Live in Front of a Studio Audience
Live in Front of a Studio Audience is a pair of live television specials broadcast by ABC on May 22 and December 18, 2019. Conceptualized and hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, the specials feature all-star casting for live recreations of sitcom episodes that originally aired in the 1970s.
|Live in Front of a|
|Created by||Jimmy Kimmel|
|Based on||All in the Family|
by Norman Lear
by Don Nicholl, Michael Ross, and Bernie West
by Eric Monte and Mike Evans
|Directed by||Andy Fisher|
James Burrows (segments)
Pamela Fryman (segments)
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||2|
|Running time||90 minutes|
|Distributor||Sony Pictures Television|
|Original release||May 22, 2019and December 18, 2019|
The show is co-produced by Norman Lear's Act III Communications, Kimmel's Kimmelot Production Company, and Will Ferrell's Gary Sanchez Productions, in association with Sony Pictures Television, owner of the rights to the original series, via the ownership of the Embassy Television library, the original producer of All in the Family, and its spin-offs The Jeffersons and Good Times.
The first special revived two episodes involving George Jefferson (played by Jamie Foxx), with All in the Family represented by "Henry's Farewell" — the character's on-screen debut, and "A Friend in Need" — the first episode of The Jeffersons. The first special was seen by 10.4 million viewers. A repeat was seen by 2.49 million viewers.
All in the Family is about a working-class Caucasian family living in Queens, New York. Its patriarch is Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor), an outspoken, narrow-minded man. Archie's wife Edith (Jean Stapleton) is sweet and understanding, though somewhat naïve and uneducated; her husband sometimes disparagingly calls her "dingbat." Their only child, daughter Gloria (Sally Struthers), is generally kind and good-natured like her mother, but displays traces of her father's stubbornness and temper; unlike them, however, she is a feminist. Gloria is married to college student Michael Stivic (Rob Reiner) – referred to as "Meathead" by Archie – whose values are likewise influenced and shaped by the counterculture of the 1960s. The two couples represent the real-life clash of values between the Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers. For much of the series, the Stivics live in the Bunkers' home to save money, providing abundant opportunity for them to irritate each other. – The show is set in the Astoria section of Queens, with the vast majority of scenes taking place in the Bunkers' home at 704 Hauser Street. Occasional scenes take place in other locations, especially during later seasons, such as Kelsey's Bar, a neighborhood tavern where Archie spends a good deal of time and eventually purchases, and the Stivics' home after Mike and Gloria move to the house next door. The house seen in the opening is at 89-70 Cooper Avenue near the junction of the Glendale, Forest Hills, and Rego Park sections of Queens. Supporting characters represent the demographics of the neighborhood, especially the Jeffersons, a black family, who live in the house next door in the early seasons.
The Jeffersons focuses on George and Louise Jefferson, an African-American couple who have been able to move from Queens to Manhattan owing to the success of George's dry-cleaner chain. The show was launched as the second spin-off of All in the Family, on which the Jeffersons had been the neighbors of Archie and Edith Bunker. The show was the creation of Norman Lear. The Jeffersons eventually evolved into more of a traditional sitcom but did reference such issues as alcoholism, racism, suicide, gun control, being transgender, and adult illiteracy. The epithets "nigger" and "honky" were used occasionally, especially during the earlier seasons.
Good Times focuses on James and Florida Evans and their three children living in a housing project in inner-city Chicago with their exuberant neighbor and Florida's best friend Willona Woods. The series was a spin-off of Maude (which was itself a spin-off of All in the Family). Florida was employed as Maude Findlay's housekeeper in Tuckahoe, New York, and James (named "Henry") was employed as a New York City firefighter. When Florida and Henry moved to Good Times, the producers decided to change the characters' history to fit a new series that was well into development rather than start from scratch to create a consistent starring vehicle. Henry's name was changed to James, and there was no mention of anything connected to Maude. Good Times was set in a traditional sitcom format, but dealt with serious issues of poverty, social class, racism, addiction, alcoholism, gang violence, gun violence, child abuse, homelessness, and politics.
