Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Dy-no-MITE, Archie!

It's um whachyacall sacred town, huh?

I wrote about All in the Family almost a month ago, and the absolutely profound effect it had on me.

Tonight, for the second time this year, Jimmy Kimmel and Normal Lear presented a live take on All in the Family. In the first effort, The Jeffersons was the companion piece, while Good Times got the opportunity tonight.

I will say -- with full, honest disclosure, that I was prepared to hate all of this. I didn't watch the version back in May and resisted it with full force. But Susan is Edith Bunker-esque in that she knows how to get me to do something. She watched it and talked it up. She specifically raved about the performance of Marisa Tomei as Edith.

Yet my expectations were whachyacallit down in the dumps.

I will say that Good Times didn't impress me. I watched -- and loved that show -- and even had a talking JJ Evans doll.

Viola Davis could have been excellent. She looked excellent (right down to the late Esther Rolle's gap-tooth). There just wasn't enough of her. But she came fairly close to channeling Rolle's matriarch, Florida Evans.

I loved seeing John Amos make an appearance, given his departure from the show produced an iconic moment, but also changed the show.

Jay Pharoah didn't impress me as JJ. It just came off as an impression that was trying too hard.

The overall take? It was fine entertainment, interspersed with the goings-on in Washington, which actually hurt the timing of the program.

Then it was time for All in the Family.

Shockingly, I didn't hate it.

Woody Harrelson didn't have me lunging at the TV, given he had the honor of holding down one of the most important roles in TV history: Archie Bunker. He had the malaprops, and his sense of rage, especially when exploding at the important point in the storyline. I really had much lower expectations.

Tomei was strong as Edith. She did try to channel Jean Stapleton's Edith, which is no small thing. She had most of her mannerisms down. I didn't quite hear Stapleton when Tomei talked, but that was OK because it wasn't a true impression. It's fair to say Tomei was impressive.

The rest of the cast was quite good, though Kevin Bacon's involvement just seemed to be to simply get Kevin Bacon involved. He did strike the right tone in the ultimate moment with Harrelson but otherwise felt wasted.

I thought I'd be live-tweeting pure hatred of this show in total, but I didn't. I found it to be entertaining for sure. There's no way either of these shows can ever be replicated but the effort was certainly worthwhile.

Each show actually had moments that did make me laugh, and Martin Short showing up between the two to sing the theme to The Facts of Life gave me a smile.

But there's no question the stronger show -- especially the cast -- was All in the Family.

The question becomes: what will be next? They seem to have found the formula with All in the Family, but Lear was also behind Sanford and Son, One Day at a Time, and Maude. Each would be an interesting choice.

Also, kudos to ABC for their retro-inspired promos throughout the special. A Welcome Back, Kotter promo probably would have had me falling out of my seat.

I'm glad I decided to let down my guard about watching the live efforts. I'm intrigued enough to watch it again.

Dummy up, you Meathead.

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