Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You

About the Film

Largely responsible for the explosion of bold American television in the 1970s, writer/producer Norman Lear’s name is synonymous with the sitcom. With unprecedented access to Lear, his work and his massive personal archives, American Masters — Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You combines stories from his turbulent childhood and early career with his groundbreaking TV success (All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Good Times, Maude) and social activism.

The documentary also features colorful stories from Lear’s family, friends and collaborators, including John Amos, George Clooney, Alan Horn, Bill Moyers, Rob Reiner, Phil Rosenthal and Russell Simmons, as well as cinéma vérité moments with Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Jon Stewart, Amy Poehler and Lena Dunham.

Breaking down the fourth wall to create an evocative collage where past and present intermingle, Academy Award-nominated filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (Jesus Camp, 12th & Delaware, DETROPIA for Independent Lens) reveal a psychologically rich man whose extraordinary contributions emerge from both his personal story and his own self-professed childlike view of the world. Just Another Version of You traces how a poor Jewish kid from Connecticut started writing for The Colgate Comedy Hour with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, created All in the Family and became one of TV’s most successful showrunners. All character-driven, with theatrical sets and live audiences, Lear’s TV series changed not only the face of national television but the content of national discourse. Bringing provocative subjects like war, poverty and prejudice to 120 million viewers every week, Lear proved that social change was possible through an unlikely prism – laughter – and created some of the greatest moments in television history.

Co-produced by Ewing and Grady’s Loki Films and THIRTEEN’s American Masters series, Just Another Version of You doesn’t shy away from the controversies Lear stirred with his TV series and advocacy organization People For the American Way (PFAW). The documentary also highlights his later years touring the country with the Declaration of Independence and promoting his memoir Even This I Get to Experience, spending time with his tight-knit family, and developing new productions. Just Another Version of You had its world premiere as the Opening Night selection at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.

Launched in 1986, American Masters has earned 28 Emmy Awards — including 10 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series and five for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special — 12 Peabodys, an Oscar, three Grammys, two Producers Guild Awards and many other honors. The series’ 30th anniversary season on PBS concludes Tuesday, December 27 at 8 p.m. (check local listings) with Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw the Future.

To further explore the lives and works of masters past and present, American Masters offers streaming video of select films, outtakes, filmmaker interviews, educational resources and In Their Own Words: The American Masters Digital Archive: previously unreleased interviews of luminaries discussing America’s most enduring artistic and cultural giants as well as the American Masters Podcast. The series is a production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET and also seen on the WORLD channel.

Production and Funding Credits Print

American Masters — Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You is a production of Loki Films and THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC’s American Masters for WNET. Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady are directors. Suzanne Hillinger and Brent Miller are producers. JD Marlow and Enat Sidi are editors with a score by Kris Bowers. Ronan Killeen is director of photography with additional cinematography by Sam Levy and Jenna Rosher. Michael Kantor is executive producer.

Major support for American Masters -- Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You has been provided by the Jonathan D. Lewis Foundation with additional support from The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, Anne Ulnick Gumowitz, Lillian Goldman Programming Endowment, and Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family. Major support for American Masters is provided by AARP. Additional funding is provided by The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Rosalind P. Walter, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Rhoda Herrick, Michael & Helen Schaffer Foundation, Vital Projects Fund, Rolf and Elizabeth Rosenthal, The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, Lenore Hecht Foundation, Judith and Burton Resnick, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, Ellen and James S. Marcus, and public television viewers.