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Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You 

Wednesday, Aug 3 2016
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The subject of Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady's documentary Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You is the legendary television producer. Still working at 93(!), Lear looks back on the highs and lows of his life — tracing his strong humanistic streak back to hearing as a child the virulently anti-Semitic radio preacher Charles Coughlin — through his career peak during the Nixon and Ford administrations and beyond. (He's rightfully proud of being on Nixon's enemies list, and was name-checked in the Watergate tapes.) Lear's 1970s shows such as All in the Family, Maude, and Good Times addressed topics like race, war, sexuality, and gender that were otherwise taboo on the lily-white airwaves. Def Jam founder Russell Simmons describes how revolutionary The Jeffersons was to black representation, while a line can be drawn from the 1972 Maude abortion episode "Maude's Dilemma" to BoJack Horseman's recent "Brrap Brrap Pew Pew." The BoJack episode addresses abortion in a way that would have been unthinkable in 1972 — but then again, many people in 1972 considered the comparatively tasteful Maude episode unthinkable as well. Lear comes across as just a funny, warm man, and recent footage of him hanging out with former collaborators Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner leaves you wanting more.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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