All in the Family TV-series

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Anything in the family The TV series produced by Bud Yorkin and Norman Lear is one of the most popular situation comedy (sitcom) in American history. The TV series aired on the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) television network between January 1971 and April 1979, during which nine seasons of the series were broadcast. It broke ground with the presentation of some of America’s more popular themes at the time, making it one of the most prominent shows that set the tone for other comedy programs. The show is considered to be one of the best, making it one of the most interesting shows to be analysed, given that it is one of the first of its kind to use a multi-camera technique. The purpose of this paper is to analyze All in the Family television program with regards to its narrative, the visual style and its historical context. This paper is divided into seven sections. The first section discusses the narrative of the program. The second section explores the cinematography techniques while the third section looks at the editing and mise-en-scene techniques. The fourth section discusses the audience the program seeks to reach while the fifth section looks at the program’s historical context and how it fits into the context. The sixth section addresses the contemporary changes that the program has brought to the industry. The last section draws some conclusions from the analysis.

Narrative of the Program

The show All in the Family is on a working-class family headed by a man, Archie Bunker who maintains intolerant and conservative perspectives of the world. Archie Bunker works in Queens as a dock foreman. His viewpoints on almost everything seem to clash with the viewpoints of almost everybody he interacts with particularly Mike Stivic, his son-in-law who is liberal but he enjoys calling him “Meathead.” In the first episodes of the show, Archie’s son-in-law Mike and his daughter Gloria often challenge his cynical views of the world. Archie lives with both Mike and Gloria as Mike gets his college education. In the second season of the show, Archie’s wife Edith brings suspicion that is marked with bitterness thus became one of the main themes of the show.

Cinematography Techniques

The show in features a typical setting of a sitcom that is a living room. The show employed some of cinematography techniques including framing, distance of framing, colors and cinema distance. The show was the first major series in American history at the time to be videotaped before a live studio audience. Unlike most of the sitcoms of the 1960s that used the single-camera technique minus the audience but with a laugh track that mimicked the response from the audience, All in the Family used multiple-camera. Lear used the multi-camera technique and tape to film the show before an audience. The success of the film influenced the use of multiple-camera format and the tape for the filming of many sitcoms that followed, particularly between the 1970s and 1990s.

The show had both the look and feel of many early live television due to the use of the videotape. This technique made the show to be compared to the initial live broadcasts of The Honeymooners since it had a similar look and feel. Even though Norman Lear originally wanted to shoot the show in black and white, CBS declined and insisted that it had to be color. Lear wanted to have a feeling of sepia tone to make the series have a feeling of an old family album.

Editing Techniques and Mise-en-scene Techniques

During the final season of the show, things had changed a lot. Taping before a live audience was stopped and already taped was played before the audience. The audience’s laughter would then be recorded and later be added to the original soundtrack. In editing the show, the end credits too were changed and read “All in the Family was played to a studio audience for live response.” During editing, the laughter that was added to the series was a genuine laughter that was recorded when the film was shown before the audience. The use of genuine laughter in the series make the episodes more realistic. The show takes pride in the use of the real laughter since in most of the shows broadcast before it did not feature genuine laughter in the episodes. The scene transitions in the series effectively bring out Lear’s intended concept of view’s feel of looking at an old family photo album. The techniques match the narrative of the program making it one of the successful sitcoms of the time.

Audience

All in the Family show is intended for general family viewing though the today it is categorised a thirteen-plus series. More specifically, the show intended to reach an audience aged thirteen years and above. Themes like racism marked with scenes of gun sales and gun related deaths are part of the show. The scenes, however, do not encourage gun sales on gun deaths and therefore do not limit the age limits for its audience. The low age limit made the show one of the most watched shows in the United States. Like many sitcoms during the time, All in the Family, the show was taped in front of an audience making this method of videotaping common following its success.

Historical Context

Before the late 1960s and 70s, pop culture made a big and attractive show of confronting the hot-button topics. What people talked about and how they talked about things was different from what the TV and the movies depicted and was also different from what people heard on the radio. However, in the year 1969, Norman Lear got the nod to go ahead to come up with an American version of Till Death Do Us Part, a British sitcom. Norman’s version had concepts similar to those later used in All in The Family. Even though Till Death Do Us Part was less gracefully directed and tonally less adventurous too, it managed to make the boundaries that mainstream entertainment and the popular art. However, it’s All in the Family that brought down the boundary letting the world into entertainment.

Contemporary Social or Political Issues

All in the Family addressed issues that were considered taboo at the time. Most people avoided talking about the issues yet they were very much part of the society at the time and they affected a lot of people. These issues included rape, racism, divorce, cancer (breast cancer), liberation of women and gay rights movement. Even though the program debuted in 1971 and ended in 1979, today the world is still grappling with most of these issues.

The show revolved around the everyday concerns and the effects they had on an average family, particularly the middle-class families.

All in the Family highlighted some of the controversial issues such as racial stereotypes and bigotry. These become part of the recurring themes in the show. For instance, when the Africa-Americans move into the initially all-white neighborhood. The show basically focusses on a loving family that struggles to cope with the fast changing world. However, it does so by interweaving it with other topic as reference points for its audience who want to be entertained with some innovation and something of substance.

Contemporary Changes to the Television Industry

The impact of All in the Family addresses contemporary changes in the television industry and beyond. The show caused a heated nationwide debate on the use of comedy as an effective way to control prejudice and social inequalities in the society. All in the Family was definitely not the first show that confronted the controversial topics but what is groundbreaking about it is that it moved comedy from the hot-button topics and tackled them through characters people could relate with weekly. Initially, such controversial issues were addressed through guest stars on drama shows that were seen as heavy-handed such as The Defenders. Also, the show helped in introducing a new generation of comedy programs on television. The new television shows avoided the domestic plotlines that had characterized the early years of television. They adopted tropical themes and topics that had lots of social significance. When looked at in this away then it would be right to conclude that even many decades after the show, it still continues to influence prime time programming.

Conclusion

All in the Family remains one of the best TV-series. Considering that the show aired on television at a time when most of the themes it depicts were a taboo, the program was successful. The narrative resonates well with the issues not only at the time of broadcasting the series on CBS but also in the society today. It addresses some of the contemporary issues including racism, homosexuality, women liberation, cancer, impotence and abortion. Using cinematography and editing techniques such as multiple-camera format and genuine laughter in the comedy series, All in the Family TV-series effectively brought out the themes making it one of the most influential television programs. Its success in effectively addressing some of the social and political issues is what brought contemporary changes in the television industry that are witnessed even today many decades after the TV-series broadcasts on CBS television network.

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