Jimmy Kimmel is executive producing the 90-minute special which will recreate one episode each from the classic Norman Lear sitcoms with new all-star casts.
In easily one of the most bizarre development stories to come out of Hollywood, Jimmy Kimmel is assembling an all-star cast to perform live recreations of classic Norman Lear episodes from both "All in the Family" and "The Jeffersons."
Is this where the live musical era is taking us after the disappointing ratings of "Rent"? Everyone seems to agree that staging live television events remains one of the few ways to combat viewer erosion as more and more people consume their entertainment on-demand.
Like the recent glut of live musical productions, Kimmel is bringing along a star-studded cast to be sure and draw the attention of even the most casual of entertainment fans.
Taking over the iconic roles of Archie and Edith Bunker for this live 90-minute special are Woody Harrelson and Marisa Tomei. As for "The Jeffersons," look for Jamie Foxx and Wanda Sykes as the happy couple, George and Louise. But the stars don't stop there.
Ellie Kemper is on tap to play the Bunker's daughter Gloria, while Will Ferrell plays "Jeffersons" neighbor Tom Willis and Justina Machado steps in as their wisecracking housekeeper Florence. The rest of the cast will be rounded out shortly, but it's already a pretty exciting roster.
The special is set to air on May 22 and will be executive produced by Kimmel, Lear, Ferrell, Adam McKay, Brent MillerJustin Theroux. Legendary sitcom director James Burrows has been tapped to helm the show.
"The fact that a group of Oscar winners eagerly agreed to play these iconic characters is a testament to the greatness of these shows and their creator, Norman Lear," Kimmel said in a statement received by TheWrap. "To be a part of this is a dream come true for me and for everyone involved."
"These revered shows are as culturally relevant today as they've ever been, and the talent they have gathered makes this the can't-miss television event of the year ... make that decade," said ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke.
The show's iconic creator, Norman Lear, says that a bit part of the impetus to bring these shows into the 2010s is to show that their messages are as timely and relevant today as they were in the 1970s. Both shows were incendiary to many during their original runs, boldly tackling real issues like racism, homophobia, bigotry and classism on a weekly basis.
"They have said over and over again that these two shows were meant for the '70s and would not work today," Lear said. "We disagree with them and are here to prove, with two great casts depicting 'All in the Family' and 'The Jeffersons,' the timelessness of human nature. I cannot wait to see what these glorious performers make in our time of these indelible characters."
Also not yet revealed are the episodes that will be featured from each show. Each had more than 200 episodes, many of them considered classics by modern standards. And while they are timeless in many ways, they might be hard sells for modern audiences who aren't as familiar with Lear or his classic sitcoms.
That's where the star-studded cast comes in. And the timing couldn't be better for a revival of these shows. Perhaps in no time since the 1970s, social issues are again at the forefront of American culture, with sensitivity and intolerance seeming to run rampant in equal measure.
If we're being totally honest, in a world where "One Day at a Time" can come back more relevant and as fantastic as ever, we wouldn't be opposed to either show making a comeback, either. Especially if they could land talent like this for a full revival (we know they can't, but we can dream!).
"Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear's 'All in the Family' and 'The Jeffersons'" will air as a live 90-minute special on ABC Wednesday, May 22.