Born in 1922, Norman Lear has enjoyed a long career in television and film, and as a political and social activist and philanthropist. He turned 93 in 2015.
He produced countless TV shows in the 1960s and 1970s, and a few TV shows and movies after that.
Ben Stein writes in his 1978 book Dreemz about Norman Lear: He produces and partly writes nine television shows. He develops new television shows constantly. He gives speeches and receives awards. He is constantly producing, creating, inventing, getting things done.
He recognizes no limits on human potential.
The studio head is strong because he is flexible. He does not establish himself to dominate or to overbear. He listens and he adapts. He is a willow, adjusting to the wind and blossoming year after year, in every kind of weather.
He could not possibly be less pompous.
He is always producing, gathering up material, digesting it, rearranging it in dramatic forms. He lives to create and to produce... In the land where everything depends on what you get done, he is king, because he can do the most.
He generates a way of life that is informed, cheerful and concerned. He acts good to me. He looks good. I have never heard him raise his voice to anyone an that example is followed throughout the studio. His life is his finest creation. (pg. 118-119)
"I think this is the golden age of television," Lear told columnist Tim Cuprisin in August, 2002. "A, because it's the moment we're alive. And, B, if you want something great in any category, it exists. You just have to work harder for it."
"The greatest bonding experience I have with my 14-year-old son is 'South Park.' It's comedy that is doing edgy, cause-oriented, problem-oriented cultural pieces. I think those kids are brilliant and gutsy as hell," he says of "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone."
His current favorites include Martin Short's "Primetime Glick" as well as HBO's "Six Feet Under" and Larry David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm."
Lear occasionally tunes in to his shows. "I am one of those people who will turn on the TV at 3 in the morning for 20 minutes, and it will help me get to sleep better," he says. After all these years, the sitcoms still crack him up. "It's always the performers," he says. "They were all commedia dell'arte performers, and that transcends time."
Lear, who has grown children from a previous marriage and a 14-year-old son and 7-year-old twin daughters with his current wife, Lyn, has no plans for going anywhere. His legacy is for others to judge. "I will be satisfied," Lear says of his legacy, "if it is, 'He cared and felt he mattered, and therefore, he did.'"
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