Last night ABC decided to look to the past for a new TV special honouring legendary producer Norman Lear. The special, called “Live in Front of a Studio Audience”, featured new actors playing classics roles from classic TV scripts from All in the Family and The Jeffersons. The show was made by Norman Lear and Jimmy Kimmel, and it turned out tremendous ratings, giving ABC first over all for the night.
Part of the fascination of course could be the fact that the show strutted out some big name actors and actress, including Academy Award winners and nominees. The all-star cast included Woody Harrelson and Marisa Tomei as Archie and Edith Bunker and Jamie Foxx and Wanda Sykes as George and Louise Jefferson, with Kerry Washington, Ellie Kemper, Will Ferrell, Anthony Anderson and Ike Barinholtz in supporting roles. Another possible reasons for the high ratings of course could be the fact the the show was live, and people like keeping eyes open for mistakes that happen on such occasions. They were rewarded of course when Foxx messed up his lines, then turned to the audience and said “It’s live” as his castmates laughed in the background. He followed it up with “Everyone sitting at home just think their TV just messed up” for an even bigger laugh.
Viewers were skeptical before the show aired, thinking that perhaps ABC would try to modernized the shows for today’s audiences, but they didn’t. The scripts stayed the same as they were originally, including Archie Bunker being as racist and sexist as always.
What this means of course is that other networks may start scrambling to pull off a similar stunt. Imagine seeing new actors and actresses taking over the roles of some of your favourite classic TV shows. In the days of revivals and reboots, anything is possible.