Norman Lear, legendary TV producer, dead at 101


Television producing titan Norman Lear — whose trend-setting 1970s comedies “All in the Family,” “Maude” and “The Jeffersons” transformed the sitcom landscape — has died. He was 101.

His death was confirmed by Lara Bergthold, a spokeswoman for the family, on Wednesday, per the New York Times.

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The boundary-pushing TV legend — born July 27, 1922, in New Haven, Connecticut — also revolutionized the family dynamic in the 1970s with shows including “Good Times,” “Sanford and Son,” “One Day at a Time” and “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.”

Throughout his decades-long career, he received many recognitions for his producing prowess and command of comedy.

Nominated for 17 Emmy Awards total, Lear won six — including four for the Carroll O’Connor- and Jean Stapleton-starring “All in the Family,” which aired from 1971 to 1979.

Norman Lear at his Los Angeles home in 1984. Getty Images

His catalog of sitcoms may have tickled audiences, but they also probed serious topics — including abortion, sexuality, alcoholism, drugs and mental health — which was especially notable during the more conservative 1970s, when the so-called 8 p.m. “family hour” aimed to tone down the airwaves.

“He’s 100 years old and still working hard — that says a lot about his drive and passion,” said Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman Tony Vinciquerra in an interview with Variety shortly before Lear’s 100th birthday in 2022. “If you look at his body of work, some of his shows were controversial when they aired, but he pushed people to think differently about issues like race and bigotry when it was most needed. His vision and his ideas are always spot-on.”

In a nod to his numerous shows’ landmark status, Lear — who was inducted into the Emmy Awards Hall of Fame in 1984 — also took home Emmys for Outstanding Variety Special (Live) in 2020 and 2019 for his “Live in Front of a Studio Audience” primetime events, which recreated episodes of “All in the Family,” “Good Times” and “The Jeffersons,” as well as “The Facts of Life” and “Diff’rent Strokes,” the latter two airing in 2021.

Heidi Ewing, Norman Lear, Lyn Lear and Rachel Grady on the red carpet of the “Norman Lear: Just Another Version Of You” New York premiere on July 7, 2016, in New York City. Getty Images

He also garnered two Peabodys — in 2016 and 1977, the latter for the groundbreaking “All in the Family” — as well as a National Medal of Arts in 1999 from President Bill Clinton, who noted at the time: “Norman Lear has held up a mirror to American society and changed the way we look at it.”

In 2021, he was given the Carol Burnett Award for Achievement in Television at that year’s Golden Globes ceremony. The Kennedy Center honored him in 2017 alongside stars Carmen de Lavallade, Lionel Richie, LL Cool J and Gloria Estefan.

While Lear’s career mostly focused on television work, he did contribute to the big screen, too. He was a writer on the screenplay for the 1968 William Friedkin movie “The Night They Raided Minsky’s,” which starred Jason Robards and Britt Ekland, and produced other films including 1973’s “The Thief Who Came to Dinner” (with Ryan O’Neal, Jacqueline Bisset and Jill Clayburgh) plus 1991’s “Fried Green Tomatoes” (with Jessica Tandy and Kathy Bates) and 1987’s “The Princess Bride” (which starred Cary Elwes, Robin Wright and Mandy Patinkin).

Lear hosted a “Declare Yourself” event in 2004 to inspire a new movement of young adults to participate in the 2004 election. Getty Images

In addition, Lear was nominated for an Academy Award for writing the 1967 film “Divorce American Style.”

In July 2021, on Lear’s 99th birthday, it was announced that a remake of the cult hit “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” — which starred Louise Lasser — was in the works for TBS, with “Schitt’s Creek” alum Emily Hampshire taking the lead role.

Lear brought back his iconic sitcoms — specifically “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons” and “Good Times” — in 2019 for the first “Live in Front of a Studio Audience” special, featuring Woody Harrelson and Marisa Tomei as the iconic “Family” characters Archie and Edith Bunker (originally played by O’Connor and Stapleton) while Jamie Foxx and Wanda Sykes filled the “Jeffersons” roles of George and Louise Jefferson, who were portrayed by Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford in the original show.

Lear attends the Carl and Rob Reiner Hand and Footprint Ceremony with honorees Carl Reiner and Rob Reiner during the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival. Charley Gallay

Lear’s reasoning for choosing those shows over his many other works was simple.

“’All in the Family’ is where it all started, and ‘The Jeffersons’ is the longest-running of those shows,” he told The Post at the time.

His 1975 series “One Day at a Time” received the reboot treatment in 2017 when it aired on Netflix. The show, executive produced by Lear, ended its run in 2020 and featured a mostly Latino cast, including multihyphenate Rita Moreno.

And while he was far into his career, he was still thrilled to reimagine the hit sitcom.

“I think it’s the golden age, which starts with being alive,” he told The Post in 2019 just before the reboot’s third season kicked off. “It’s because of the hundreds or thousands of shows available on the tens of thousands of networks and streaming shows.

“There’s a show at hand every time you turn around,” he added. “America has a knack for producing excess. That may be our greatest product.”

Norman Lear and his wife, Lyn Lear, were both honorees at the 32nd Annual IDA Documentary Awards in 2016. Matt Winkelmeyer

Just before his 100th birthday in 2022, Lear reflected on his 60-year-plus career, saying he still wasn’t about to slow down.

“I think the big secret is never forgetting to wake up in the morning. It starts with getting out of bed,” Lear told Variety in the 2022 interview. “But there isn’t a day when there aren’t stories to tell — exciting, relevant and of-the-moment stories.”

Lear — an Army Air Forces veteran of World War II who reportedly flew 52 missions — was married three times and is survived by his third wife, Lyn Davis, whom he married in 1987. He was the father of six children: Ellen, Kate, Maggie, Benjamin and twins Madelaine Rose and Brianna Elizabeth.