“All in the Family” first aired from 1971 to 1979 on CBS-TV. Though filmed in Hollywood, it was set in a middle-class Queens neighborhood and it starred Newtown High School graduate Carroll O’Connor as the lovable bigot Archie Bunker.

The sitcom addressed abortion, homosexuality, menopause, racism and rape at a time when these topics were taboo. Plus, Archie routinely complained about African-Americans, Catholics, immigrants, Jews, liberals and other people who weren’t like him. (The modern world would call him a “hater.”)

Nevertheless, weekly “All in the Family” episodes averaged about 50 million viewers during its heyday. In addition to winning 22 Emmys and eight Golden Globes, the series spawned spinoffs such as “The Jeffersons” and “Maude” and inspired such later shows as “Married… with Children” and “The Simpsons.” It was such a part of American life that the living room chairs (above) where Archie and his wife, Edith, relaxed are now on display at the Smithsonian.

So how did a button-pushing series become so celebrated? And how did a prejudiced loudmouth become so loved?

Jim Cullen discusses, sells and signs his new book, “Those Were the Days: Why All in the Family Still Matters,” during An Archie Bunker Afternoon in Flushing on Saturday, Jan. 25, at 2:30 p.m.

Published by Rutgers University Press just last week (Jan. 17, 2020), Cullen’s work is the first detailed, full-length study of “All in the Family.” The Jackson Heights native analyzes the four main characters — Archie, Edith, their educated daughter Gloria, and her hippie husband Michael Stivic — and explains how they (and the plot) appealed to a broad and multi-generational spectrum of viewers.

Despite his boorishness, Archie, who worked on a loading dock, was real. Plus, he had to drop out of school to support his family during the Great Depression and he served in World War II. Edith was uneducated and subservient to Archie, but the career housewife also displayed a subtle toughness and genuinely kind nature. Gloria was an outspoken feminist who displayed flashes of her father’s stubbornness and her mother’s sweetness. Michael, whom Archie called “Meathead,” was a 1960s lefty who professed enlightened, progressive values, but expected his wife to agree with him all the time. Plus, he was living rent-free in Archie’s house.

Complicated and hypocritical just like the rest of us.

Admission is $5, but students can attend for $3.

An interdisciplinary (English, history, humanities, etc.) teacher at Ethical Culture Fieldston School in the Bronx, Cullen has written for various newspapers and authored more than 10 books, including “Born in the USA: Bruce Springsteen and the American Tradition (HarperCollins, 1997)” and “The Civil War in Popular Culture (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995).”

An Archie Bunker Afternoon will take place at the Queens Historical Society’s headquarters, Kingsland Homestead, at 143-35 37th Ave. Due to construction, on-site parking is currently not available. Public transportation is suggested.

Image: Courtesy of Queens Historical Society


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