The 1970’s were a time of upheaval and change in America. While some show runners were content to present the status quo to the audience, Norman Lear knew that America needed to see itself reflected on the small screen.
After the monumental success of All In The Family, Lear knew that it was time for a spin-off. The Bunker’s neighbors, George and Louise Jefferson were taken out of working class Queens and into a Manhattan high-rise. Titled The Jeffersons, George and Louise now have live in maid, Florence (Marla Gibbs), who loves nothing more than to torment her male employer. The Jefferson’s neighbor’s Helen and Tom Willis (Roxie Roker and Franklin Cover) are an interracial couple, which was unique for television at that time. Add in Harry Bentley (Paul Benedict), another neighbor, whose roots are across the pond and a relationship between the Jefferson’s son and the Willis’s daughter and you have the future of America reflected on television.
Like it’s predecessor, The Jeffersons was funny, controversial at times and forced the audience to not only look at the world around them, but accept that the world was changing.
I recommend it.
The early 20th century was a historical game changer. New immigrants were entering America by the millions, disenfranchised minorities were fighting against the prejudice that kept them down and the social ruling class were trying to deal with the changes that were becoming obvious.
In 1975, E.L. Doctorow published Ragtime, a novel based around three different families living in America in the years leading up to World War I. Intertwining fictional characters with the real life events and personalities, the novel bring to life the era in brilliant color and sound.
In 1981, the book was made into a film. Tateh (Mandy Patinkin) is a Jewish widower who has recently immigrated from Eastern Europe with his daughter, hoping for a better life. Mother (Mary Steenburgen) is the matriarch of an upper middle class WASP family. Coalhouse Walker Jr (Howard E Rollins Jr) is an African-American fighting against the injustice of the era while trying to win back his ex/mother of his child, Sarah (Debbie Allen).
The danger of a story like Ragtime, with a large cast of characters and multiple story lines running concurrently is that the reader/viewer can easily get lost. But not this story. Times may have changed, but human beings are still human beings. Which is exactly why this movie still holds up after more than 30 years.
I recommend it.