All in the Family is an American sitcom that was originally broadcast on the CBS television network from January 12, 1971, to April 8, 1979. In September 1979, a new show, Archie Bunker’s Place, picked up where All in the Family had ended. That sitcom lasted another four years, ending its run in 1983.
Produced by Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin, the original pilot was entitled Justice for All and was developed for ABC. Tom Bosley, Jack Warden, and Jackie Gleason were all considered for the role of Archie Bunker. In fact, CBS wanted to buy the rights to the original British show Till Death Us Do Part and retool it specifically for Gleason, who was under contract to them, but producer Norman Lear beat out CBS for the rights and offered the show to ABC.
In the pilot, Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton played Archie and Edith Justice. Kelly Jean Peters played Gloria and Tim McIntire played her husband, Richard. It was taped in October 1968 in New York City. After screening the first pilot, ABC gave the producers more money to shoot a second pilot entitled Those Were the Days, which was taped in February 1969 in Hollywood. Candice Azzara played Gloria and Chip Oliver played Richard. D’Urville Martin played Lionel Jefferson in both pilots. After ABC turned down the second pilot, CBS developed the third pilot, entitled All in the Family. This pilot had the final cast and was the series’ first episode.
All in the Family revolved around the life of a working class bigot and his family. Despite being considerably softer in its approach than its BBC predecessor, Till Death Us Do Part, the show broke ground in its depiction of issues previously considered unsuitable for U.S. network television comedy, such as racism, homosexuality, women’s liberation, rape, miscarriage, abortion, breast cancer, the Vietnam War, menopause, and impotence. Through depicting these controversial issues, the series became arguably one of television’s most influential comedic programs, as it injected the sitcom format with real-life conflicts.
The show ranked number-one in the yearly Nielsen ratings from 1971 to 1976. It became the first television series to reach the milestone of having topped the Nielsen ratings for five consecutive years, a mark later matched by The Cosby Show and surpassed by American Idol, which notched eight consecutive seasons at #1. The episode “Sammy’s Visit” was ranked #13 on TV Guide’s 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time ranked All in the Family as #4. Bravo also named the show’s protagonist, Archie Bunker, TV’s greatest character of all time. In 2013, the Writers Guild of America ranked All in the Family the fourth best written TV series ever and TV Guide ranked it as the fourth greatest show of all time.