TV and the Evolution of American Culture with Norman Lear

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About This Episode

Neil deGrasse Tyson looks at the relationship between television and American culture, with the help of writer and producer Norman Lear, author Saul Austerlitz, and co-host Chuck Nice. The 92-year-old Lear, dubbed “The King of the Sitcom” for his work on All in the Family, Maude, The Jeffersons, Good Times, and more, talks about the role of personal tragedy in comedy, and how he and his peers used the social issues of the day to change television’s role in our lives. You’ll hear about Edith Bunker dealing with breast cancer, Maude’s dilemma over whether or not to get an abortion, and of course, Archie, the ultimate bigot, sharing a beer with Sammy Davis Jr. You’ll also learn about Lear’s influence on South Park, and why The Big Bang Theory may be just as reflective of today’s society as M*A*S*H* or Lear’s comedies were of theirs. Neil and Lear discuss Isaac Newton, the impact of the lunar landing, religion’s place in society, and why Lear founded People for the American Way. Plus, Bill Nye remembers All in the Family and how it was able to grapple with subjects like racism using humor.

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