A little part of me was hoping that Wednesday’s restaging of an episode of “All in the Family” and an episode of “The Jeffersons” wouldn’t be a ratings hit.
Then the special would surely become a one-off tribute to Norman Lear and the enduring brilliance of his work. We’d move on with a renewed sense of just how smart those comedies were, aware of their continued relevance regarding race, bigotry, class, and gender.
But the 90-minute special turned out to be a ratings success for ABC. It averaged 10.3 million total viewers, and it won the competition in the 18-49 demo. Not including awards telecasts, “Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear’s ‘All in the Family’ and ‘The Jeffersons’” brought in ABC’s highest Wednesday in six months.
I’m hoping ABC won’t get greedy about this. Watching Woody Harrelson do his Caroll O’Connor and Jamie Foxx do his Sherman Hemsley was amusing — but only because it was all just a big primetime fancy that Jimmy Kimmel brought to the air. On a weekly basis, those performances would be hard to take. Likewise Marisa Tomei as Edith and Wanda Sykes as Louise.
With the live setting, the mistakes, the audience cheers, the actors’ joy in getting to take on these classic roles, and the surprise appearance of Marla Gibbs (the original Florence), it worked best as a whim.