For 65 years, the work of television creatives has been regularly recognized at the Golden Globes, and there are currently 11 competitive categories devoted to them. The annual telecast is one of very few awards ceremonies during which TV and film nominees are able to mingle and celebrate with each other. However, although the HFPA has treated both groups as equals for many years, they only recently corrected a major oversight.
Since 1952, 66 individuals have received the Cecil B. DeMille Award for career achievement in film, but only two have been honored with the equivalent Carol Burnett Award for their impacts on the TV industry. Five-time Golden Globe winner Burnett kicked off the tradition by accepting the inaugural award in 2019, followed by Ellen DeGeneres in 2020. Now, iconic writer and producer Norman Lear has been announced as the newest honoree, and he will be the first one recognized solely for his off-screen contributions.
Lear began his prolific career in the early 1950s as a sketch writer for various variety shows, which led to his first producing job on “The Martha Raye Show.” By the late 1960s, he had several producing credits and an Oscar nomination (for writing “Divorce American Style”) to his name, and he turned his attention to developing a series of his own. After two years and two failed pilots, “All in the Family” was picked up by CBS in 1971 and quickly achieved immense popularity, topping the Nielsen ratings for the next five years. It also won eight Golden Globes from 31 nominations, including a record four for Best Comedy Series.
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Following the monumental success of his first creation, Lear developed three of the most acclaimed spinoffs of all time: “Maude,” “Good Times,” and “The Jeffersons.” They, along with the standalone series “One Day at a Time,” earned a total of 28 Golden Globe nominations and four wins. From 1971 to 1982, at least one sitcom with his name attached to it ranked among the ten most-watched programs in the U.S., which was primarily due to how acutely realistic they were. At a time when most comedy series were based on absurdity or pure fantasy, Lear’s shows presented viewers with portraits of imperfect families caught up in believable and often serious situations. Like never before, audiences were able to see themselves or people they knew in characters like Archie Bunker, Florida Evans, and Ann Romano, and in that way, he revolutionized the television industry.
Since his heyday, Lear has continued to use his voice to speak out in favor of progressive causes. He has also been lauded with numerous honors in recognition of his immeasurable influence, starting with his inclusion as one of the original Television Hall of Fame inductees in 1984. He received a National Medal of Arts (1999) and a Kennedy Center Honor (2017), and experienced a career resurgence by serving as an executive producer for the streaming reboot of “One Day at a Time.” He also won two Emmys in 2019 and 2020 for producing “Live in Front of a Studio Audience,” a pair of specials in which actors like Woody Harrelson, Jamie Foxx, and Viola Davis recreated episodes of his beloved sitcoms. Lear, now 98, has lived to see his work impact the very nature of entertainment over the last half century.
Lear will officially receive the Carol Burnett Award during the 78th Golden Globes ceremony, airing February 28 on NBC.
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