June 27, 2015 10:22 am

This Sunday, revisit the 70s with Neil deGrasse Tyson and Norman Lear

Lear with stars Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton on the set of ‘All in the Family.’ © 1978 Gene Trindl / mptvimages.com

Lear with stars Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton on the set of ‘All in the Family.’ © 1978 Gene Trindl / mptvimages.com

In the 1970s, reality invaded television like never before.

The Vietnam War was on the nightly news.

The Watergate hearings were on TV during the day.

It invaded our sitcoms, too.

Characters we cared about got raped…had abortions…got divorced…went through menopause.

Just like in real life, but seen on TV, for the first time.

Subjects that had been thought too dangerous to play well in prime time snuck into America’s living rooms disguised as comedy: racism, feminism, discrimination, gentrification, poverty, bigotry, pacifism and jingoism.

One man did more than most to turn the sitcom into a mirror reflecting American culture, and that man was Norman Lear.

Lear was the writer and producer of shows that, as Bill Nye puts it in Sunday’s podcast, changed the world: All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Maude, Good Times, and many more.

In this Sunday’s episode, host Neil deGrasse Tyson gets to ask Norman Lear how he was able to find the humor in subject matter that was oftentimes anything but funny, and turn it into something powerful that influenced the national conversation.

In studio, Neil gets help exploring this interrelationship of social change and TV, from stalwart comic co-host Chuck Nice and Saul Austerlitz, the author of Sitcom: A History in 24 Episodes from I Love Lucy to Community. And yes, even Gilligan’s Island, I Dream of Jeannie and The Big Bang Theory all find their way into the discussion.

As Chuck points out, Neil finds a way to bring everything back to science, and he and Norman discuss the impact of the lunar landings on creativity and society. They trade some of their favorite quotes – of course, Neil’s is by Isaac Newton.

By the way, Sunday’s show is the podcast version of the season finale of StarTalk TV on The National Geographic Channel. We’ll be going back to our regular mix of podcasts, including Cosmic Queries and StarTalk Live! We also have the podcast versions of two more TV episodes, Exploring Science and Religion with Richard Dawkins and The Digital Revolution with Arianna Huffington, which will be posted later this summer.

Join us for TV and the Evolution of American Culture with Norman Lear on Sunday, June 28 at 7:00 PM ET on our website, iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud and TuneIn.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
–Jeffrey Simons

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