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This series is presented by self-confessed Python nut Hugh Bonneville, each show with a group of five famous comedians remembering their favourite Python moments. Each guest chooses a sketch (or two) and it's played with their comments..
How did a poor Jewish kid from Connecticut bring us Archie Bunker and become one of the most successful television producers ever? Norman Lear brought provocative subjects like war, poverty, and prejudice into 120 million homes every week. He proved that social change was possible through an unlikely prism: laughter. World Premiere -Opening night selection, Sundance, 2016.
Few who are conversant with the F-bomb-laden television of today, not to mention the 'reality' shows and other cynical, let-it-all-hang-out rubbish,can imagine the Ozzie and Harriet Age of American TV. Well, Google it, sonny, and you'll see to your horrow that the airwaves back in the days were also polluted with the likes of 'Gilligan's Island' and 'My Mother, The Car' and lots of other rubbish too fragrant to mention. Then Norman Lear changed everything, or most of it: seeing a relentlessly politically incorrect BBC comedy series called 'Till Death Do Us Part,'about a crusty old crank at war with everything post-1939, he adapted it for Americans. The result was 'All in the Family,' with Archie Bunker and his wife, Edith/Dingbat, son-in-law, Michael/Meathead, and daughter, Gloria wrangling over Vietnam, feminism, race relations and the like—always with sharp humor to match the passion. Launched in 1971, it was a stunning success; it made clear that television executives, who had always claimed to 'give the public what it wants,' had been talking through their hats.(FCC chairman Newton Minow pithily observed that actually, 'the public wants what it gets.'). Lear went on to create several more of the same stripe, all detailed here, such as 'Maude,' 'The Jeffersons,' 'Good Times' and 'One Day at a Time.' All were all popular and many were running at the same time, but none was of 'All in the Family' quality.(Sample wit: Maude says 'You know what I like about you, Archie?' 'What's that?' says Archie. 'Nothing' says Maude. OK, maybe it was 1970s wit.) In all, it seemed for a space of years that Lear WAS television. OK, but one great problem with this documentary is its emotional tone, which is that of hagiography. It suggests strongly that it is not enough to value and appreciate Lear's signal contributions but that the man himself must be regarded as a kind of secular saint, whom we should worship and be grateful too. And so the documentayr skates rather lightly past the facts of his failed marriages (two out of three), that he was an utter vacancy as husband and father (rather like his own parents), scarcely aware of his children and pushing his second wife toward a suicide attempt and eventual $112 million divorce. There's also a very irritating sound track and the directors' pretentious conceit of dividing the 'chapters' of this tale with stagey bits showing Lear today, at 94, communing via a sort of Vulcan mind-meld with a little boy who represents his youthful self, complete with his trademark hat. Just too-too, no? Yes. Lear at 94 is easily moved to tears by all the love and admiration being showered upon him, and the directors can't get enough of them, apparently unaware that a little heartfelt goes a long way. Here it amounts almost to emotional bullying. The running time is 91 minutes. That's by the clock. My keister protests that it was way longer.
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