Norman Lear updated reporters this afternoon on reboot plans for his hit sitcoms One Day At A Time and Good Times.
Lear was at TCA to talk about his profile on PBS’s American Masters franchise, in which filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady were given unprecedented access to his work and personal archives to track his turbulent childhood through his record-setting TV successes and social activism. PBS says it will air in fall of ’16.
Asked if he was interested in, or thought he had the stamina to do another series, the 93-year-old Lear told the woefully out-of-the-know reporter, “We’re talking about doing a Latino version of One Day at a Time – not in Spanish, but in English. That could happen.”
Pressed for details about the project, first reported in January, Lear only offered that he’d like the mother to have a son and daughter in the reboot. The original series made stars of Valerie Bertinelli and Mackenzie Phillips, playing the daughters of Bonnie Franklin. Lear also wants a grandmother in the show “so there will be three generations of women,” he said, adding, “I love the idea because I don’t see enough of that on the air any place… and I think it’s a rich idea.”
“It is a possibility and in a couple weeks I will let you know if it’s happening,” he said. Asked if he had a cast in mind, he responded, “Yes, but I’m not going to share.”
He also mentioned the Good Times movie reboot still being very much alive, but declined to elaborate. Sony set up the project last year and, in April, Deadline reported Black-Ish creator Kenya Barris is set to write the feature adaptation of the groundbreaking sitcom about an African-American family struggling in the Chicago projects in the ’60s. Scott Rudin and Eli Bush are producing, Deadline’s Mike Fleming reported. Good Times, which aired on CBS from 1974-79, was among a number of socially aware Norman Lear comedy hits. It was a spinoff of Lear hit Maude, which itself was a spinoff of Lear hit All In The Family.
Asked which of his TV series that did not become hits he’d most like to have another crack at, he named 704 Hauser, the short-lived CBS sitcom that aired from April to May of 1994. The series focused on the black family that has moved into the former Queens home of All In The Family’s Bunkers. “I wish that had succeeded because we had a lot of things to talk about in that situation,” he said.
Pressed, as he often is, as to why comedy series writers are no longer doing the kind of loud topical sitcom that was his specialty, Lear said, “My guess is they are fully capable of doing it, they just don’t elect to, or the networks… don’t elect to. Are they capable? Certainly… I love Modern Family and it has a lot to say about a lot of situations, but it doesn’t talk about some of the things we dealt with.”
One journalist noted he recently dinged PBS in a piece in the New York Times and wondered if he wanted to walk it back. Lear responded patiently that those familiar with him have heard him criticize this country but know “how much I love my country. It’s because I love it, I take the moment from time to time… when I think it’s gone wrong. The same is true of PBS. I love PBS and what it means,” he said. “And I criticize it whenever I think it’s wrong.”
“That earns a little applause,” he instructed the journalists in the room after making that statement; they took his direction. “I certainly got my wish — that was a little, not a lot,” he scolded.
One member of the press asked if he knew what number TCA appearance this was for him and if he remember any of his past appearances in particular. “Every memory I have of the TCA is strange,” he said simply.
“If that does me some damage, it was worth the laugh,” he said when the audience erupted.