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Norman Lear passes away at 101

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Famed television producer Norman Lear, whose wildly successful TV sitcoms including “All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons” fused comedy with trenchant social commentary and dominated network ratings in the 1970s, died Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles, his family announced on his website. He was 101.

“Norman lived a life of curiosity, tenacity, and empathy. He deeply loved our country and spent a lifetime helping to preserve its founding ideals of justice and equality for all,” his family said. “He began his career in the earliest days of live television and discovered a passion for writing about the real lives of Americans, not a glossy ideal. At first, his ideas were met with closed doors and misunderstanding. However, he stuck to his conviction that the ‘foolishness of the human condition’ made great television, and eventually he was heard.”

Beginning with “All in the Family” in 1971, Lear’s shows tackled fraught topics of racism, feminism and social inequalities that no one had yet dared touch. The show – which won the Emmy for Outstanding New Series – focused on the white working class Bunker family and its small-minded, irascible, prejudiced and oddly likable patriarch Archie Bunker.

Director Rob Reiner, who played Bunker’s politically polar opposite son-in-law Michael “Meathead” Stivic on the sitcom, paid tribute to Lear on social media on Wednesday.

“I loved Norman Lear with all my heart. He was my second father. Sending my love to Lyn and the whole Lear family,” Reiner shared in a statement.

“All in the Family” spurred a series of similarly popular and political spinoffs, including “Sanford and Son,” “Maude,” and “Good Times.”

In his 2014 memoir, “Even This I Get to Experience,” Lear attributed the success of his series to stories drawn from the real experiences of his writers that lent to the authenticity of the characters they developed.

“The audiences themselves taught me that you can get some wonderful laughs on the surface with funny performers and good jokes,” he wrote, “But if you want them laughing from the belly, you stand a better chance if you can get them caring first.”

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