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Norman Lear’s ‘All in the Family’ remains watchable — and topical

From left: Jean Stapleton, Carroll O'Connor, Sally Struthers, and Rob Reiner in "All in the Family."

The death of Norman Lear this week has reminded me of the Globe’s bracket competition last year for the best TV series of the past 50 years.

The final four contenders were “The Sopranos,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “All in the Family,” and “Seinfeld.” I felt certain that “The Sopranos,” the show that changed TV and ushered viewers into the cable realm, would ultimately come out on top. It’s my No. 1 series of all time, so I suppose I was not objective.

But the ultimate winner was another series that changed TV: Lear’s “All in the Family.” And I was thrilled, despite my “Sopranos” bias. The 1970s show, I wrote, had “changed TV into something more honest and ambitious than it had ever been before. It elevated the conversation around TV, too, making it more pertinent and personal. … It introduced ideas that are still playing out on TV more than 50 years after its premiere, and any topical comedy out now owes it a huge debt.” I also noted that the “All in the Family” win served as a reminder that the show still has something to offer: “The dominant themes of ‘All in the Family,’ not least of all bigotry, remain acutely relevant in 2022, painfully so.”


I’ve rewatched many episodes over the years, and I am consistently surprised to see how vital it still seems. Some shows from the 1970s feel dated, but not “All in the Family.” Check it out for yourself. It’s available on Freevee, Amazon’s free streaming service.

Norman Lear in 2010.J. Emilio Flores/New York Times/file

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at matthew.gilbert@globe.com. Follow him @MatthewGilbert.