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You’re in the business – when you’re a writer, producer, director – to get ratings.
– Norman Lear
That’s the heart of it: My shows were not that controversial with the American people. They were controversial with the people who think for the American people.
Life is about having a good time, and it was a good time. We did some things well and some things poorly, but that was always the case.
When we went on the air, I didn’t want to be interrupted for an act-one curtain.
So we gravitated to shows and issues and causes that made people care.
TV that people will never see, that giant international corporations will never touch, will never pay your salary.
I think the greater responsibility, in terms of morality, is where leadership begins.
We got ratings. It isn’t that they won’t quarrel with you, or say you’re always right. But as long as you stay strong and the ratings are good and you’re reasonable – I don’t think we fought unreasonably. We basically won that right.
In this nation, leadership is dollars.
It crossed our minds early on that the more an audience cared – we were working before, on average, 240, live people. If you could get them caring – the more they cared, the harder they laughed.
We did an episode on Good Times which came out of a newspaper article about the incidence of hypertension in black males being higher than whites, and increasing. So we did a show in which James, the father on Good Times, had hypertension.
But it also became the experience, or was the experience, of the writers who were attracted to this kind of humor. They’re all men or women who come from the same kind of experience in their own lives.
There was no real controversy with All In The Family. That came from the people on the business end.
Life goes on pretty much the same way. I’ve been working on a couple of films on the side. You may see some more. You may even see another television show.
In the area we’re discussing, leadership begins on Madison Avenue, on the desks and in the offices of people who spend hundreds of millions of dollars buying what will get them ratings.
Life is made up of small pleasures. Happiness is made up of those tiny successes. The big ones come too infrequently. And if you don’t collect all these tiny successes, the big ones don’t really mean anything.
But you know, my dad called me the laziest white kid he ever met. When I screamed back at him that he was putting down a race of people to call me lazy, his answer was that’s not what he was doing, and that I was also the dumbest white kid he ever met.
I guess because the shows were activist in their own way – the marriage of my public activism and my career activism, you know – people understand me very well. They also understand there’s a very strong bipartisan part in all of this.
I wanted to just do a one-act play for 26 minutes, with commercials at the beginning and end. For years, I couldn’t get my way. They wanted to interrupt three times.
At great, great remove sit the head of General Electric, the head of News Corp, the head of Viacom, or the head of this giant international corporation that wants these ratings.
Maybe they continued to agree with Archie Bunker – as I said earlier, you can’t change people’s minds, but you can get them to think.
Originally, with all the shows, we went looking for belly laughs.
I stop and look at traffic accidents. I won’t hang around, but when I hear something is terrible, as bad as it is, I’ve gotta look at it.
Granted, the writers, directors, producers, and that community make a great deal of money. But they might be choosing to do a whole lot of other things for the living they make.
Nobody doubts my partisanship, but a lot of the activity is nonpartisan.
We are a country of excess. So it’s not the violence, per se, but the exacerbation and constant repetition.