Classic Recasts, Live

(Above: Carroll O’Connor and Woody Harrelson, two Archie Bunkers)

Woody Harrelson as Archie Bunker. Jamie Foxx as George Jefferson.

The two movie stars will lead two stellar casts tomorrow night, May 22, when ABC airs live reboots of iconic episodes from classic sitcoms All in the Family and The Jeffersons.

Which episodes? That info has been kept tightly under wraps, but we can reveal what’s likely to be one-half of the lineup: a new version of The Jeffersons’ pilot. Jackée Harry, you see, has been cast as Diane Stockwell, a character who appeared in no other episode of the series.

What happens in that episode? In short, George and wife Louise are “movin’ on up, to the East Side, to a deluxe apartment in the sky”:

Norman Lear and Jimmy Kimmel will host Wednesday night’s two recreations, with other cast members to include Marissa Tomei as Edith Bunker, Wanda Sykes as Louise Jefferson, Ellie Kemper as the Bunkers’ daughter Gloria, Ike Barinholtz as Gloria hubby Mike, Sean Hayes as All in the Family neighbor Frank Lorenzo, and Will Ferrell and Kerry Washington as The Jeffersons’ pioneering interracial couple Tom and Helen Willis.

If that’s not enough star power, the recreated episodes will be directed by James Burrows, who previously directed Harrelson in countless episodes of Cheers — and won 10 Emmy Awards for Cheers, Will & Grace, Frasier and Taxi. Although Burrows’ directing career began in 1975, when All in the Family and The Jeffersons were both on the air, he never directed either series until now.

ABC’s special even boasts a superlative title: Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear’s ‘All in the Family’ and ‘The Jeffersons.’ The show will air live for 90-minutes on ABC stations starting at 8 pm ET Wednesday, and will be followed by another special, this one a half hour, with an equally long title: Nightline Presents ‘All About ‘All in the Family’ and ‘The Jeffersons.'”

If you’d prefer to watch the original All in the Family with Carroll O’Connor as Archie, Jean Stapleton as Edith, Sally Struthers as Gloria, and Rob Reiner as Mike, you can switch over to GetTV, where the series is now running weeknights from 7 pm through 10 pm.  (For a possible preview of which episode ABC will recreate tomorrow, tune in tonight at 7 pm for a 90-minute episode from the show’s ninth and final season in which Lear presents highlights from the series.)

You can also stream All in the Family’s first two seasons for free on Sony Crackle.

Here’s a classic scene, concluding the episode when bigoted Archie welcomes Sammy Davis Jr. to the Bunker house:

Classic episodes of The Jeffersons, with Sherman Hemsley as George and Isabel Sanford as Louise, run weeknights at 6:30 pm on MeTV. You can also binge the entire series ad-free with a Starz subscription.

All in the Family ran for nine seasons and 205 episodes on CBS (1971-1979). It spawned several spin-offs, with The Jeffersons being the most successful one, running on CBS for 11 seasons and 253 episodes (1975-1985).

To see All in the Family and The Jeffersons for free on ABC, GetTV and MeTV, attach an antenna to your TV set. To locate the latter two channels in your area, visit  GetTV’s “Get the Channel” and MeTV’s “Where to Watch.”

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About Les Luchter

Les Luchter is a former managing editor of Multichannel News, editor-in-chief of Cable Marketing, and news editor of Broadcast Week.

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