|All in the Family episode|
Veronica struggles to explain her relationship with Edith's cousin Liz.
|Directed by||Paul Bogart|
Bob Schiller |
Harve Brosten |
|Editing by||Harold McKenzie|
|Original air date||October 9, 1977|
|Running time||24 minutes|
K Callan as Veronica
"Cousin Liz" is an episode of the American television sitcom All in the Family. The story concerns lead character Edith Bunker's inheritance of a valuable tea service from her deceased cousin Liz and her decision, upon learning that Liz's "roommate" Veronica is really Liz's surviving longtime companion, to give Veronica the service. The second episode of season 8, "Cousin Liz" originally aired on October 9, 1977.
"Cousin Liz" was critically acclaimed, winning an Emmy Award for its script. The episode aired at a time when gay rights protections were being challenged through ballot initiatives and one of the writers believed that "Cousin Liz" was associated with the defeat of one such initiative.
Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor) and his wife Edith (Jean Stapleton) check into a motel to get ready to attend the funeral of Edith's cousin, Liz. Archie wonders how much Edith, as Liz's closest living relative, will inherit from Liz's estate. Edith suggests that there will not be a large inheritance since as a school teacher, Liz did not make much money and had to share an apartment with her roommate Veronica (K Callan).
At a gathering at Liz and Veronica's apartment after the funeral, Archie speculates about what items in the apartment Edith will inherit. She says that the only thing she will receive is Liz's silver tea service, which has been in Edith's family for 100 years. Archie initially scoffs at the service until Edith advises him that it is worth at least $2,000.
Overhearing their conversation, Veronica pulls Edith aside to speak privately. Veronica asks to keep the service, explaining that for 25 years she and Liz spent an hour every afternoon with each other over tea. Veronica struggles to explain her relationship with Liz, finally telling Edith that it was "like a marriage". After some initial confusion and shock, Edith immediately accepts Veronica and Liz's relationship and gives Veronica the tea set.
As the Bunkers prepare to leave Archie instructs Edith to collect the service. Edith explains that she has given the service to Veronica and explains their relationship. Archie tries to convince Veronica to return the set and when she refuses, threatens to sue her, which would expose her lesbianism and probably cost her her teaching career. Edith insists that Veronica keep the service and Archie relents, but not before expressing his distaste for Veronica's sexuality and suggesting that she find herself a man.
Critical response and cultural impact
Bob Schiller, Bob Weiskopf, Harve Brosten and Barry Harman received the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for writing "Cousin Liz". The episode was cited by The Christian Science Monitor as being "compassionate" and Veronica's coming out to Edith as "one of the most delicately handled sequences of the entire series".
"Cousin Liz" aired at a time when Anita Bryant and her Save Our Children coalition were sponsoring a series of ballot initiatives to repeal gay anti-discrimination ordinances across the country. Notably in California, state senator John Briggs was sponsoring the Briggs Initiative, which would have barred gay and lesbian people from working in the state's public schools. Writer Barry Harman recalls that series creator Norman Lear (who has cited "Cousin Liz" as among his favorite episodes) wanted to do an episode that commented on the issue of gay teachers. Although Harman misremembered the year that "Cousin Liz" was first broadcast, he recalled that it was repeated the night before voters decided on the Briggs Initiative and associated the defeat of that initiative with the message of the episode.
- Neuwirth, Allan (2006). They'll Never Put That on the Air: An Oral History of Taboo-breaking TV Comedy. Allworth Communications. ISBN 1581154178.