What to Expect From the Free Medicare Wellness Visit
INTERESTING STUFF – 16 July 2016

Old Age: What's Not to Enjoy?

That headline is what legendary television producer Norman Lear says about ageing. He will be 94 on the 27th of this month, one of the top examples we have right now for fighting entrenched ageism for two reasons:

  1. He is as productive as he was when All in the Family et al dominated prime-time television.

  2. He has been on the receiving end of Hollywood ageism for at least the past several years.

Given his many successes in the genre, no one can deny that Norman Lear is the master of sitcoms. Five years ago, he began shopping a script for a new one titled, Guess Who Died? set in a retirement community and he has gotten nowhere with it.

“I heard from everybody," he told an an audience at the Austin Film Festival last fall. "They laughed, thought it was funny, but didn’t have a problem saying, ‘It’s just not our demographic.'”

Further on that topic at the Festival:

“As I got upwards in my 80s and into my 90s, the networks behaved like one Betty White covered a whole demographic. I love Betty White, but she is not the entire demographic. They are in retirement villages across the country.”

For those who believe ageism is unimportant, that it can be dismissed as a few derogatory words or jokes that are not worth paying attention to, consider this: the only difference between Normal Lear trying to find work and any other 60- or 70- or 80- or 90-year-old in the same situation is that Lear happens to be famous. It is so ubiquitous even a man who was one of the biggest money makers in Hollywood is ignored.

Although still without a contract for the show, Lear decided to hold a casting session for Guess Who Died? anyway. Film producers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady were there to make a short video of it for The New York Times. As one of them wrote:

”...we were mesmerized by the parade of actors that came through the door to audition. Mostly septo- or octogenarians, none of them exhibited the nerves or the vanity we’ve come to expect from hopeful thespians. Instead they read their lines with a humor and emotional nuance that was deeply felt and wonderfully lived-in.

“Suddenly, there in that casting room, I saw my grandmother again, then my favorite uncle and my chatty neighbor down the hall — all real people who walk among us, have so much to offer and are ready for their close up. All we need to do is look.”

Now you take a look and particularly note Norman Lear's commentary at the end:

Let's not allow that important, short speech at the end float off into the ether. Here it is in writing:

“Aren't you expected to grow? Learn more about yourself? About 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 the way they grow old. My role here now is to say, 'Wait a minute. That's not all there is. There's a good time to be had at this age.'”

Which is exactly what I've been trying to say here for the past 12 years.

Lordy, would I like to see that Guess Who Died? sitcom. Remember how sharp and relevant All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Maude and the rest of Lear's shows were? Imagine if he were allowed to bring that talent and expertise to a show starring old people.

The Mses Ewing and Grady have also produced a full-length documentary titled, Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You. Here is the official trailer:

The documentary has not been widely distributed but may be playing in a few theaters around the U.S. now. In October, you can watch it on the American Masters program on PBS and it will be available on Netflix beginning in November.

Even in his frustration with ageism in general and in getting Guess Who Died? produced, Norman Lear brings a joy to his old age. Everyone should.

Comments

Oh boy! Can't wait for October to watch this. The videos are great, will look at them again. Thanks, Ronni, for bringing this to our attention.

Ronni, this is a most uplifting, beautiful piece. I loved it!

Norman Lear has a natural gift. Why should he stop creating? His show must go on! What a treat to see the actors reading their lines.

**

This is a little off topic, however, the above brings to mind Lear's "All in The Family," a show we never missed..

We went to The Ethnic Show" at the Montreal Comedy Fest last night.

Comedians were poking fun at their own lives. Greek, Egyptian, Jewish, Puerto Rican, Lebanese. Four comics were from NYC. The audience was diverse, all ages. A fantastic show. If anyone is in Montreal right now, check it out at Club Soda.

We haven't laughed this hard for a long time. The world is in a dark place these days, but little gems like Norman Lear creating a show, are like safe houses we can visit for a while.