- Martin Short as Himself – (December 18 episode only; performing the theme song from The Facts of Life) 
- Ja'Net DuBois, Jimmie Walker, and Bern Nadette Stanis as Themselves - (December 18 episode only; cast members on the original series of Good Times)
All in the Family
|Series||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||Original|
|All in the Family||"Henry's Farewell"||Bob LaHendro and John Rich||Don Nicholl||October 20, 1973||Season 4|
|The Bunkers and the Jeffersons have a farewell party for Henry, where Archie incites another argument.|
|The Jeffersons||"A Friend in Need"||Jack Shea||Story by : Barry Harman & Harve Brosten|
Teleplay by : Don Nicholl, Michael Ross, Bernie West, Barry Harman & Harve Brosten
|January 18, 1975||Season 1|
|When they experience growing pains in their posh new digs, George demands that Louise hire her friend as their maid. However, when the couple ends up hiring sassy maid Florence instead, George and Weezy learn you can "move on up" without looking down upon others.|
|Good Times||"The Politicians"||Herbert Kenwith||Jack Elinson & Norman Paul||November 4, 1975||Season 3|
|A feud erupts in the Evans' household when James and J.J. take the side of Alderman Fred Davis during his attempt at re-election while Florida, Thelma and Willona take the side of his young opponent. It seems Davis is a shyster who gets nothing done in the neighborhood, which is why she cannot believe James would back such a loser.|
|All in the Family||"The Draft Dodger"||Paul Bogart||Jay Moriarty and Mike Milligan||December 25, 1976||Season 7|
|The Bunkers have Christmas dinner with a friend of Archie's whose son died in the Vietnam war and a friend of Mike's who's a draft dodger.|
The first special was announced on April 19, 2019: Kimmel has deemed All in the Family and The Jeffersons as his favorite TV series of all-time, and stated that "the fact that a group of Oscar winners eagerly agreed to play these iconic characters is a testament to the greatness of these shows and their creator, Norman Lear." On May 10, 2019, it was announced that Anthony Anderson, Ike Barinholtz, and Sean Hayes would be part of the cast.
Live in Front of a Studio Audience was broadcast from the Sony Pictures Studios lot in Culver City, California. Many of the details regarding the special, including which episodes would be performed, guest stars, and other aspects, were kept as surprises to encourage viewership. Lear remarked that "the whole thing was Jimmy's idea", and that the two shows' relevance remained the same in the current political climate, explaining that "seriously, the most amazing thing is listening to these two shows where we agreed word for word — we would not change a word, and nothing has been changed". Lear also hoped that the special could become a larger franchise in its own right.
Justina Machado was originally announced as playing Florence Johnston; however, during the live broadcast, original The Jeffersons cast member Marla Gibbs made a surprise appearance to reprise her role as Florence. Veteran actress Fran Bennett portrayed Mother Jefferson. The original episodes aired between 1973 and 1976 on CBS, respectively.
A second special was announced on November 5, 2019 to air in December, featuring episodes of All in the Family and Good Times. On December 11, 2019, it was announced that Harrelson, Tomei, Kemper, and Barinholtz would reprise their All in the Family roles, and would be joined by Kevin Bacon, Jesse Eisenberg, and the previously announced Machado in yet to be revealed roles. It was also revealed that Anderson, who previously played Henry Jefferson in the first special, and Patti LaBelle would sing the Good Times theme song. The following day, the special's Good Times cast was announced: Viola Davis will portray Florida Evans, with Andre Braugher as James Evans, Jay Pharaoh as J.J. Evans, Asante Blackk as Michael Evans, Corinne Foxx as Thelma Evans, Tiffany Haddish as Willona Woods, and Jharrel Jerome in another yet-to-be revealed role. ABC also announced that it would air special "retro" promos for its current programming during the broadcast, which were modeled upon ABC's on-air presentation from the mid-1970s and early to mid 80s. Several ABC stations similarly planned to air their own throwback promos for local newscasts during the special, such as network owned-and-operated stations WTVD-TV and WLS-TV. The original broadcast was occasionally interrupted by ABC News special reports of updates on the impeachment of Donald Trump. Nevertheless, the final half hour tied with the Survivor season finale for the number 2 spot, losing to only the season finale of The Masked Singer.
