Boy the Way All in the Family Played: Pre-Political Overcorrect Comedy.

October 9 marks the 50th anniversary of ‘Edith Writes a Song,’ an episode from the iconic television sitcom All in the Family. That day in 1971, just like this year, was a Saturday.

The series focuses on the life of Archie Bunker – a middle-aged loading dock worker who drinks beer, bowls, votes Republican, and perpetually stereotypes people based on race, nationality, and religion. The ‘coloreds’ and the ‘PRs’ will do bad things to you, Jews are cheap but make the best lawyers, the Irish are always drunk, ‘Eye-talians’ are mostly gangsters “but when you do find an honest one, you’ve really got something there,” and Catholics are a “mumbo-jumbo’ inferior version of “regular American Christianity.”

More so than with his doting, dingy, but oft-wise wife, Edith, and considerably liberated daughter, Gloria, Archie trades ideas, and insults, with his liberal son-in-law, Michael Stivic, whom he deridingly calls “meathead.”

The show opened each week with Archie and Edith at the piano, singing the opening theme, Those Were The Days, beginning with the line “boy the way Glenn Miller played.” All four main actors played their roles magnificently; Archie by the late Carroll O’Connor, who was a real-life liberal, and Mike by Rob Reiner, currently a histrionic leftist who has very little in common with his more openminded character. The latter implored Archie to be open to new ideas; the former sits in judgment over anyone who disagrees with him. Reiner routinely tweets how Donald Trump should be in prison and how unless Congress passes radical national election reform, our democracy will die.

Enough of that fool – on to the episode. SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t seen it, but the point of this column is that the Politically Overcorrect Police have removed it from the series’ reruns currently shown in syndication.

Archie arrives home – they live in Astoria (in the New York City borough Queens) – from a hard day’s work in a grumpy mood about the rising crime rate, and eventually fesses up that he bought a tape of an attack dog, and a gun for protection and intends to use the money in the family pot – $30, which is about $200 in today’s money – to pay for them, but Edith, Mike, and Gloria object, instead wanting to spend the money on a company that will set a poem Edith wrote to music.

In the next scene, two black characters named Coke and Horace, portrayed brilliantly by Cleavon Little (of Blazing Saddles fame) and Demond Wilson (Lamont on Sanford and Son) break into the Bunkers’ home. Undeterred by the ‘dog’, Coke cuts the reel with scissors and says “bye bye, doggy!” The two just robbed a neighborhood jewelry store and are hiding out until the cops leave the area.

As the family returns home from a night at the movies, Coke and Horace hide upstairs and emerge a few minutes later with Coke having found Archie’s gun. The rattled Archie tells his family, “I hope now you all realize what it means to have a gun in the house,” to which Edith responds: “yeah, if the gun wasn’t here, they wouldn’t have it.”

Perceiving that in Archie and Mike they’ve stumbled upon a bigot and a liberal, the burglars delight in Archie’s insisting that he’s the first to say “it’s not your fault that yooz were born colored,” and Mike explaining that unlike Archie, he understands what living in the ghetto can do to a person, because he read about it in his sociology book.

That was a pivotal moment in the show’s history (then in its second season) – its creator, Norman Lear, having based Archie on his own father, whom he described as narrow-minded – as it made both Archie’s and Mike’s worldviews seem foolish rather than making Archie exclusively the dope.

When Coke discovers the cash in the family pot and attempts to steal it, Edith innocently explains she needs it so her poem can become a song. Taking a liking to her, Coke promises her that if she sings the song, he’ll let her keep the money. Edith does, and, comfortable that the cops have also given up the search, they leave the Bunker house without taking a thing.

Two other poignant lines are exchanged during the debate about using the family money: Mike says: “when it comes to the creative man vs. the destructive man, the creative man always gets the shaft.” Responding to a request for a vote, Archie says, “when it comes to defense, democracy’s gonna have to wait.” The storyline, replete with numerous hilariously funny moments, make it an episode worth watching as it celebrates its 50th anniversary. Unfortunately, the Cancel Culture has gotten its paws on it, and your viewing opportunities are limited.

Why the censorship? Very simple: Coke and Horace are…gasp…African-Americans portrayed as crooks! You see, in the Cancel Culture Left’s utopia, brown-skinned lawbreakers are taboo, as obviously such characterization must mean strategic perpetuation of systemic white racism.

There’s also a scene when the burglars first arrive and Coke answers the phone. He puts on a hoity-toity accent and explains to the caller, the Bunkers’ neighbor Jim McNabb, that he’s the family physician, “Dr. Black,” and then repeats McNabb’s warning that two jig**oos” just robbed a jewelry store. That’s a derogatory term for a black person. Unlike the N-word, though it may not destroy your career for uttering it even in the context of criticizing it, today’s crowd no longer seems to want to afford it First Amendment protection. On the other hand, when Archie’s black neighbor, George Jefferson, routinely calls him a ‘honky’, apparently that’s still ok to say on the air – or write in a column.

The good news is that history goes in cycles. At some point, enough people will be so fed up with political overcorrectness that Hollywood will regain its sense of humor. Until then, thank goodness for Firestick!


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