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Iconic TV Producer Norman Lear Going Strong At 95; Shoots Pilot For New Show In Ventura County

(Photo courtesy CBS)
The CBS sitcom "All In The Family" helped television to take on serious social issues, using comedy as a way to start discussions about topics like the Vietnam War, the economy, and racism

He created some of the most groundbreaking shows on American television, which brought issues like racism and religious tolerance into the nation’s living rooms.

Norman Lear helped changed the face of TV with shows like the 1970’s hit “All in The Family,” which used comedy to look at subjects people usually didn’t want to talk about. The pilot for his latest project, a new sitcom for NBC, was shot in Ventura County.

The 95 year old writer, director, and producer got his first job working on a TV show starring then little known comics Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. But, he says he was drawn to using comedy to tackle serious social issues.

Lear says when his show “All In The Family” first hit the airwaves in 1971, he had to battle network censors. But, he admits when the show became a huge ratings success, he ended up with a lot more latitude.

The success of “All In The Family” led to spinoffs and other series, which also used comedy to tackle tough issues. The series “Maude” looked at subjects like abortion, and “The Jeffersons” followed an African American family which despite becoming successful still had to deal with racism.

Lear says the inspiration for the series came from what was going on in American from the Vietnam War to the Watergate scandal, and the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

Lear never retired. In fact, the pilot for his latest project, an NBC sitcom called “Guess Who Died” and starring Hector Elanzo, and Holland Taylor was recently shot at the University Village retirement community in Thousand Oaks.

The iconic TV producer says modern television is a reflection of our current society, in that it’s filled with excess. But, he says there are some amazing shows now being produced. Lear has received virtually every major award in television, and in 2017, was one of the Kennedy Center honorees for his contributions over his lifetime to American culture.

He is a World War II veteran who flew dozens of combat missions in a bomber, and says he’s always been committed to freedom, and the First Amendment. Lear has stepped up to support a number of First Amendment issues over the years.

Lear admits he feels lucky to have a career that’s spanned the early days of television to Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.