Norman Lear’s groundbreaking ‘Maude’ abortion episode also caused division in his household

Norman Lear’s groundbreaking ‘Maude’ abortion episode also caused division in his household

The legendary producer looks back at some of his most seminal sitcom moments in the ABC special, Norman Lear: 100 Years of Music and Laughter.

The legendary producer Norman Lear ‘s groundbreaking Maude episode on abortion caused division in his own family.

In his star-studded birthday special Norman Lear: 100 Years of Music and Laughter, the TV tour de force looks back at his storied life and career, one responsible for some of the most seminal sitcom moments, including the then-controversial two-part Maude episode in 1972. Lear says that CBS wasn’t the only opposition to the storyline. One of his daughters disagrees with it all. “

Snippets of season 1’s “Maude’s Dilemma” — wherein Bea Arthur‘s headstrong Maude and husband Walter (Bill Macy) make the decision to not proceed with a pregnancy — are played on a screen in front of Lear, who is joined by Jimmy Kimmel, Amy Poehler, Octavia Spencer, and Jennifer Aniston at a dining table, cocktails and glasses of wine in tow. Macy’s Walter, Macy’s husband, says, “For you, Maude,” in the scene.


Bea Arthur and Bill Macy in ‘Maude’

| Credit: CBS via Getty Images

After the scene fades to black, Lear tells Kimmel and co., “I have a glorious daughter who disagrees with every bit of that. This is a beautiful young woman in many ways, but she will not agree with that.

“Well Norman, that’s the special thing about your work,” Poehler responds. “We watched it together with people in our living rooms who were on completely different journeys than we were. We all watched it together. Aniston agrees and says that it sparked a good conversation. Lear claims that CBS tried to block the episode but he didn’t give up. He even threatened to quit several times. Kimmel also notes that he was the target of religious groups at that time. Jerry Falwell, the late pastor, called him “No. The “No. 1 enemy of America” Kimmel responds to Lear with, “How could I not be proud of that?” (“Better than No. 2,” Poehler says. )


Octavia Spencer, Jimmy Kimmel, Jennifer Aniston, and Amy Poehler in ‘Norman Lear: 100 Years of Music and Laughter’

| Credit: ABC/Eric McCandless

“I was deeply concerned with Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, [who] were proliferating on the tube and radio and so forth, claiming you were a good or a bad Christian depending on your political view,” Lear says, later noting, “That’s not the American way.

Lear’s determination to tell human stories has inspired many, as his peers repeatedly reiterated throughout the broadcast. “[Lear] threatened to quit countless jobs because at the end, it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about telling important stories no matter what it’s about,” Kenya Barris says in the special. “About tackling issues everyone is talking about, but afraid to talk about.”

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