Caroll O'Connor killed Edith Bunker.
This is probably not news to anyone who was paying attention to the behind the scenes machinations of the TV business thirty years ago. But for those of us who were still clad in Underoos, it's a pretty interesting revelation.
O'Connor talks about how he ended up offing co-star Jean Stapleton's character in a clip brought to our attention by the TV Academy Foundation's Archive of American Television. We're highlighting it because today marks the 31st anniversary of the series finale of "All in the Family," which ended on April 8, 1979. (Back then, the TV season wrapped in April, and everyone in TV land got to take four months off. Those were the days!)
It's fascinating to hear O'Connor talk about the politics of network TV. He called programming legend Fred Silverman "Freddy" and reveals how a young Bob Daly — who did a reverse Moonves, running CBS Entertainment before he went to Warner Bros. — begged O'Connor to keep "All in the Family" alive.
Daly enlisted O'Connor to lobby Norman Lear — pronounced "Le-ah" by O'Connor — to OK a continuation of the show after Stapleton decided to pull a Charlie Sheen and quit.
(Wait: Lear actually had the power to decide whether his show survived? You mean there was a time when producers actually got to own their own content, and not a giant studio owned by a massive conglomerate? Crazy!)
Anyway, Lear wanted to let his show "die an honorable death," O'Connor remembers, and would only agree to let "All in the Family" live on if it was given a different name.
Thus was born "Archie Bunker's Place" — and, eventually, the death of Edith. Let's let Mr. O'Connor tell the rest of the story.
We'll be highlighting more nuggets from the Archive here on MoJoe in the coming months. You can always explore for yourself via the organization's website, EmmyTVLegends.org.