Norman Lear John J. O'Connor - Essay

John J. O'Connor

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The time may have arrived for the Norman Lear factory to close down and take serious stock of its product. The machine may be overworked. No matter how well "One Day at a Time" may be doing … in the ratings, the character of the older daughter is an abrasive drag. No matter how many sophisticated excuses are proferred for deadpan monotony of "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman," the syndicated series is tedious in extended doses. And now … the hastily concocted product is "The Dumplings."

Joe and Angela Dumpling operate a lunch counter in a New York office building. [They] are a fat couple very much in love with each other. At work or at home, they are surrounded by oddball characters, from hostile customers to Angela's neurotic sister….

No doubt, Mr. Lear will argue that he is saying something positive about love, about ordinary people. In fact, he is being insultingly patronizing. It's not that his lovers are fat, but that they are forced to verge on the grotesque, constantly mooning or pawing or waxing stupidly sentimental. They are allowed Mr. Lear's conception of love. The first of the world is condemned to neuroses and hysteria. People don't speak; they shout. People don't communicate; they bombard. Thrown together with the loving Dumplings, the mixture did not work….

John J. O'Connor, "'Dumplings,' the Story of Fat, Loving Couple," in The New York Times © 1976 by the New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), January 29, 1976, p. 67.