How ABC's live 'All in the Family,' 'Jeffersons' shows still relevant social issues

The live remake ABC special 'Live in Front of a Studio Audience' brought to life two iconic episodes from noted producer Norman Lear's famous 70s sitcoms, tackling heavy issues with humor.
7:55 | 05/23/19

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Transcript for How ABC's live 'All in the Family,' 'Jeffersons' shows still relevant social issues
Looking back at two revolutionary comedies breaking barriers. "The Jeffersons" and "All in the family", reborn as a live special on ABC and some of America's most beloved characters. Not shying away from contentious then or now. Well, we're movin' on up Reporter: It's that iconic theme song that thanks to Jennifer Hudson has a new ring to it tonight. "The Jeffersons", moving on up to 2019. Along with their old neighbors from "All in the family." Songs that made the hit parade guys like us, we had it made those were the days You're in! Reporter: All part of a star-studded reboot of two of television's most revolutionary shows. Don't you turn your back on me! Ah, there you are! Reporter: With its big applause lines. And some unexpected moments. So -- it's live. Reporter: That only a live show can produce. Everyone sitting at home just think their TV just messed up. Reporter: Woody Harrelson and Marissa Tomei playing Archie and Edith bunker. Jamie Foxx and Wanda Sikes playing George and Louise Jefferson. Anthony Anderson as uncle Henry. Ike farn Holtz as meathead and Ellie kemper as Gloria. Well, how about a woman president? Reporter: The words still the same as the original script 46 years ago. But tonight the punch lines taking on new relevance. A woman president? Mr. Jefferson, this may come as a big surprise to you, but women are much more oppressed than blacks. Well, I don't see no ghetto for women. What do you call a kitchen? Reporter: Both shows were unafraid to tackle controversial issues. This show has many words in it that you would be fired for using on television today. What do you know about it, you dumb polock. Race, religion, politics is never an easy conversation to have. Reporter: The use of the n-word pushing the envelope then and now. You know damn well what it means. If you had been going at it inside of five minutes he'd be calling you . It wasn't bleeped. It wasn't censored. She just said it. Even when we've had our worst fights you've never called me . That doesn't mean it never crossed my mind. And we struggled a lot with how we were going to deal with we're saying it, but we're bleeping it, and I feel like that's a really beautiful middle ground to honor the truth and not shy away from it but also do it responsibly. In our worst fights you never called me . It hasn't crossed my mind. Reporter: Tonight's reboot trending on Twitter, thousands of people weighing in. Jimmy Kimmel and Norman Lear who created both shows. For those who are new to "All in the family", maybe who have just heard about the show, what do they need to know about the bunkers? That they are a family that could be living up the street, down the street or across the street from them. Black people have arrived. They're here! I ain't letting them in. Reporter: "All in the family" first aired in 1971 amid controversy. America was going through sweeping change. We don't want your racist war. Conflict running through American life. Reporter: That conflict still resonating today. Gloria, the feminist daughter. Do you have to treat ma like she was a slave? I treat her like a housewife. Case closed! Married to a very liberal guy who was forcing his father-in-law to confront his racism. Archie bunker was afraid of tomorrow, was afraid of progress. He was the father of the white girl you dated that you never wanted to meet. Okay? Michael is always my favorite character in the show. He was just like the perfect Let me tell you something, Mr. Bunker. No, let me tell you something, Mr. Stiffic. You are a meathead. What did you call me? Meathead. Dead from the neck up. Meathead. It was the ultimate generational clash. I did misjudge you. You're a lot more ignorant than I thought. That tension between those two also represented an important class tension in America. Now I see what your idea of a free country is. You're free to say what you want, but if anybody disagrees with you they're thrown into jail or called a meathead. That's right. I protest when I think things are wrong. These are real arguments in American culture at the time and now. And they're being put on TV. This is a case of laughing sometimes at things that are painful. Reporter: That class tension also extended to "The Jeffersons." Despite their upper middle class standing, Louise was uncomfortable hiring a maid She is late. Reporter: That tense scene giving way to one of the show's most nostalgic surprises. I'm Florence Johnson. Reporter: Marla Gibbs, the actress to played Florence reprising her role. My very first scene, of course, was coming in from the agency, and announcing that I was Florence Johnston. I believe in being prompt Mr. Jefferson. I always say I ain't got no right to waste time when other people are paying for it. She was like the people I grew up with. The maids that my mother knew, they took over. Do you folks mind if I ask you something? No, go right ahead. You live in this apartment, right? Uh-huh. And you got an apartment in in buildin' too? Yes, that's right. How come we overcame and nobody told me? Reporter: The Jeffersons and "All in the family" paved the way for some of today's most popular shows. Give you any cake you want just as long as it's not for a gay wedding. We took a page from that in what we're doing with "Black-ish." Say a race that you are attrted to sexually. White and Indian. I think the office carried on this legacy, because there are so many topics on that show that are uncomfortable, that are squirm inducing. You would maybe not be a very good driver. Oh, man, am I a woman? It's hard to imagine there being a Kerry Washington or Olivia pope in the world if there weren't for a Norman Lear. It works. The trooth truth works. He was honoring the community that wasn't known. His vision, his passion and dream still lives on.

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