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October 13, 2015

The man behind one of the most famous kisses and kiss-offs in TV history - VIDEO

by Danny Gallagher, posted Mar 5th 2009 9:02AM
Since I accepted TiVo as my personal savior, I have been afforded an opportunity to watch some great shows that air in the wee hours of the morning. Shows that, until now, have only been enjoyed by air traffic controllers with low attention spans, speed freaks and easily confused frat boys.

One of them is All in the Family, which airs at 8 a.m. on TV Land, the network with its rack of sour tasting reality shows and shrinking share of old sitcoms and serials that is in danger of becoming the new MTV.

A week ago, one of the show's -- and all of television history's greatest -- gems found its way to my "Now Playing List." That famous episode where Sammy Davis Jr. makes the trek to 704 Hauser Street and gives Archie a big wet one on the cheek. I had not seen this show since I was a kid, back in the 80s when All in the Family reruns flooded my television, but this most recent viewing unveiled an interesting factoid that almost went unnoticed.

For those not in the know and subsequently not cool, here's the lowdown. Archie picks up Sammy in his weekend cab job, and Sammy accidentally leaves his briefcase in the car. Sammy needs it right away, so he arranges to meet Archie at the Bunker abode. Archie being Archie credits Sammy with being a "credit to his race" and launches into the kind of bigoted, prejudiced but polite diatribe that gives Sammy some fuel to have a little fun.

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As the credits rolled, a familiar name popped up under the "written by" section. The name was Bill Dana. He's a comedian and actor who has done a lot of TV cameos and characters over the years, but he's probably best known for playing Jose Jimenez on The Steve Allen Show and The Bill Dana Show. They could not have picked a better person for the job.

Dana's name might not get mentioned along with boundary breakers like Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce and Bill Hicks, but it should be. Granted, he's no Lenny Bruce, but he's certainly no Carlos Mencia. His comedy, maybe in some weird and indirect way, helped bring issues like race and bigotry to the table and directly in your face. His character did use race as a launching pad for humor, but never at the expense of the person. The humor found fun in differences without resorting to name calling or treatment as second class citizens.

Dana could have just phoned in the episode as just another celebrity cameo episode that would have caused it to jump the shark with a pair of Acme rocket powered skis, something that even Norman Lear was afraid would happen. Instead, he accomplished something much greater. The episode accomplished a lot more than just putting Archie in his place. It opened a new door for edgy and satirical humor, and this from a show that had already broken down many barriers before this one. Without it, we probably would still have to wait for some of the edgier South Parks and Chappelle's Show to venture into completely new territory before it would go completely off the deep end, both for the star and his show.

So thanks, Bill, for giving me and my old man a good laugh, an even greater accomplishment since my old man who hates it when I call him my old man cracks a smile less often than Jack Webb.

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Emmy Archivist

Thanks Danny, for paying tribute to one of the truly greats. Bill's hardly ever given credit by anyone for this, and it was one of his finest scripts. You made his day! The first draft of this script is now at Emerson College's American Comedy Archives (emerson.edu/comedy)
Bill Dana has his own website, at bill-dana.com

March 09 2009 at 12:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chris McCoy

Thank you so much for sharing this. I really needed a good laugh today. Classic Archie and the wonderful Sammy Davis, Jr. This was an episode I'll never forget. I appreciate being able to revisit this show with such a wonderful clip.

March 08 2009 at 2:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It frightens me that Archie reminds me so much of George W. Bush.

March 05 2009 at 10:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Harold Love

I think the director, John Rich, merits a mention here.

March 05 2009 at 6:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Oh this episode is classic. Still very funny after all these years. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

March 05 2009 at 1:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My grandfather use to play Jose's Astronaut routine all the time as a kid. He and I laughed out loud for hours and it one of my favorite memories. Until now I didn't know his real name. Thank you.

March 05 2009 at 1:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

That was a great episode of a great old show. But, your article brings up a question: Why exactly is TV Land ignoring its entire reason for existence and instead trying to refashion itself into an even crappier version of MTV or Bravo albeit with even-more-unwatchable "reality" shows?

March 05 2009 at 11:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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