Really appreciated the Norman Lear update today. It was great to read and see what Norman is doing now! Hope to see more from him -

Thanks for every part of that article and all the ones you do every week!

Thanks so much!

Oh, I loved this. And, Norman Lear - such a delightful man! I thought of my Grandma who lived with us. Every morning she'd read the paper, obits first of course and proclaim, "Do you know who died today?" It is one of our favorite family lines...

Not their demographic? What a huge segment of the population they are overlooking! And it's their loss. We're still consumers, we still influence those around us, we still have opinions and votes. In short, we still occupy their world whether they like it or not.

Thanks for posting this, Ronnie.

I just finished reading the ebook version of his memoir, Even This I get to Experience. A fine tale of his exploits and achievements over the years.

Fascinating individual.

No, actually we are *not* Consumers. (Not important ones, anyway)

We don't buy cars or home loans or furniture. Our group does not sell ads. Please remember: television is a big business. Not a community play.

That is why he cannot sell the program. Not because it won't be great, but because the insipid crap that the 18-30 group wants is what sells ads.

This is no secret.

Oh my! Norman Lear has gifts not only of creativity in his work but in how to live! Fabulous and I hope the show gets produced!

Interesting article and comments. Joe E's thought that Lear cannot sell the program because the demographic he's covering are not consumers may sum it up. After a certain age, we are not economic drivers because many of us don't have the means. Yet, we watch a lot of television, so you would think that if we were seen as a profitable audience for advertisers, this would be snapped up. Sadly, I have to agree that it's more likely a profit driven decision, as so much of life boils down, rather than the snubbing of an older producer or subject matter.

I loved the video - started it with my usual premise, "I can stop it before the end if I need to" but the minutes flew by, and, at the end I wished there were more.

What surprised me was that I am not the only one to speak to the dead. I always talk to my Mom and Dad when I take flowers to the cemetary. Very touching to hear the man read the script about his dead wife, and I wish the sitcom could be produced.

Since us oldies but goodies are the larger demographic with some disposable income, this dismissal is beyond me. Why not play to all audiences?

Who could we write to to urge "Guess Who Died" by produced and aired? Ronni's troops could bombard him/her/them!

The TV moguls need to reevaluate their "demographic." As a group, we oldies have money and spend it (we just bought a new car). I don't watch much television, but when I do I see many ads pitching drugs, items in great demand among the elderly. Others tout reverse mortgages and other financial schemes of interest mostly to older folks. We actually are an important consumer group, and television producers need to wake up and realize it.

I loved seeing this and don't expect to ever see it on commercial TV. But I thought of two series that I've enjoyed tremendously: Getting On and Grace and Frankie. Once in a while, something real gets through the usual money-making blockade, and I hope this will happen for Guess Who Died? I'm thankful for you, Ronni, and for Norman Lear.

Demographic? What? Only 80+ year olds would watch this? I think they are missing more than they think when they limit the demographic by numbers alone. We watched The Golden Girls and the reruns many times and laughed again. We were in our 30's and 40's at the time. Besides we don't run out and buy stuff just because somebody interrupts TV shows. Now we pre-record and zip through ads. We pay cable bills though and for many shows we don't watch!

"Ageing is a growth experience" - Yeah, Norman! (Or, as we might say in England, "Quite so.")

What Gabbygeezer said.

10/10

I love Norman Lear's hat, I love his infectious smile and, truth to tell, I adore Normal Lear.

If I had one man to be with now it would have to be Normal Lear, but I doubt that he would notice me. So I will have to settle for the video.

"All In the Family" is my all time favorite sit-com. The re-runs are as funny and timely now as they were when it first aired. Like all good comedy, it is based on real life experiences and we Americans seem to breed Archie Bunkers by the hundreds. And they are all voting for Donald Trump.

Oh Darlene, your last paragraph is so true! Sadly!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)