The Reason All In The Family Killed Off Edith Bunker

Audiences loved "All in the Family," Norman Lear's hit sitcom about lovable bigot Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor), his long-suffering wife Edith (Jean Stapleton), their daughter Gloria (Sally Struthers), and Gloria's husband, Michael "Meathead" Stivic (Rob Reiner), all living under the same roof in disharmony. I know that when I was a kid, I loved watching "All in the Family" re-runs on Nick at Nite, and the show has a large legacy that endures to this day, thanks to its lengthy run: it lasted for 9 seasons, and then continued on as the spin-off sitcom "Archie Bunker's Place." 

But "Archie Bunker's Place" was a different beast altogether, and it happened as the result of one of the cast members deciding to leave the main series. While this could've spelled the end for Archie Bunker, that's not how things shook out. Instead, the story continued, albeit in a different incarnation. But that new incarnation would come with the death of a beloved character. 

Jean Stapleton wanted to leave All in the Family

In the middle of season 9 run of "All in the Family," word broke that Jean Stapleton did not want to continue on with the show. In an interview with the Detroit Free Press in 1979 (via MeTV), Stapleton revealed that she harbored no ill will toward the show or her cast members. She just decided that Edith's character had run its course. "Quit makes it sound as if I was leaving in anger or with something unfinished," Stapleton said. "It just isn't so. I love Edith. She changed my life. So far, by doing other things in the summer, I've kept my identity as an actress separate. But, I was afraid if I went on as Edith, I'd never lose her."

Now, "All in the Family" was faced with a crossroads. Would the show continue on without Edith, or come to an end? For his part, series creator Norman Lear wanted the show to end. But that's not how things shook out. Edith might've been saying goodbye, but Archie Bunker wasn't done with TV. 

The birth of the Archie Bunker's Place spinoff

Robert Daly, who was vice president of CBS Television at the time, convinced Carroll O'Connor to keep the show alive. After all, it was still a huge hit — why give that up? Ultimately, a concession was reached. Lear didn't feel right keeping the name "All in the Family" for a show without Edith. Instead, the series was re-named "Archie Bunker's Place," and focused primarily on the action at the bar Archie purchased in season 8 of "All in the Family." The Bunker home, the site of most of "All in the Family," would still appear on the show, but the bar became the main setting. 

To help with a smooth transition, Jean Stapleton appeared five times on the show — and then Edith was killed off-screen, dying from a stroke. Archie was, of course, devastated —  but the show continued: "Archie Bunker's Place" ultimately ran for 4 seasons. While not as good as "All in the Family," it's clear there was still an audience for Archie Bunker and his various antics, even without Edith by his side.