An Interview with Norman Lear

Some highlights of my conversation with Lear in 2012 at Fordham.

Remembrances of Normal Lear following his death earlier this month rightly focused on how the producer’s long list of era-defining shows transformed television in the ‘70s by bringing the fraught social issues of a tumultuous period to primetime–and within the traditionally cozy sitcom format, at that. As he told me during an interview in 2012 at Fordham University, the most pressing concerns of earlier sitcom characters had been, “Mother dented the fender, and how are we going to keep dad from finding out?” 

Lear was also a tireless student of television and mentor of young talent, who he often told to break from the advice of generations of English teachers by writing what they didn’t know and mining the unfamiliar for dramatic gold. Here are some highlights of my conversation with Lear, including his experiences as a child of the Depression, his showbiz beginnings as a press agent in frequent trouble and his tenacious drive to break through on the creative side, with some help from Martin and Lewis, after driving cross-country to Hollywood.

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