Prepare to hold for applause. Norman Lear and Jimmy Kimmel are returning with two more editions of their “Live in Front of a Studio Audience” for ABC.
The specials remake classic episodes from TV titan Lear’s large catalog of programming, keeping the language and settings but casting some of today’s biggest celebrities in iconic roles to remind viewers that – although Lear’s “All in the Family” main characters Archie and Edith Bunker might sing that ‘those were the days” – it’s possible not much has changed when it comes to conversations about equal rights, discrimination or child rearing.
One upcoming special will air around this holiday season and another will air in spring 2020. In addition to Lear and Kimmel, the specials are executive produced by Will Ferrell, Justin Theroux and Lear’s producing partner, Brent Miller.
Kimmel said it was too early to reveal casting or episode details when he was asked for details Monday at ABC’s Television Critics Association press day in Beverly Hills, because “there are some loose ends that we haven’t tied up yet.”
The first version of “Live in Front of a Studio Audience” aired in May and concentrated on episodes from “All in the Family” and Lear’s spinoff of that long-running comedy, “The Jeffersons.” (Ferrell appeared in the latter as one half of famously interracial couple Tom and Helen Willis; Kerry Washington played his wife).
The special was a ratings hit and is currently contending for three Emmy Awards, including outstanding live variety special. Almost immediately, it caused fan chatter as to which of Lear’s other shows or episodes could be next. (The abortion episode of “Maude”? The “Good Times” episode about going back to school as an adult?).
“I’ve watched a lot of the episodes of ‘All in the Family’ and ‘The Jeffersons’ and it seems like the rhythm of those shows were more like a play,” Kimmel told journalists gathered for the Television Critics Assocation panel when asked about the appeal of these classic episodes. As opposed to constant set-ups and punchlines, he said he felt these comedies were “more of an evolution throughout the half hour. And so maybe the first five minutes of show, there really weren’t any laughs. But, by minute 20, Archie Bunker was work up into such lather… it’s almost like porn, in a way. We can get it so easily now and there’s no longer that excitement of finding a Playboy under a blanket.”