“Aren’t you expected to grow? Learn more about yourself and the world? You are when you’re young. Why would you be less expected to grow when you’re 80? The culture dictates how you behave, and maybe the elderly buy into it in the way they grow old. My role here now is to say, Wait a minute…. There’s a good time to be had at this age!” —Norman Lear
“All in the Family,” “Sanford and Son,” “The Jeffersons,” “Maude” — Norman Lear created some of the best-known sitcoms of the 70s and pushed the boundaries by addressing social issues in prime-time entertainment. Now 93, he’s doing it again, except this time, network executives aren’t interested.
Lear’s latest sitcom script is “Guess Who Died.” Yes, it’s set in a retirement home and appears to take a somewhat irreverent look at the joys and pains of old age, in classic sitcom style. It’s also, we suspect, a challenge to us all to examine how we’re growing older and how we might do it differently.
According to Lear, who’s been shopping the series for five years, networks say the sitcom won’t be relevant for their core audience — young people. So Lear has decided to go ahead with some casting sessions on his own. In this New York Times video by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, whose documentary about Norman Lear has just opened in theaters, he’s hearing a succession of older actors read from his script for the first time. And while he’s at it, he’s taking the opportunity to point a finger at ageism in the TV industry.
What do you think: Would you want to watch “Guess Who Died?”