In May of this year, ABC aired a special event called “Live in Front of a Studio Audience.” Focusing on the iconic sitcom work of one Mr. Norman Lear, the live event enlisted over a dozen notable actors to perform episodes of two of his hit shows, “All in the Family” — the episode “Henry’s Farewell” — and “The Jeffersons” — the episode “A Friend in Need.” Hosted by Lear and Jimmy Kimmel, and directed by 10-time Emmy Award winner James Burrows, the 90-minute prime-time event even saw Marla Gibbs reprise her role as the Jeffersons’ wise-cracking maid Florence Johnston.
Tonight, “Live in Front of a Studio Audience” returns for another round of live Norman Lear-centric re-creation, this time with an all-new cast performing an episode of “All in the Family,” alongside a performance of an episode of “Good Times.”
For “All in the Family,” Woody Harrelson, Marisa Tomei, Ike Barinholtz, and Ellie Kemper will be reprising their respective roles as Archie Bunker, Edith Bunker, Mike “Meathead” Stivic, and Gloria Stivic. New additions Kevin Bacon, Justina Machado (who was originally supposed to play Florence in the spring’s “The Jeffersons” re-creation) and Jesse Eisenberg’s will be playing Pinky Peterson, Teresa Betancourt, and David Brewster (from the episode “The Draft Dodger”), respectively.
The “Good Times” cast will feature Viola Davis (as Florida Evans), Andre Braugher (as James Evans), Tiffany Haddish (as Willona Woods), Jay Pharoah (as J.J. Evans), Asante Blackk (as Michael Evans), Corinne Foxx (as Thelma Evans), and Jharrel Jerome (as Jimmy Pearson). The episode is “The Politicians.”
ABC’s “Live in Front of a Studio Audience” is executive produced by Norman Lear, Brent Miller, Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Justin Theroux, and, as of this special, Kerry Washington (who played Helen Willis in the spring special’s re-creation of “The Jeffersons”).
How will this installment of “Live in Front of a Studio Audience” turn out? That’s what we’re here to discuss. Below, follow along with the IndieWire TV team throughout the airing for an assessment of the best and worst moments as they happen. Post your own thoughts in the comment section.
It wasn’t a fluke that the first “Live in Front of a Studio Audience” was as big of a critical and viewership success as it was: Nostalgia sells, but the quality also has to be there for a project like this. That’s still the case for take two on this live event special, even though the segment for “Good Times” was weaker than the first installment’s “The Jeffersons” segment. A lot of that wasn’t the special’s fault, as the impeachment vote hurt it a lot, but it was still the case. As for the “All in the Family” re-creation, as noted in the live blog, there’s a reason why it, Harrelson, and Tomei are the lynchpins of these specials — easily what makes this all worth it, no matter what time of year this airs. As holiday (and impeachment) programming, “Live in Front of a Studio Audience” is well worth the time spent.
For more, check out the live blog below. “Live in Front of a Studio Audience” aired Wednesday, December 18 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.