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'All in the Family': 12 Memorable Moments

by Bob Sassone, posted Jan 12th 2011 8:00AM
All in the FamilyWould 'All in the Family' make it today?

Today, Jan. 12, marks the 40th anniversary of the CBS show's debut, and it's hard to say if the comedy would've been as influential in today's television landscape.

While there are plenty of shows that feature sex and violence -- and even cartoons like 'South Park' handle some political/cultural issues -- there aren't many that deal with politics, race and sex the way this show did. It was controversial then, but with today's 24-hour news, cable pundits, the Internet and political correctness, it would get a lot of heat (if it made it on the air at all).

So in honor of 'All in the Family's' anniversary, here's our list of 12 great moments from the show. It's hard to pick just a dozen, but these are all classic.

1. A visit from Sammy Davis, Jr. The thing about Archie Bunker was that he wasn't a racist in the most nasty definition of that word. He didn't deny blacks access to his house or utter the worst slang terms. He just came from another generation and another way of thinking. And he was massively clueless and ignorant.

The singer-actor accidentally leaves his briefcase in Archie's cab and comes over to the house to get it, which leads to a very funny scene where Archie can't seem to say the right thing at all and everyone in the neighborhood comes over to see Davis. The line at 3:54 will crack you up.

2. Archie meets Mike. This is a flashback episode where Mike comes over to the house for the first time, and Archie gives him the nickname that will stick with him for the next several years. (Trivia: Archie's nickname when he was a kid was also Meathead.)

3. Archie and Edith meet the swingers. And we're not talking Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn. Edith answers an ad in the, um, swap section of a newspaper because she wants to meet new people. (Vincent Gardenia played the role of a swinger before he played neighbor Frank Lorenzo.)

4. Archie's rebuttal. Archie goes down to a local TV station to give a rebuttal to the station's editorial about guns. This debate is still going on.

5. Archie and the $20 bill. A mix-up involving money is a staple of sitcoms. Just the other night I was watching a 'Dick Van Dyke Show' episode with a scene similar to this. Archie accidentally gives George Jefferson a phony $20 bill, leading to a funny math problem.

6. Archie kills himself. Edith was known for talking and talking and talking and talking. Sometimes Archie would get so annoyed he'd mimic offing himself so he didn't have to listen to her anymore.

7. Mike and Gloria leave for California. A lot of people weren't expecting the emotional bond between Archie and Mike.

8. Edith slaps Archie. Archie promises Edith that he won't gamble anymore, but then she gets a phone call ...

9. Archie might have been poisoned. This time Archie might really be poisoned, after eating some canned mushrooms. This show did frantic slapstick just as well as it did political humor.

10. The chair trick. Gloria shows Archie something women can do that men can't. I bet you'll be trying this tonight with your family.

11. Lionel's Engagement. The Bunkers go to Lionel's engagement party, with predictable results.

12. Archie on the election of a black president. Archie gives his prediction on when the United States will finally elect a black president. He says it won't happen until another important job is filled by a black person.

Bonus. Here's the opening from the first season of the show. They re-recorded it in later seasons.

'All in the Family' airs Tuesdays through Fridays at 8AM and 6PM on TV Land.

[Follow Bob on Twitter.]

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David Paul Youngerma

I feel so old! I remember sitting there watching the first episode about to begin when CBS played a 'warning' that said basically not to get offended by the show.

And I agree with others here, the episodes mentioned in this article are supposed to be very memorable? The episode with Sammy Davis Jr. was just a 'ho-ho' thing. The episode concerning the death of Edith, and the one where Edith's loses her faith in God after the murder of the drag queen Beverly LaSalle are really hard to forget.

August 08 2011 at 8:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
David Paul Youngerma

I feel so old! I remember sitting there watching the first episode as it was being broadcast and the 'caveat' from the CBS network that was shown right before that first episode aired. The caveat said basically to not get offended by the show.

David Youngerman

August 08 2011 at 8:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

you will never see better shows than shows like these here.if they made shows like this today you would hear thats racist ahhh give me a break they were great!!!

March 09 2011 at 2:27 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

every episode with cousin Maude and Edith going though the change

January 19 2011 at 2:04 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

How about when Archie found out his best friend Cunningham dies and learns he was a Jew!

January 19 2011 at 10:18 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

How could you forget when Edith was nearly raped?
A drag queen friend was beaten to death while walking with Mike?
Many other more important scenes than some that were mentioned!

January 19 2011 at 6:13 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
David S.

No, this show wouldn't make it today because we have gotten PC -- some of that is good, some of it is over the top. However, I grew up with it and my whole family watched. All of the actors were top-notch. My favorite is Archie explaining his version of "gun control" on TV --- that is priceless.

January 16 2011 at 4:55 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

and Vincent Gardenia played a 3rd role too.

he was the owner of the house who sold to the Jeffersons
he was the swinger
he was frank lorenzo.

just a little bit of AITF trivia :-)

January 16 2011 at 10:26 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

actually it was the oil man who saved Archie in the basement when he was drunk and locked in.

January 16 2011 at 10:23 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Mommas toy

All in the Family was one of the several great sitcoms that Norman Lear created in the 1970s and considered the most controversial. To me (and my dad, God rest his soul) it was THE funniest show on TV at that time. Years later, the reruns still leave me rolling laughing! Tell you what, with all the PC nonsense flying around these days (which is all nonsense IMO), this show would NEVER be on network TV now and that's a shame. They've put on so many sitcoms the past few years annd very few if any were really funny, and nowhere near as funny as All in the Family.

January 16 2011 at 1:09 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

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