Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

America Divided debuts on Epix Friday (9/30). With the 2016 presidential election looming,  docu-series from legendary TV producers legend Norman Lear (All in the Family), Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal) and hip-hop star Common, probes inequality in education, housing, healthcare, labor, criminal justice and the political system – all woven into an eight-story, four-and-half hour series. High-profile correspondents include Lear (on housing inequality), Common (on criminal justice), actress , actress Rosario Dawson (on the Flint, Michigan water crisis, Superstore star America Ferrara (on minority ballot access and healthcare for women), actor/comedian Zach Galifianakis (on the country’s deepening political divide), actress producer Amy Poehler (on the complex challenges faced by America’s domestic workers), actor Peter Sarsgaard (on America’s addiction and unemployment crises) and Grey’s Anatomy star Jesse Williams (on inequality in education). 

I spoke with Norman Lear about this the program, politics and television. Here’s some of what he had to say:

On America Divided: “(It’s about) New York City housing and the difficulty  low-income solid working people are having — especially black people, Hispanics, etc. I was pleased to do it. It’s certainly something I’m interested in and which I’ve never done before (working as a TV correspondent).

I’ve spent time with some black families — largely black — in Crown Heights. These are people with long leases. It turns my stomach when I think about it. They had long leases who have paid rents which have been (exorbitantly) raised numerous times…People are being forced out by landlords who are using fake wall repairs or floor repairs. They stir up dust and create an unhealthy atmosphere so people can’t, for health reasons, live there. I spent times with numerous (people) in that exact situation, a couple of them quite ill because they’d been through years of this and had no place else to live.”

On Campaign 2016: He laments especially the tattered state of the GOP which has given us Donald Trump as its standard-bearer.  Today’s Republicans, he notes, don’t even talk about Dwight David Eisenhower who, he says,  had the wisdom to warn about such things as the military-industrial complex.

On the American voter: He says “Someone whose name I can’t remember now once said that no-one ever lost money underestimating the intelligence of the American people. I think that’s  bullshit…We’re wise at heart. The American people are good people. I think they see through Donald Trump.”

What would Archie Bunker think of Donald Trump?: “I think he would have trouble defending Donald Trump.” Archie, he noteses, did evolve over the years. Edith, he says, would definitely oppose Trump.

On the state of today’s television: Lear says we are in a Golden Age of TV entertainment. He particularly likes the Emmy-winning transgender  sitcom Transparent and NBC’s socially-relevant The Carmichael Show.  Regarding the latter, he appreciated it when I suggested that the show recalls his classic sitcoms of the 1970’s and 1980’s.

What’s he doing now? For a man of 94 years, Trump is remarkably active. Besides his work on America Divided, he’s currently involved with Netflix’s revival of his long-running single-mother sitcom One Day at a Time (this time with an Hispanic cast). The show is set to premiere with 13 episodes on January 6th. Another upcoming project is a sitcom about life (and death) in a retirement village.

His philosophy for remaining vital at age 94: He says it, basically comes down to letting go of worry over the past. What’s done is done.

John W. Kennedy is a writer/development consultant specializing in teleplays, screenplays and novelizations. He can be reached at

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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