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Changing the Politics of Television

A black man in a suit (Sammy Davis Jr) kisses a white man in a white shirt who looks shocked (Archie Bunker)January 11 & 18, 2018
Doors open: 1:00 pm, Program 1:30 - 3:00 pm

Guest speaker: Jack Newman
Norman Lear. Mary Tyler Moore. Larry Gelbart. Their ‘social commentary sitcoms’ tackled controversial issues of the 1970s considered taboo by the networks. The creators collectively pushed the boundaries of what we thought was entertainment: breaking down cultural barriers, taking on bigotry, war and feminism, and forever changing the landscape of television.

Two part series, $5.00/lecture

During the 1970s, television producers and broadcasters began to create and air socially controversial sitcoms that reflected the changing attitudes and politics of the times. All in the Family covered issues ranging from racism and homophobia to miscarriage and rape, Maude exploded the dominant values of the white middle-class domestic sitcom and its traditional gender roles by featuring a middle-aged feminist living with her fourth husband and divorced daughter, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which reflected changing attitudes toward women’s rights by featuring television’s first never-married independent career woman as the central character and MASH’s Korean War backdrop took on the controversial Vietnam War. In addition to changing family dynamics on sitcoms and other prime-time shows, variety and comedy sketch shows developed a political awareness in the 1970s that reflected audiences’ growing appetite for social and political commentary. Sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live (SNL) premiered on NBC in 1975 and has remained on air ever since. By the end of the decade, television broadcasting would reflect a far more politically conscious and socially aware viewing audience.

A man with black rectangular glasses and short grey hair smiles at the cameraJack Newman has been a writer and actor in Toronto for more than 40 years. He has appeared in 80 film and telvision projects and thirty television commercials, including a recent ad for Fallsview Casino. He has also won a few awards, The Clio, The Bessie and an ACTRA Writers Award nomination for "Anne Murray's Ladies Night", and a Berlin Silver Bear for the NFB's; "Village of Idiots". He has had a lot of fun meeting interesting and creative performers and directors, like Sydney Lumet and Nicholas Meyer, Tom Cruise and Ben Affleck.

At the Miles Nadal JCC, Jack is one of our most popular guest speakers. Some of his programs have included: “From the Goldbergs to the Goldbergs: How Jews Helped Shape Television Comedy”; “The Yiddish Theatre of Moscow and 2nd Avenue”; “Classic Radio Shows – You’re on the Air”; “Make ‘Em Laugh: Legendary Jewish Comedians” and most recently “Laughter is the Best Medicine: The Genius of Neil Simon”.

In March, Jack will be appearing alongside David Gale and Randy Vancourt in “The Jewish View”, which will be held in celebration of the Jewish holiday Purim.

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