Having sole control of the TV remote allows me the luxury of sampling programs at any hour of the day without regard to others’ wishes.
And so it happened I recently caught two All in the Family re-runs: the Christmas show when Archie Bunker was denied a bonus as a ‘fine’ for routing a shipment to London, England when it was supposed to go to London, Ontario.
How was he to know the world has two Londons? And the episode when the whole family shielded Archie from finding out Edith was suspected of having breast cancer and had gone to hospital for a biopsy.
Besides the fun of renewing acquaintance with the Bunker family, the first thing evident is the remarkable difference between All in the Family which aired from 1968 to 1979 , and today’s sitcoms.
The Bunker family cared about and respected each other, lived by sensible rules for the good of each other, honoured their wedding vows, and didn’t attempt to date every new face on the block.
Conversations never sank to the raunchy levels of tipsy doctors at a medical convention cocktail hour.
They spoke proper English with good grammar except for Archie whose vernacular was part of his working class background.
In the entire hour not a single ‘f ‘ word crept in, or even Gloria’s occasional “Crap!”
And not once did they force a laugh by resorting to a word common as a commercial in current shows – colonoscopy.
All in the Family proceeds in a calm style, no screaming or chattering over each other. Each character takes a turn so you can hear their words and enjoy their funny lines.
Each family member listens to the other, unlike so many shows today when no one seems to hear the other, they simply pile on more ‘humour’ whether or not it advances the story line.
There’s no leaping on or over Edith’s furniture, no flopping on the sofa while wearing boots.
The opening scene with the Christmas dinner had them all seated at the dining table and actually eating turkey and trimmings.
In The Big Bang Theory, for instance, there are usually several scenes where the characters are eating at their living room coffee table or in the university cafeteria, but does anyone actually swallow a bite?
Instead they push the same few grains of rice around on a plate the way a janitor might prolong the job of sweeping a floor, or lift a chopstick up and down in a Chinese takeout container like a mechanic checking an engine’s oil level.
The Bunkers lived within their means, no keeping up with the Joneses, and stayed home instead of winging off to a foreign vacation on credit. (The first credit card, Visa, came into play in 1966 two years before All in the Family took to the airways.)
Edith cooked from scratch for her family, served meals on schedule, and everyone sat together at the dining table, not scattered about the living room eating fast food takeout.
Although Archie smoked cigars and drank an occasional beer in the evening, they didn’t rush to guzzle a glass of wine as soon as they hung their coat in the closet. Who hangs up a coat today?
Neither did they take a mouthful of liquid and then spit it in someone’s face as crude slapstick.
Their major concern was each other’s health and happiness.
In the second episode the minute Archie found out Edith had gone to hospital for a cancer biopsy, he rushed to be with her and found her resting in bed.
Excited to learn she did not have cancer – she had jumped off the examining table and broken her ankle.