definitely be welcome. At least, as actress Rita Moreno suggests, when asked this week about Lear’s historic birthday, “I wish there was a way they could copy it. Wouldn’t that be cool? … What a super, superhuman addition to the human race.”
Or, as his longtime friend Mel Brooks put it, via email: “Norman has so much to offer us, I don’t think 100 is nearly enough.”
By all accounts, he’s one of the most important figures in modern pop culture – so much so that by now you probably know everything you should know about Norman Lear.
You probably know his prolific exorcism style that he created and produced some of the most critically acclaimed TV series of the ’70s like “Everyone in the family“love“happy times“Jefferson“One day at a time” And the “Marie Hartmann and Marie Hartman. And you might be aware of the fact that he and his colleagues received praise for addressing the hot-button issues on those shows, including racism and abortion, and for using the humor and humanity of his characters to expose and explore what he saw as the “folly” of the human condition. Not to mention the fact, as Moreno points out, that his criticisms are often the target of “mocking their asses”.
“I have no idea how he did it,” she adds.
You’ve no doubt heard of his political activism, which has spread far beyond the humanitarian messages baked into his shows. In 1981, he founded People for the American Way, a non-profit organization intended to challenge the agenda of the moral majority and which eventually became a Committee for Political Action. In 2004, he founded the Declare Yourself campaign to get young people to vote. And he remains a true believer that the best of the country will save her if she needs to save.
“America has never really needed its steadfast, caring citizens,” says Lear. “Percent, we’re a long way from the America I think I was born in. I don’t want to wake up in the morning without hope, so I have faith that enough sane, caring Americans are fully devoted to the rights guaranteed by the Constitution to all of us and will find their way.”
Summing up a hundred years of Lear’s life is a near-impossible task, but Rich West, a professor of family communication at Emerson College who has taught a course on Lear’s career, offers thoughtful framing, and calls Lear a “electronic therapist.”
His shows have forced people to confront their own values, prejudices, and beliefs. And in fact, it’s the therapists who facilitate this.”
“He was committed, unabashedly, to putting these provocative themes on TV,” West says, citing “Maude’s Dilemma,” a two-part episode of Maude in which he finds Bea Arthur’s Maude Findlay thinking—and The end gets – an abortion. The controversial episode aired two months before 1973 Raw vs. Wade resolution. And this is just one of the many times that Lear sitcoms wrestle with difficult themes.
“You think about rape, you think about mental health, you think about inflation, you think about alcoholism, you think about domestic violence and poverty. And imagine what? All of those resonate today in 2022,” says West. “That’s why I think he’s an icon. Not because of what he wrote, but because his themes are sustainable today. And we have conversations today about the same things he was writing about in the ’70s.”
His shows “made you feel uncomfortable. They made you feel awkward. They made you feel happy and sad. But they always spark some thought long after the credits of the show, if you’re willing to go there,” West adds.” And I think that’s where the part is. decisive of his influence.”
Justina Machado, who starred as Penelope Alvarez in the movie 2017 Netflix Reboot In “One Day at a Time,” which Lear executive produced, he describes him as an “American hero,” “a true friend,” and a “genius.” “Getting to know and working with Norman has been a highlight of my life and career,” Machado says by email. Brent Miller, Head of Production at Lear’s Act III Productions, describes him as “a mentor in life and work,” a “friend,” a “partner” and “a daily inspiration.”
Moreno, who turned 90 last year, is co-starring in the updated “One Day at a Time.” She and Lear became good friends; They like to cut public appearances, pretending to be brawl lovers. makes her laugh.
“It’s incredible because in a sense, it has never changed in the most significant way,” she says. “You know, his policy hasn’t changed. If anything, they might have a touch more radical. But, you know, they were already radical in the first place.”
Is he a genius? “The only reason I don’t use the word is because I’m sure everyone uses it. It would be nice to be a little innovative,” Moreno says. “His sense of humor is divine.”
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