“All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons” picked up a trio of Emmy nominations on Tuesday, nearly four decades after they went off the air.
Jimmy Kimmel and Norman Lear’s “Live in Front of a Studio Audience,” which brought together an all-star cast led by Woody Harrelson, Marisa Tomei and Jamie Foxx, was recognized by the TV academy in the variety special categories for re-staging two classic episodes of the Lear sitcoms word-for-word, beat-for-beat. And Lear, at 96, is the oldest-ever Emmy nominee.
“If there’s anything I didn’t imagine coming, it would be an Emmy nomination at this time in my career,” Lear said in an interview with TheWrap following the nominations announcement. “But I just find it awfully exciting.”
“I couldn’t be more grateful for Norman and the creative people he’s worked with in the ’70s to develop these iconic shows,” added executive producer Brent Miller. “And ultimately it’s us standing on their shoulders as this new generation of creatives. Not only celebrating, but honoring the importance of what they did.”
The production, which aired live on ABC, lured in its audience by tapping into the nostalgia tied to two of Lear’s most successful shows, but the show was really brought to life by spirited performances from its star-studded cast. One particularly talked-about moment, in which Foxx briefly broke character, became one of the night’s most memorable moments.
“Obviously, to pull a cast together this talented and this well respected is isn’t an easy task,” said Miller. “The actors were they were ecstatic by the thought of playing these characters. I can say that Marisa Tomei was ecstatic and then terrified. She could not have been more excited we told her that we wanted to play Edith, her response was ‘How in the world could I say no to that?’ and then it was ‘Holy cow, how in the world am I going to do this?’ What she pulled off was just brilliant. I mean, they were all brilliant.”
In the end, the special was such a success that both Lear and Miller teased that there could be more in the pipeline.
“We are definitely having those conversations,” Miller said, specifying that there are no official plans in place as of yet.
But the hallmark timelessness of Lear’s work means just about any of his the legendary producer’s shows could be ripe for adaptation — just look at the cult-like success of the “One Day at a Time” reboot that’s so beloved it was picked up by Pop TV after running for three seasons on Netflix.
“We’re telling stories that the audience themselves, if they aren’t living through the same stories, they’re familiar with them because they’re playing out in families across the street and down the street from,” Lear said. “So there’s nothing hard to relate to in any of the stories that we told because they’re just ordinary problems and situations and relationships. Families, right? Families.”
“As I’ve been working with Norman, I can’t tell you how many times people have come up to him and said, ‘Archie was my grandfather! Archie was my father! Archie was my uncle!'” added Miller. “He’s probably got that ten million times before through the years, and I think that’s part of the genius behind it. They were real people that people you could feel close to.”