As it begins it ninth season on CBS Sunday night at 9 (Channel 9), "All in the Family" considerably changes its tune. Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers are gone and the show is no longer "taped in front of a live audience." Instead, at star Carroll O'Connor's insistence, it is taped scene-by-scene over a two-day period, and the completed program is then shown to an audience so their laughter can be added.
Director Paul Bogart makes the transition smoothly in the first of the new episodes, but the change in texture is somewhat off-putting; that studio audience sometimes bitches up scenes by laughing during botched up ments, but taping in sequence gave the show a momentum and electricity that are missing.
In addition, Archie now lacks foils and targets. An abandoned little girl brought in for the new season does not bring out the best or the worst in him.
What has not changed, however, is the fact that O'Connor and Stapleton are unerring and exquisite in their portrayals of Archie and Edith; they are Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, and the new taping technique allows Bogart to catch fresh, intimate nuances of their performances.
The script by Mel Tolkin and Larry Rhine suggests that this season, the program will be less riotous and more subtle than in previous years, and this may mean lost audiences. Whatever happens, "All in the Family" has earned its place in the American memory. What it did for television will never be forgotten.