Norman Lear ROBERT MacKENZIE - Essay

ROBERT MacKENZIE

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

"What would life be like in a world where women have always held the key positions in business, in politics, in the home and in society?" asks the publicity for this syndicated Norman Lear serial [All That Glitters].

Apparently it would be like this: the women would be unscrupulous maneuverers, frauds, lechers and jerks of all description. The men would be dreary, simple-headed drudges or simpering sexpots. Nothing-much would happen, conversation would reach unprecedented abysses of dullness, and relations between men and women would be conducted at a level of callousness that would stun Germaine Greer.

Does Lear really think this cumbersome collection of reversed stereotypes represents the way we live now? He is coy about it. "Is it a reflection of life? It is whatever the audience thinks it is," he says. Well, this part of the audience thinks it is pretty obvious stuff, mostly out of date, not nearly funny enough and altogether doggone wearying. Nothing's perfect, of course.

There were moments during the first few episodes when we thought Glitters might be funny and even insightful….

There is still enough sexual polarization around to make some of [its] gags trenchant and amusing. But the series took the easy way from the start, creating grotesques that don't correspond to men and women, role-reversed or otherwise, but to cliches we've already outgrown….

There's nobody to like in this series. We just ache for Mary Hartman to drop in and give us a sad little grin.

There is something faintly medicinal about all Lear's shows, but usually he gives us the dose with a syrup of compassion and wit. Glitters leaves us with the uncomfortable feeling that the writers hate men, aren't crazy about women and have been hibernating somewhere for the past 10 years. (p. 2)

Robert MacKenzie, in TV Guide® Magazine, (copyright © 1977 by Triangle Publications, Inc. Radnor, Pennsylvania; reprinted by permission), June 25, 1977.