The success of ABC’s Live in Front of a Studio Audience continued this morning when the live special received two Emmy nominations including Outstanding Variety Special (Live) and Outstanding Directing for a Variety Special for James Burrows and Andy Fisher. The special featured revivals of classic episodes of All in the Family and The Jeffersons with the likes of Jamie Foxx, Woody Harrelson, Marisa Tomei, Kerry Washington, Will Ferrell and an all-star casting stepping into the pioneering characters. The series was executive produced by Brent Miller, Jimmy Kimmel and, of course, the Godfather of woke classic TV Norman Lear.
Lear told Deadline he was a “great kick” to be nominated. The three-time Emmy winner was last nominated was in 1991 when he received a nod for, coincidentally, an All in the Family 20th anniversary special. In addition, the nomination marks a major milestone for Lear.
“My friend Carl Reiner — we kind of grew up together in the industry and the world — was nominated last year,” he told Deadline. “At the time, he was proud to be the oldest guy with an Emmy nomination. I think I may beat him this year! I’m getting a big kick out of that.”
Lear is right. Reiner, who was nominated in 2018 for Outstanding Narrator for If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast, received his nomination at the age of 96. Lear is also 96, but has him beat by about eight months with his birthday on July 27, which makes him the oldest Emmy nominee at the time of his nomination.
When Live in Front of a Studio Audience premiered on May 25, 22 million viewers tuned in and ABC president Karey Burke was looking to turn this into a franchise. Lear and fellow Executive Producer Brent Miller shared the same hope.
“Nothing is confirmed and everybody’s excited about exploring something new, but at the moment we’re just looking — but we’re staying in the moment and enjoying today,” Miller said of the future of the franchise and today’s nomination. “Hopefully down the road we can explore more of this.”
As far as what shows they want to explore for the next installment, there are many to choose from in the classic TV Lear universe: Maude, Good Times, Sanford and Son — but the pair remained tight-lipped on which one they would want to revive.
“There is more than one — several if not many,” teased Lear.
“Truth be told, all this started with Jimmy Kimmel so it would be a conversation with him as well,” admitted Miller. “This was his goal — to launch Live in Front of a Studio Audience. Any kind of conversation with any other show we’d also have with him.”
As far as the Emmy nomination was concerned, Lear and Miller were hopeful but realistic. “We had gone to sleep last night talking about that possibility because we knew that the nominations were going to be announced in the morning,” said Lear “The possibility was alive and well. In my case, it was a distant possibility. It was no less of a kick and a thrill when it turned out to be real.”
Miller added, “I went to sleep very hopeful and woke up and thought ‘Maybe this will happen.’” He continued, “We watched in real time when they were streaming on the Academy site. I watched the entire announcement and our particular category wasn’t announced so I had to find it. I quickly went and found it as fast as I could as my phone was ringing with my mom saying ‘I’m so sorry you didn’t get nominated.’ I said, ‘Hold on mom! I think I could find it!’ and sure enough, I found it and my very next call was to Norman.”
Although the revival had new actors in the iconic roles of Archie Bunker and George Jefferson, the live special was very much “of the era” (Marla Gibbs even revived her role as Florence) and kept the spirit of the Lear sitcom. Introducing these socially poignant stories to a new generation is relevant more now than ever. “The younger generations are often surprised with how the problems with the families resonate,” said Lear. “That’s because we were dealing with problems that relate to the human experience — and that experience hasn’t changed. It evolves.”