Norman Lear figured out early on that television could be a powerful voice of change. So it's more than fitting that the creator of All in the Family, Maude, The Jeffersons and so many other landmark shows was among the first group of legends inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame. That was in 1984, when Lear was sixty-one. But it's also fitting that in 2017 — when Lear was ninety-four and still hard at work (as he is today!) — that he inaugurated another institution: the Academy Foundation's "The Power of TV" discussion series.
In 2022, "The Power of TV" is five years young, powering along and more relevant than ever. After all, its mission has been to focus on television's ability to inspire social change... and we've all witnessed a lot of that recently! Its regular panel discussions feature top industry figures and, in the spirit of "think globally, act locally," are open to the public, either in person or by livestream.
That first event, in June 2017, united Lear at the Television Academy's Saban Media Center with the principals of Netflix's One Day at a Time, the reboot of his 1975–84 CBS sitcom. The show, originally about a divorced Indianapolis woman and her two daughters, was revised to focus on a Cuban-American divorced mom in Los Angeles's Echo Park, with a daughter, a son and a feisty mom (played by the inimitable Rita Moreno). Joining Lear on the panel were, among others, the show's cocreator–executive producers, Gloria Calderón Kellett and Mike Royce, and stars Justina Machado, Isabella Gomez and of course Moreno.
True to the Lear legacy, the One Day reboot dealt with topical social issues, including the coming out of teen daughter Elena (Gomez) as a lesbian. Gomez noted during the evening that the storyline had sparked a huge viewer response: "Getting fifteen-year-olds in my inbox saying, 'Because of you, I've been able to come out,' and 'Because of you, my life is better,' is the most mind-blowing thing in the world."
And that's just one example of the power of TV that's been revealed by "The Power of TV." Subsequent panels examined issues including foster care, access to reproductive healthcare, and representation of the disability and trans communities as well as unhoused populations.
"The Power of TV" has established itself as one of the Foundation's core programs with its goal of creating a bridge between the Academy and the public firmly in place. As I write this, two new panels are in the planning stages for later this year, and I am thrilled that, with the return of live events, they will once again be held at the Academy, in person — with video access as well.
Details about the upcoming panels will be available soon. I encourage you to join us — and if you haven't seen any of the previous discussions, you can catch up at TelevisionAcademy.com.
Chairman and CEO, Television Academy