Film critic Caroline Framke of Variety felt that "with meticulous attention to set detail and wig shapes, ABC's live staging of 'Henry's Farewell' and 'A Friend in Need' managed to feel both like an artifact of a nostalgic past and the urgent present", noting that Archie had "retained his notoriously ugly streaks of sexism and racism", while the word "nigger" had to be censored from the Jeffersons episode due to current broadcast standards. Framke similarly noted that "some of the punchlines reveal[ed] their age, but as Lear warned us ahead of time, far more hit close to home" (especially if one were to, for example, "swap out every Nixon mention for Trump"), and that "the deja vu does tend to create an extra depressing level to the proceedings." She felt that most of the starring roles were trying to "impersonate" their original actors with mixed results (also noting that Jamie Foxx had broken character to point out his flubbed line, blurting out that "[everyone's] sitting at home thinking their TV is messed up"), but that Marisa Tomei "stole just about every scene", and that they were backed by a supporting cast that "more often than not, have had ample experience on their own comedies borne of the Lear tradition". She concluded that "TV could frankly do a whole lot worse than gathering talented performers to tackle smart, topical comedy with such visceral joy that they're practically vibrating off the screen. That the material remains so stubbornly timely is a bonus — and a warning."
Viewership and ratingsEdit
The first special was seen by 10.4 million viewers, with a 1.7 share among viewers 18–49, making it the most-watched program of the night. The live special was followed by a half-hour retrospective on the two shows, All About All in the Family & The Jeffersons (seen by 7.9 million), and the series finale of Whiskey Cavalier (3.64 million). The special also gave ABC its most watched season-closing Wednesday since 2007.
The second special was seen by 5.8 million viewers, with a 1.1 share among viewers 18–49. Despite the massive drop in viewership, the special scored ABC's biggest audience on the Wednesday before Christmas since 2009.
|Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Variety Special (Live)||Norman Lear, Jimmy Kimmel, Adam McKay, Justin Theroux, Will Ferrell, Brent Miller and Eric Cook||Won|||
|Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special||James Burrows and Andy Fisher||Nominated|
|Outstanding Production Design for a Variety Special||Bernard Vyzga, Richard Rohrer and Ron Olsen||Nominated|
|Casting Society of America||Live Television Performance – Variety or Sketch Comedy||Marc Hirschfeld, Geralyn Flood and Katrina Wandel George||Won|||
|Critics' Choice Television Awards||Best Comedy Special||Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear’s All in the Family and The Jeffersons||Won|||
|Directors Guild of America Awards||Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Variety/Talk/News/Sports – Specials||James Burrows and Andy Fisher||Won|||
|Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guilds||Television Special, One Hour or More Live Program Series or Movie Made for Television – Best Period and/or Character Make-Up||Patty Bunch and Farah Bunch||Nominated|||
|Television Special, One Hour or More Live Program Series or Movie Made for Television – Best Period and/or Character Hair Styling||Tim Burke, Pixie Schwartz and Conrad Hilton||Nominated|
|Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Variety Special (Live)||Norman Lear, Jimmy Kimmel, Will Ferrell, Justin Theroux, Kerry Washington, James Burrows, Brent Miller and Eric Cook||Won|||
|Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special||Pamela Fryman and Andy Fisher||Nominated|
|Outstanding Production Design for a Variety Special||Bernard Vyzga, Richard Rohrer and Ron Olsen||Nominated|
|Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control for a Special||Eric Becker, Kevin Faust, Ron Hirshman, Ed Horton, Helena Jackson, Jon Purdy, Jimmy Velarde, Allen Merriweather, Greg Grouwinkel, Randy Gomez Sr. and Andrew Ansnick||Won|
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- Known as Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear's All in the Family and The Jeffersons for its first installment, then Live in Front of a Studio Audience: All in the Family and Good Times for its second installment.
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