Norman Lear, titan of American prime-time television, dies | Ents & Arts News


Norman Lear, the writer, director and producer credited with revolutionizing American prime-time television, has died.

A spokesman for Lear, 101 years old, said he died Tuesday night at his home Los Angeles home surrounded by his family.

His shows, which include All In The Family and Maude, helped define primetime television through his bold and controversial comedies in the 1970s.

2017 Kennedy Center Honorees singer Lionel Richie (L), television writer Norman Lear (C) and rapper LL Cool J chat among themselves at the end of a gala dinner at the US State Department in Washington, U.S., December 2, 2017. REUTERS /Mike Theiler
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Norman Lear with Lionel Richie (left) and LL Cool J in 2017

Lear’s shows also launched the careers of Rob Reiner and Valerie Bertinelli and created middle-aged superstars of Carroll O’Connor, Bea Arthur and Redd Foxx.

All In The Family was based on the British TV comedy Till Death Us Do Part and was immersed in the headlines of the day, while also drawing on Lear’s childhood memories of his tempestuous father.

By the end of 1971, All In The Family was number one in the ratings and the character Archie Bunker was a pop culture fixture with then US President Richard Nixon among his fans.

The show covered hard-hitting topics such as racism, feminism and the Vietnam War.

But Nixon objected to an episode about a close friend of Archie’s who turns out to be gay while privately smoking to White House aides, saying the show “glorified” same-sex relationships.

A 1972 episode of the spin-off series Maude also sparked protests when the title character became the first on television to have an abortion.

Lear created television well into the 90s, rebooting One Day At A Time for Netflix in 2017 and exploring income inequality for the documentary series America Divided in 2016.

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His success also enabled him to express his political beliefs beyond the small screen – he actively donated to Democratic candidates in the United States.

In 2000, Lear and a partner bought a copy of the Declaration of Independence for $8.14 million (£6.45 million) and sent it on a cross-country tour.

Lear was also on Forbes magazine’s list of the 400 richest people in America in 1986, with an estimated net worth of $225 million (£178 million).

But he didn’t make the cut the following year following a $112m (£88.7m) divorce settlement for his second wife, Frances.

He is survived by his third wife Lyn and his six children.


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