An emotional Jimmy Kimmel paid tribute to the late producer Norman Lear at the top of his ABC show on Wednesday night, calling him “one of the most important and impressive people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.”
Kimmel, having teamed with the producer, who died Tuesday at his home at the age of 101, on the ABC specials “Live in Front of a Studio Audience,” hailed Lear as “The genius who brought us some of the greatest television shows and characters of all time.” He proceeded to list many of them, such as “All in the Family” and “Maude,” adding, “It’s an incredible list, and he was an incredible person. He changed situation comedy in the best way possible.”
Kimmel continued, “Everyone who works in or even watches television owes him a great debt,” noting, “101 years, and somehow it wasn’t enough.”
After reading an amusing thank-you card that Lear had sent him, the host said that Lear didn’t like to say goodbye but rather “To be continued,” so he closed by simply saying, “To be continued.” “Jimmy Kimmel Live” then proceeded with an on-screen disclaimer before the show that mirrored the one CBS – skittish about how viewers would respond – displayed prior to the first episode of “All in the Famiy” in 1971.
Kimmel appeared alongside Lear on “Live in Front of a Studio Audience,” which presented actors performing live versions of episodes from Lear’s classic sitcoms, including “All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons.”
Lear became the oldest person ever to win or be nominated for an Emmy, at 98, for producing the specials with Kimmel.
Tributes to the producer poured in throughout the day after news of his death. All the broadcast networks featured a memorial card honoring Lear to kick off their primetime lineups on Wednesday night, which showed his picture and simply read, “Thank you for making us all family.”
Separately, Lear’s widow, Lyn Lear, sent along a message to the Sentinel Awards, an event honoring TV writers whose work has dealt with significant issues. The awards are presented by Hollywood, Health & Society, which is based at the Norman Lear Center, a research center that Lear endowed at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
Lear was proud of the center, Lyn Lear wrote, “And he would not have wanted all of us to mourn. He would want us to celebrate the important shows you are honoring tonight, and most of all, he would want us to laugh.”
In a 2020 interview, Lear said he never thought of his shows as “edgy,” despite their groundbreaking aspects, noting, “We were simply dealing with the problems that existed in our culture.”
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