Norman Lear knows a thing or two about timely topics. So, what better time than now to recreate the famous “Maude” abortion episode, which originally aired in November 1972 — two months before Roe v. Wade made it legal across the United States.
The two-part episode, “Maude’s Dilemma,” featured the lead character (played by Bea Arthur) grappling with what to do when she discovers that she’s pregnant, at age 47. Maude ultimately decides to have an abortion — a rare storyline back then, and a storyline that continued to be rare on television over the next 50 years, even when Roe v. Wade was the rule of the land. Does Lear think it would be possible to tell through today’s lens?
“It’s such an interesting question, and I have no idea,” Lear told Variety in a new interview. “My guess is certainty you can tell it. What the reaction would be — as one proceeded to rehearse and do it and anticipate it being on the air — it’s hard to guess. But it could be done.”
While he notes, “There is only one Bea Arthur, there will never be another,” he still realizes the importance of the show’s storytelling. “It’s exciting to imagine what somebody else will make of that character. It’s opening a new door and that’s exciting.”
Lear’s producing partner, Brent Miller, believes that it’s time to bring the show to ABC’s “Live in Front of a Studio Audience” event, which previously remade episodes of Lear’s “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons,” “Good Times,” “Diff’rent Strokes” and “The Facts of Life” alongside producer Jimmy Kimmel.
“I think the world is ready for us to do a ‘Live in Front of a Studio Audience’ with ‘Maude,’” Miller said.
“Maude,” “All in the Family,” “Good Times” and “One Day at a Time” became available to stream for the first time last year, when it dropped on Amazon’s Freevee (formerly IMDb TV) as part of a licensing deal between Sony Pictures TV (which holds Lear’s catalog’s distribution rights) and the streaming service.
In 2019, the same year that “Live in Front of a Studio Audience” launched, Sony renewed its overall deal with Act III Prods., and it runs through the icon’s 100th birthday on July 27. Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Tony Vinciquerra hopes that another deal will come once this one is up.
“We first met when I joined Sony a little over five years ago,” he says. “Of course, I was aware of Norman and his groundbreaking work since the 1970s. We became fast friends after our first lunch and have since initiated and worked on several projects together. His work is always of the highest quality and being associated with Norman is a point of immense pride for me and the entire studio.”