Norman Lear, the influential television writer and producer who created groundbreaking series including “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons” and “Maude,” has died, family members announced Wednesday. He was 101.
In a statement posted on social media, Lear’s family said he died Tuesday of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles.
“Norman passed away peacefully on December 5, 2023, surrounded by his family as we told stories and sang songs until the very end,” the statement read.
“Norman lived a life in awe of the world around him. He marveled at his cup of coffee every morning, the shape of the tree outside his window, and the sounds of beautiful music. But it was people—those he just met and those he knew for decades—who kept his mind and heart forever young.”
Lear transformed American television in the 1970s with a series of immensely popular sitcoms that included political satire and other topics that had earlier been considered taboo.
“He began his career in the earliest days of live television and discovered a passion for writing about the real lives of Americans, not a glossy ideal,” family members said Wednesday. “At first, his ideas were met with closed doors and misunderstanding. However, he stuck to his conviction that the ‘foolishness of the human condition’ made great television, and eventually he was heard.”
Lear was born in July 1922 in New Haven, Connecticut, and attended college in Boston before dropping out to enlist in the Army following the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. During World War II, he flew on 52 combat missions over Europe.
He went on to become a publicist in New York City, and then a comedy writer and producer in California. At the time, sitcoms were mostly seen as a form of escapism — but that changed in 1971, with the debut of Lear’s “All in the Family.”
“You looked around television in those years,” he told The New York Times in 2012, referring to the middle and late 1960s, “and the biggest problem any family faced was ‘Mother dented the car, and how do you keep Dad from finding out’; ‘the boss is coming to dinner, and the roast’s ruined.’ The message that was sending out was that we didn’t have any problems.”
Within five months of its debut in January 1971, “All in the Family” had become the top-rated show in the U.S. with 50 million viewers each week, Bloomberg News reported. The show went on to earn Lear four Emmys and a Peabody Award.
He created several other shows that also dominated ratings in the 1970s and early 1980s, including “Sanford and Son,” “Good Times,” “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” and “One Day at a Time.”
His 75-year career earned him a spot in the Television Academy Hall of Fame’s inaugural class in 1984 and a National Medal of Arts in 1999.
“Norman Lear has held up a mirror to American society and changed the way we look at it,” then-President Bill Clinton said while presenting the National Medal of Arts.
Lear is survived by his wife Lyn Davis Lear, six children — Ellen Lear, Kate Lear, Maggie Lear, Ben Lear, Madeline Lear and Brianna Lear — and four grandchildren.
©2023 Cox Media Group