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All in the Family didn't feature a typical sitcom family. Indeed, no TV family prior remotely resembled the Bunkers, who were more likely representative of the average American family than those portrayed on the tube. What would Archie (Carroll O'Connor) have been without Michael Stivic, a.k.a. Meathead (Rob Reiner)? Certainly, in later episodes, after Gloria (Sally Struthers) and Mike moved away and then divorced, Archie had to find other liberal nemeses with which to do battle. But it was his early conflicts with the son-in-law he dubbed "Meathead" that set the tone for the series (based on a British sitcom), defined Archie's distinctive personality, and established the watershed issues that executive producer Norman Lear and his talented team brought to the small screen.
In "Meet the Bunkers," Archie and Mike have plenty to argue about during a surprise anniversary party. Meanwhile, Archie's put-upon wife, Edith (the brilliant Jean Stapleton), and daughter Gloria try to keep things upbeat. Archie likes Lionel (Mike Evans) just fine--but then Archie finds out that Lionel's parents, George and Louise (Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford), are the black family he's trying to prevent from moving in next door. Another wedding anniversary--this time that of the Stivics--offers a flashback of when Archie first meets Michael. Each episode encapsulates some of the series' finest elements: its ability to intrigue audiences through the irrepressible archconservative Archie Bunker, its ability to get its message across clearly, its intelligence, and never underestimating its audience. --N.F. Mendoza
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