I LOVE LUCY
DICK VAN DYKE
MARY TYLER MOORE
ALL IN THE FAMILY
The Classic Sitcoms Guide to...
All in the Family
Season Nine: 1978-79
1978-79: THE NINTH SEASON
Year-End Rating: 24.9 (9th place)
The show's final--and not entirely unworthy--season is
redeemed by a handful of first-rate scripts, though the Bunkers almost
never recover from the deadening pathos that arrives with the introduction
a nine-year-old on Hauser Street. Even so, the writers manage to explore
the ever-deepening bond between Archie and Edith, who continue to evolve
as the most plausibly romantic couple on television.
Most ninth-year stories are scripted by a talented writing
stable that includes story editors Mel Tolkin and Larry Rhine, producer
Milt Josefsberg, and story consultant Phil Sharp. Script consultants
Bob Schiller and Bob Weiskopf once again contribute a number of memorable
scripts, as do newcomers Patt Shea and Harriett Weiss.
Edith's cousin Floyd abandons his nine-year-old daughter,
Stephanie, on the Bunkers' doorstep.
Danielle Brisebois, the littlest orphan in Broadway's
Annie, joined the cast as Edith's niece, Stephanie Mills. The
introduction of a child into the Bunker household created a hazardous
breeding ground for gross sentimentality at a time when the show's critics
were already lambasting Carroll O'Connor for letting Archie go soft
in the show's old age. O'Connor later dismissed the criticism in the
pages of TV Guide when he insisted, "We're not going to have
him yell 'coon' every week just so we can keep up the reputation of
a socially pungent show."
Archie spends a night wallowing in self-pity when an insurance
physical reveals an ominous spot on his liver.
The Bunkers attempt to reunite Blanche and Barney Hefner
after her latest fling with an exterminator fizzles.
The Bunkers decide to keep Stephanie after her father
fails to reclaim her as promised.
Edith is the sole mourner at her Aunt Rose's funeral.
Once again, Archie and Edith try to preserve peace between
Barney Hefner and his extremely wayward wife.
At an American Legion convention, Archie awakens facing
a beautiful black airline stewardess who swears they were married the
Edith is disillusioned when her bank refuses to grant
a loan without her husband's signature.
When she discovers that her husband is as narrow-minded
as the bank manager, Edith demands that Archie pay her a token five-dollars-a-week
payment for her labors as a housewife. Using her own unique logic, she
extracts exactly what she wants from Archie in the end, proving once
again that in the realm of common sense, this dingbat has no peer.
Edith finally confronts the waitress who tempted Archie's
fidelity after Harry unwittingly hires her to work at Archie's Place.
Edith bears no malice toward the waitress, but thanks
her for helping to strengthen her union with Archie. He ends the episode
with the observation, "Edith, you're a pip." The expression, employed
as Archie's most disparaging put-down in the early years, suddenly rings
with a tenderness as compelling as Ralph Kramden's classic declaration
of devotion, "Baby, you're the greatest."
Edith is arrested for passing phony $10 bills she got
from Archie's Place.
After Mike and Gloria cancel their trip home for Christmas,
the Bunkers decide to travel west for the holidays.
The Bunkers arrive in Santa Barbara for Christmas and
soon discover that all is not right with Mike and Gloria.
More disturbing than the Stivics' heartbreaking announcement
of their separation is Archie's reaction when he discovers that Gloria
has been unfaithful to her husband: For the first time in nine years,
he turns his back on his daughter and sides with Michael. The script,
rife with disturbing details of the petty cruelties that have already
poisoned the Stivics' marriage, avoids the easy out of a tidy resolution.
Mike and Gloria do effect a spontaneous reconciliation under the tree,
but the tentative exchange lacks the conviction of a permanent reunion.
They've been through enough to know, as we do, that the optimism of
Christmas morning doesn't always stand up to the cold light of the new
The script's only nod toward romanticism is suggested
by Edith and Archie, who never felt as thankful for the years they've
shared together as they did on that eventful Christmas morning.
When Edith develops laryngitis on the eve of her singing
debut at Stephanie's PTA recital, Archie steps in to understudy the
Edith meets butcher Klemmer's new sweetheart, a woman
who just happens to be her spitting image.
Edith's Teutonic double is played by Stapleton in a dual
role, a technical stunt that would have been impossible to pull off
while the show was still taped with a live crowd. The producers had
done away with the live studio audience at the start of the ninth season
to please O'Connor, who preferred to tape in a cold studio and dub in
the laughs later.
Edith and Archie rush Stephanie to the hospital for an
The Bunkers are at odds over Stephanie's punishment after
they catch her stealing petty items from around the house.
Barney Hefner is suicidal when Blanche finally deserts
him, until Archie fixes him up with an overweight but wealthy widow.
Archie is forced to reevaluate his religious prejudice
after Stephanie tries to conceal the fact that she's Jewish.
Edith loses her job at the Sunshine Home after she honors
an invalid woman's final wish to be allowed to die with dignity.
Norman Lear hosts an affectionate look at the high points
of his ground-breaking TV series.
Archie's brother, Fred, arrives with his latest wife--a
child bride of eighteen.
Archie hits the roof when Edith rents out the old Jefferson
house to a black couple.
Stephanie's father, Floyd, finally arrives with a devastating
proposition for the Bunkers: They can keep Stephanie if they agree to
pay him $1000 cash!
Archie is hurt and outraged when Edith tries to hide a
serious illness from him.
There's a funny exchange between Archie and Edith in
one of the very last episodes that reveals with pristine clarity the
underlying optimism of the show. Archie is railing at the top of his
lungs--dead-set against befriending the black family that's just moved
in next door. Edith patiently waits for him to finish and continues
preparing sandwiches for the new neighbors.
Miffed by her lack of sympathy, Archie moans, "You know
damn well there's certain things about me I ain't never gonna change.
But you keep asking me to make out like I'm gonna."
Edith pauses, then replies with a comical certainty,
And so the series ends as it began, with Archie cursing
the darkness, as Edith lights a candle and patiently waits for some
small sign of progress. Things haven't really changed much since we
first met the Bunkers at their twenty-second anniversary party so many
years ago. Then, as now, Archie held forth in blustery ignorance as
he demanded that Edith stifle herself at the first sign of rebuttal.
And yet there is one small--but very encouraging--difference: This time,
it's Edith who gets in the last word.
It's a telling irony that, by the time All in the
Family left the air in 1979, so many of the sweeping societal changes
that had taken place during our nine years with the Bunkers had alread
started to seem like they'd never taken place. The show dawned during
the peak of Nixon's reign and reached its inevitable conclusion just
as another Republican readied his own assault on the White House.
By the end of the decade, equal opportunity for blacks
in television appeared to be just another program trend that had run
its course. And for all the vaunted inroads All in the Family
made in prime-time sophistication, by 1979 the most-watched show in
the land was a slight comedy about a bachelor who shared a disarmingly
platonic arrangement with a pair of perky female roommates.
Of course, it was Norman Lear himself who warned against
pinning too much hope on what was, after all, just a television show.
As he admits, "If a couple thousand years of Judeo-Christian ethic have
not solved the problems of bigotry and narrow-mindedness, I'd be a fool
to think a little half-hour situation comedy is gonna do the trick."