Is it time for a new Archie Bunker?

Is it time for a new Archie Bunker?

This article is in no way advocating for a reboot of All In the Family. There’s no need to remake that series, as it exists perfectly already. However, decades after the show’s heyday, there is nothing like it across the television landscape. A new Archie Bunker-like character could spark more than nostalgia; we need a cultural lightning rod to reflect the shifting cultural landscape. While nobody will ever be able to replicate Carroll O’Connor, an Archie for the modern era could offer a fresh perspective.

Television has changed a lot since All In the Family. Character dynamics have evolved, and so have the types of characters we accept as protagonists. When the show originally aired, characters like Don Draper and Tony Soprano were unheard of. Now, screenwriters continue to push the boundaries of “likeability” as they explore exactly what their audiences will root for. As viewers, we’ve grown to allow entire networks filled with characters who challenge the status quo. Few characters, though, have dared to challenge beliefs about race, class, and gender in the way Archie Bunker would.Audiences react strongly when they see something that feels authentic. Far too frequently, we’re presented with black-and-white morality. There are characters on TV that are completely good, and there are characters that are completely bad. We even see arcs that take a protagonist from one end of the spectrum to the other. But, we don’t have a ton of shows that offer us more complex, authentic individuals that reflect the times in the way Archie did.

This new character would not be without its challenges, obviously. As norms have changed over the years, people have become more aware of the ways attitudes and words can affect others. Viewers are more sensitive to things than they were when All In the Family aired and might be concerned with the relevance of a character like Archie Bunker. But without a show that builds on All in The Family, the audience is denied the important chance for nuanced discussion.

Having a character like Archie on TV today would allow for conversation and connection over lots of things that currently divide us.

As TV continues to evolve, there are very few shows that push us to interrogate what we believe and why. More than ever, right now, there is space and a need for characters who reflect societal complexities using comedy. By embracing a character like Archie Bunker and adapting to modern sensibilities, a new show could build upon the legacy of All in The Family while creating meaningful discussion that brings us all together.

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