Wednesday night’s second live “All in the Family” with Woody Harrelson and Marisa Tomei dropped significantly from the first one several months ago. Last time, “Family” was paired with “The Jeffersons” and reached 10.4 million viewers. The key demo brought in 1.7 million of that total.
Last night’s effort brought “Good Times,” another Norman Lear show, along with “Family.” The result was 5.8 million viewers total and 1.1 in the key demo. Of course, the impeachment was in full swing. But still: you’d think seeing Viola Davis as Florida Evans and Andre Braugher as husband James, Tiffany Haddish as Willona and Jay Pharoah as JJ would be a great lure. Alas, it wasn’t.
For one thing, Jay Pharaoh is way too old to play JJ “Dynomite” Evans. Jimmy JJ Walker was 27 when he started the show in 1974, and he was like a beanpole. He looked like a teenager. Braugher, a great actor, is way too elegant and serious. John Amos, also Gordy on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” was a better combination of emotions and seemed more working class.
Ah, well, now that that’s over, the big question is who will play “Maude” when the third part of this Live Norman Lear fest comes together? Indeed, they should have had “Maude” first. “Good Times” was a spin off from that show. Florida was Maude’s maid, and they locked horns all the time.
But Maude will likely come in May for sweeps. Maude, don’t forget, is also a cousin of Edith Bunker. Maude in the original show was Bea Arthur. She was based on Norman Lear’s famous wife, Frances, was 50, and Jewish. She was incredibly outspoken. She was also tall, because of Bea Arthur, so Jane Lynch comes to mind. She’d actually be perfect, even though I suspect she’s older than 50. Bea Arthur was exactly 50 when “Maude” gripped America.
But all the possible “Maude” actresses are older. Another great choice for Maude: Ellen Barkin. You can almost hear her barking Maude’s famous line: “I’ll get you for that!”
Of course, Meryl Streep could pull it off. I doubt she’d do TV, and she’s also quite a bit older than Maude. And who play her husband, Walter? Why, Stanley Tucci of course! He should play Walter no matter who dons Maude’s caftans.
And just think of Streep as Maude and Viola Davis as Florida? Ratings and Emmy gold. Norman Lear, make those calls now!
PS Rue McClanahan, who went on to star with Arthur in “Golden Girls,” played her best friend, Vivian, on the first show. My vote would be for Patricia Clarkson.
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