The Mary Tyler Moore shows tended to be quieter, wittier and, I'd say, smarter. Lear's shows featured more emotion, more politics and more screaming. While I prefer the Moore line, there's something to be said for Lear's shows--especially All In The Family--which, even if they haven't always dated well, offered big laughs and memorable moments.
So I was interested in Norman Lear's autobiography, Even This I Get To Experience. Of course, it took a long time to get to All In The Family--about half the book. There are a hundred pages of his early days before show biz, then another hundred to cover his first twenty years as a rising writer-producer-director in show biz before we get to the stuff that people are waiting for.
Producer Norman Lear’s hope that the comedy would have a cathartic function, that laughter could chip away at bigotry, was futile. For the true bigots, the show was a welcome relief valve and might have reinforced attitudes. But the sitcom did not radicalize or multiply bigots. Nothing points to Archie Bunker fueling the white ethnic revival and rise of the right during the 1970s. “All in the Family,” while being unable to challenge a small faction of true bigots, accelerated the ongoing decline of racial prejudice in society by slightly shifting attitudes in the mid-dogmatic majority of viewers.