Television producer Norman Lear had his first of many sitcom successes with the groundbreaking "All in the Family." He also had one of his biggest flops with a show about a family from Long Island.
Lear, who died Tuesday at 101, was hoping the 1991 sitcom "Sunday Dinner" would be his next "All in the Family." The CBS series was loosely based on Lear's relationship with his third wife, Lyn Davis Lear, whom he married in 1987 and survives him. It starred Robert Loggia as a 56-year-old Great Neck widower, whose romance with a 30-year-old environmental attorney (Teri Hatcher) does not go over well with his grown children. (The series was not filmed on Long Island). The kids were especially disturbed by her revelation that she talks to a Supreme Being, whom she calls "Chief," offering thanks for "all the zillions of miracles that make up life." Unfortunately, the show didn't work miracles with audiences and only lasted six weeks.
Far more memorable for Long Islanders was Lear's 2014 appearance at the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, during which he discussed his career and signed copies of his autobiography, "Even This I Get to Experience." The event, which also featured clips from the many popular shows Lear created, drew an enthusiastic crowd who surprised Lear by serenading him with "Those Were the Days," the theme song to "All in the Family."
In his book, Lear recalled renting a cottage on Fire Island one summer, just two doors down from his friends Carl and Estelle Reiner. That was also when he got to know the couple's young son, Rob, who would go on to play Mike Stivic on "All in the Family." While teaching Lear's daughter, Ellen — a longtime Long Islander who works with horses — how to play jacks, Lear noticed how funny Reiner could be.
“Sixteen years later, watching him rehearse with Carroll O’Connor," Lear wrote, "I would be reminded daily of Rob on the floor with Ellen, teaching her jacks that summer on Fire Island."