Random observations on last night’s re-creation of classic episodes of “All In The Family” and “The Jeffersons” on ABC:
Rather than creating their own versions of Archie and Edith and George and Louise, the star-filled cast did imitations of the actors who originated their roles. It would have been interesting to see new interpretations of the characters, even while delivering the lines as scripted in the 1970s, instead of the sitcom version of a tribute band. The way it was done last night felt more like an extended “In Living Color” or “Saturday Night Live” sketch.
Marisa Tomei nearly stole the evening with her Jean Stapleton/Edith Bunker, but the real winner for me was Wanda Sykes, the only performer who wasn’t doing an impression, instead giving Louise Jefferson a fierce new personality I don’t recall in the cartoonish Isabel Sanford version. Sykes was also the only actor who didn’t break up when Jamie Foxx flubbed a line and broke the fourth wall.
The other star of the show was Jennifer Hudson, performing “The Jeffersons” theme in a big afro wig. Is there anything she can’t sing?
Stephen Tobolowsky is one of the best character actors of his generation, but he can’t do a decent British accent, which became blatantly obvious every time he opened his mouth as the Jeffersons’ neighbor Harry Bentley. It was Dick-Van-Dyke-in-Mary-Poppins bad.
If you’re wondering why it took 90 minutes to air two 22-minute sitcom episodes, here’s your answer: ABC padded the show with intros and outros by Jimmy Kimmel and Norman Lear and stuffed a ton of extra commercials in — although, apparently, they couldn’t sell all the available ad space, because the network ran promos for its retro game show reboots over and over.
Pet Peeve: each time any actor appeared on the set, the audience whooped and hollered, because that’s what you must do when you’re in the crowd for any televised event. Just watch any late night show — every single guest gets a standing ovation as soon as they walk on stage. I can’t remember when this phenomenon started (Kramer’s entrances on “Seinfeld”?), but it’s now so over-the-top it has become a parody unto itself.
And, finally: I found it interesting that ABC felt the need to bleep a couple of uses of the word “nigger,” but allowed “colored” and “Heebs” to air uncensored. Why not let it all out?
The bottom line is that this retro-sitcom experiment got big enough ratings to ensure ABC will do more like it.