Norman Lear says classic TV fans may get a surprise or two with the live ABC special Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear’s All in the Family and The Jeffersons. The legendary television producer hinted to The New York Post that the live restaging of two episodes from the classic sitcoms could feature cameos from the still-living original stars.
While Lear didn’t confirm anything when asked if original All in the Family stars Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers and The Jeffersons’ Marla Gibbs were approached to appear on the live, 90-minute special, he did didn’t deny it either.
“Audiences will have to tune in to see if there are some surprises,” he teased.
Norman Lear isn’t the only one teasing “surprises.” Rob Mills, SVP Alternative Series, Specials & Late-Night Programming for ABC Entertainment, told Forbes there will be some surprises that will be revealed during the live broadcast that haven’t been announced. It sure sounds like a cameo waiting to happen. Marla Gibbs as Mother Jefferson, please?
Indeed, while almost all of the original cast members from the 1970s-set All in the Family and The Jeffersons have passed away, Reiner and Struthers, who played All in the Family’s Mike and Gloria Stivic, and Gibbs, who played the Jeffersons maid Florence, are still alive and well and continue to act.
But while there’s hope that Reiner or Gibbs could turn up in some capacity for the remake, it may be best to count the original Gloria out. In a recent interview with Delaware News Journal, Sally Struthers admitted she was stunned to hear about the live performance of a classic All in the Family script and she even asked, “What’s the point?”
Norman Lear, who created both shows in the 1970s, stresses this is a one-time deal: “The show isn’t coming back so much as it’s being honored with the performance" https://t.co/qK996bzG5y— VANITY FAIR (@VanityFair) May 21, 2019
Norman Lear admitted that he never planned to revive All in the Family or The Jeffersons, but Jimmy Kimmel talked him into it. As for why these particular sitcoms were picked—Lear, 96, is the man behind everything from Sanford and Son to Maude— the producer said, “All in the Family is where it all started, and The Jeffersons is the longest-running of those shows.”
Of the two episodes that will ultimately be showcased, Lear said they “complement each other nicely” and “will resonate very topically.” ABC’s Rob Mills told Forbes that the scripts will remain the same, with nothing changed or “updated” for today’s political and social climate.
In another throwback, Mills revealed that that the designers who created the original sets for All in the Family and The Jeffersons have returned for this special event. ABC also brought in veteran sitcom director James Burrows, who has directed over 1,000 episodes of television, including episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Cheers, and Frasier.
For the live special, Woody Harrelson and Marisa Tomei will play Archie and Edith Bunker, and Jamie Foxx and Wanda Sykes take on the roles as George and Louise Jefferson. Deadline reports that the All in the Family reboot will also feature Ellie Kemper in Struthers’ role as Archie and Edith Bunker’s daughter Gloria Stivic, and Will Ferrell as George and Louise’s neighbor and friend, Tom Willis. The cast also includes Justina Machado, Kerry Washington, Jackee Harry, Anthony Anderson, and more.
Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear’s All in the Family and The Jeffersons airs May 22 at 8 p.m. on ABC.