Two of my favorite satirical sitcoms growing up were All in the Family and the Spin-off of that show The Jeffersons. Both in a sense were social experiments on the problems of race in our country. Norman Lear, the show’s creator was brilliant and he chose to create two bigoted characters, Archie Bunker, a ultra-bigoted white guy who worked the loading docks and lived in Astoria, Queens (704 Hauser Street to be exact) and George Jefferson, Archie’s neighbor, a black man who is as bigoted towards whites as Archie is towards blacks.
It was brilliant satire and both shows were hits. We had a long discussion one day with friends about the two shows and the issue that one friend brought up and made me consider was whether the show actually succeeded in bringing to light racist viewpoints or if it simply turned Bunker and Jefferson into “lovable bigots?” A good question to say the least. And we should discuss it at length.
Hemsley was like a gnat on the Jefferson. He was short and wiry and he never seemed to say quit. It was revealed on All in the Family that he was a custodial worker and then he saved up enough money to buy a small business, a laundry/dry cleaning business: Jefferson Cleaners. They left the neighborhood and spun off into their own show whose theme song became as memorable as the characters: Movin on Up.
Here’s a great scene from All in the Family with both stars:
And here’s to Sherman Hemsley..may he rest in peace.