The 2017 recipient of the Woody Guthrie Prize, presented annually by Tulsa’s Woody Guthrie Center, was legendary television producer, writer and activist Norman Lear.
A star-powered refresher course on Lear’s groundbreaking body of TV work is headed your way.
On Wednesday, May 22, ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel is presenting a one-night-only, 90-minute prime-time event that will re-create past episodes of “All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons.”
Woody Harrelson and Marisa Tomei will play Archie and Edith Bunker, respectively, in the “All in the Family” episode. They will be joined by Ellie Kemper (Gloria Stivic), Ike Barinholtz (Meathead) and Sean Hayes (Mr. Lorenzo).
Jamie Foxx and Wanda Sykes will play George and Louise Jefferson, respectively, in “The Jeffersons” episode. The special also will feature Kerry Washington (Helen Willis), Will Ferrell (Tom Willis), Justina Machado (Florence Johnston), Amber Stevens West (Jenny Willis Jefferson), Jovan Adepo (Lionel Jefferson), Anthony Anderson (Uncle Henry), Stephen Tobolowsky (Mr. Bentley) and Jackée Harry (Diane Stockwell).
“The fact that a group of Oscar winners eagerly agreed to play these iconic characters is a testament to the greatness of these shows and their creator, Norman Lear,” Kimmel said in a news release. “To be a part of this is a dream come true for me and for everyone involved.”
The special, which will be directed by 10-time Emmy winner James Burrows, has Lear’s blessing. He is hosting the special with Kimmel.
“They have said over and over again that these two shows were meant for the ’70s and would not work today,” Lear said.
“We disagree with them and are here to prove, with two great casts depicting ‘All in the Family’ and ‘The Jeffersons,’ the timelessness of human nature. I cannot wait to see what these glorious performers make in our time of these indelible characters, and I couldn’t be more grateful for Jimmy Kimmel, Sony and ABC for their collective willingness to conceive and pursue this never-been-done-before event.”
“All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons” are part of a Lear legacy that also includes “Sanford and Son,” “Maude,” “Good Times” and “One Day at a Time.”
“All in the Family” was a pioneering series that tackled controversial subjects like women’s rights, racism and homosexuality. The program shaped political and social conversations among American families in the post-civil rights era.
“The Jeffersons” spun off from “All in the Family.” It was the first series to feature an interracial couple, and it became one of the longest-running African-American shows on TV. The series showcased what it was like for the Jeffersons to be successful in a predominantly white world. It helped shift conversations about race and class and paved the way for other African-American actors and TV shows.
Lear is the only person outside the music world to earn a Woody Guthrie Prize, given annually to an artist who best exemplifies the spirit and life work of Guthrie by speaking for the less fortunate through music, film, literature, dance or other art forms and serving as a positive force for social change in America.
“Norman Lear’s work as a television writer and producer broke barriers and challenged accepted social norms,” Woody Guthrie Center Executive Director Deana McCloud said when Lear was announced as the 2017 recipient of the Woody Guthrie Prize.
“An outspoken supporter of the First Amendment, his work as a political activist follows in Woody’s footsteps by promoting diversity and equality. We are proud to be presenting Mr. Lear with the fourth annual Woody Guthrie Prize in honor of his outstanding work for social justice.”