All in the Family was produced by Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin. It starred Carroll O'Connor, Jean Stapleton, Sally Struthers, and Rob Reiner. The show revolves around the life of a working-class bigot and his family. The show broke ground in its depiction of issues previously considered unsuitable for a U.S. network television comedy, such as racism, infidelity, homosexuality, women's liberation, rape, religion, miscarriages, abortion, breast cancer, the Vietnam War, menopause, and impotence. Through depicting these controversial issues, the series became arguably one of television's most influential comedic programs, as it injected the sitcom format with more dramatic moments and realistic, topical conflicts.
Based on the BBC1 sitcom Till Death Us Do Part (with Archie Bunker modeled after Alf Garnett), All in the Family is often regarded in the United States as one of the greatest television series of all time. Following a lackluster first season, the show soon became the most watched show in the United States during summer reruns and afterwards ranked number one in the yearly Nielsen ratings from 1971 to 1976. It became the first television series to reach the milestone of having topped the Nielsen ratings for five consecutive years. The episode "Sammy's Visit" was ranked number 13 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time ranked All in the Family as number four. Bravo also named the show's protagonist, Archie Bunker, TV's greatest character of all time. In 2013, the Writers Guild of America ranked All in the Family the fourth-best written TV series ever, and TV Guide ranked it as the fourth-greatest show of all time.
All in the Family is about a typical white working-class family living in Queens, New York. Its patriarch is Archie Bunker (O'Connor), an outspoken, narrow-minded man, seemingly prejudiced against everyone who is not like him or his idea of how people should be. Archie's wife Edith (Jean Stapleton) is sweet and understanding, though somewhat naïve and uneducated; her husband sometimes disparagingly calls her "dingbat". Their one child, Gloria (Sally Struthers), is generally kind and good-natured like her mother, but displays traces of her father's stubbornness; unlike them, however, she is a feminist. Gloria is married to college student Michael Stivic (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 which he eventually buys, 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, Middle Village, and Rego Park sections of Queens. Supporting characters represent the demographics of the neighborhood, especially the African American Jeffersons, who live in the house next door in the early seasons.
The show came about when Norman Lear read an article in Variety magazine on Till Death Us Do Part and its success in the United Kingdom. He immediately knew it portrayed a relationship just like the one between his father and him.
Lear bought the rights to the show and incorporated his own family experiences with his father into the show. Lear's father would tell Lear's mother to "stifle herself" and she would tell Lear's father "you are the laziest white man I ever saw" (two "Archieisms" that found their way onto the show).
The original pilot was titled Justice for All and was developed for ABC. Tom Bosley, Jack Warden, and Jackie Gleason were all considered for the role of Archie Bunker. In fact, CBS wanted to buy the rights to the original show and retool it specifically for Gleason, who was under contract to them, but producer Lear beat out CBS for the rights and offered the show to ABC.