The sitcoms of Norman Lear may be receiving a contemporary update, a new report from Variety reveals. According to sources, Lear is in the early stages of discussions with Sony Pictures Television—the studio in control of the majority of Lear’s library—about rebooting classic episodes of such seminal series as All in the Family and The Jeffersons, bringing new actors in to revive the scripts. They would be packaged in “short, six-episode anthologies.”
Lear’s comedies of the ’70s and ’80s consistently pushed the boundaries of TV, giving the medium new resonance through a bolder approach to cultural issues and talking points. Even by today’s standards, the commentary embedded in All in the Family—which is of a working-class aesthetic and exposes bigotry as it relates to gender, sexuality, and race—feels achingly current, with Carroll O’Connor’s Archie Bunker the very model of an aggrieved Trump voter. (That show was itself an American version of the British series, Till Death Do Us Part.) And Lear’s groundbreaking Maude episode “Maude’s Dilemma”—which sympathetically depicted abortion as viewers had never before seen in prime time—still carries significant weight, considering abortion’s stubbornly taboo status on network TV and the precarious situation surrounding Roe v. Wade in light of the November election.
This project, according to Variety, would be similar in execution to that of a Broadway revival, changing cast members and production values while remaining mostly faithful to the original scripts. The theatrical analogy certainly suits Lear, whose sitcoms often had the feel of filmed plays—the focus on long conversations, the extended scenes, the fresh takes on issues. And already, we’re seeing how it might play out. Over on Netflix, a reboot of Lear’s One Day at a Time—about a divorced single mother—has been reimagined with a Latina (Justina Machado) in the lead role and is set to premiere on Jan. 6.