In celebration of Norman Lear’s 100th birthday, executive producers Brent Miller and David Jammy were tasked with putting together the event of the century that would live on in the ABC documentary Norman Lear: 100 Years of Music and Laughter.
No small feat when you’re honoring a titan of television behind so many hits including Good Times, The Jeffersons, All in the Family, One Day at a Time and The Facts of Life among others. The guest list alone features the who’s who of Hollywood including Justina Machado and Emily Hampshire, who joined Miller and Jammy at Deadline’s Contenders Television: Documentary + Unscripted to share insight into how they made the dream project a reality.
“What we really didn’t want to do was make this banal, shiny special that brings a parade of celebrities onstage to read off a teleprompter,” Jammy said. “Our starting point was that we really wanted to surround Norman with talented people who carried his story, and then find a format that allowed us to get beneath the surface of what it is about Norman that makes him extraordinary and so special.”
Added Miller: “It was a love letter in a sense but we wanted it to be more meaningful than that. We wanted to really capture all bits of his life, a life that’s been well lived. How do you do that in such a short amount of time? It was taking on various themes from his life, like what is his life in politics like? What’s his life in entertainment? So ultimately, if we could go after all those various subjects and build from there, it was 100 years of music and laughter.”
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Machado, who starred in the One Day at a Time revival, shared insight into what it was like to be in that room celebrating Lear with the likes of Jimmy Kimmel, Tom Hanks, Rita Moreno, Rob Reiner and many more.
“I remember my manager looking at me and she said, ‘This is why I love Hollywood.’ It was really a night to remember,” shared the Chicago native, who flexed her singing skills at the soiree. “I was sitting down with my jaw wide open while surrounded by everyone we grew up with like Tony Danza and the cast of The Facts of Life. We got to be on stage and perform for these people — that was so exciting.”
Hampshire revealed she grew up watching Facts of Life and caught up later in life with many of Lear’s early titles like Maude and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. On Lear’s 99th birthday, it was announced that Lear and Miller were developing a remake the latter for TBS, with Hampshire set to lead. After TBS was sold, the project was left in limbo.
“It’s shopping,” Miller revealed.
Added Hampshire, “If anyone’s shopping, Mary is shopping. What’s so great about the show is the pitch of exploring how the original series would be in today’s world. What’s great is that it keeps getting more and more relevant now. Mary’s obsession with her screen foreshadowed us with our screen, but now instead of Mary watching the commercials, we are the commercials.”
Check back Monday for the panel video.