All in the Family probably needs no introduction. Debuting on CBS on January 13, 1971, and gaining enough popularity to run nine seasons, it has been hailed as one of the greatest and most groundbreaking shows of all time. With its addressing of serious social issues such as prejudice, menopause, and women's lib, the series still resonates with its viewers to this very day. But before the show ever made it to air, three pilots were shot using the same script. The last of those three eventually aired as the series premiere, "Meet the Bunkers", but there were also two unaired pilots shot beforehand.
Justice for All (1968)
Over in Britain, Johnny Speight's Til Death Do Us Part was causing controversy across the land due to its bigoted lead character Alf Garnett (Warren Mitchell), who complained about everyone and everything around him, and his relationship with his liberated son-in-law. Norman Lear, a reasonably successful film director, read an article about it in Variety and was inspired to remake the show. He then bought the rights to produce a remake for ABC, hoping it would be "modified for an American audience". According in Lear's 2014 memoir, Even This I Get to Experience, he originally wanted Mickey Rooney to play the Alf role (renamed Archie Justice for the American version). Upon approaching Rooney, he turned it down due to the idea of him playing a bigot, saying "Norm, they're going to kill you, shoot you dead in the streets. You want to do a TV show with the Mick, listen to this: Vietnam vet. Private eye. Short Blind. Large dog."
The role then went to Carrol O'Connor, who tried to rewrite the entire script (Lear then insisted he perform what was already written). The first pilot, titled Justice for All, was taped on September 3, 1968 in New York, and also starred Jean Stapleton as Edith Justice, Kelly Jean Peters as Gloria, and Tim Mclntire as her husband Richard. Once completed, Lear took the result to ABC, who later passed it up (according to two different accounts interviewing Lear, it was due to either the cancellation of Turn-On or a lack of chemistry between Archie and Edith and the kids), but liked the concept enough to give the producers more money to tape a second pilot.
Those Were the Days (1969)
This next pilot, Those Were the Days, was taped on February 16, 1969 in Los Angeles. O'Connor and Stapleton reprised their roles from Justice for All, but Peters and Mclntire were respectively replaced by Candice "Candy" Azzara and Chip Oliver (whose character was now named Dickie). There were a few minor tweaks from the last pilot, and it was for this version that Lear decided to film O'Connor and Stapleton singing the show's theme song, "Those Were the Days" (named after this pilot). Like the previous one, ABC rejected the second pilot, and the series altogether (although United Artists Pictures did show interest in producing a film version). Lear then took it to CBS, where Mike Dann, vice president of programming, called it "the g**damnedest thing I ever saw" (some sources just say "damnedest"). Those Were the Days was finally given the green light, but renamed All in the Family and given a 13-episode order, with Gloria and Dickie (renamed yet again, this time to Mike) now respectively played by Sally Struthers and Rob Reiner. After three years, the series finally debuted January 13, 1971 in To Rome With Love's former time slot, and the rest is history.
In 1987, Lear screened Those Were the Days for the Museum of Broadcasting's fourth annual Television Festival. That June, they released a list of "most wanted" television programming that included Justice for All, and ran full page ads asking for these missing shows to be found. In 1994, the UCLA Film and Television Archive received a copy of Those Were the Days, with an extant copy of Justice for All to follow a few years later. On Saturday, October 17, 1998, TV Land gave Those Were the Days its first-ever TV showing, followed by "Meet the Bunkers". The two pilots were given an official home entertainment release almost eleven years later, when they were both included as bonus features in The Norman Lear Collection, a DVD set that included the first seasons of his seven biggest hits, and released again in October 2012, when Shout! Factory included them as bonus features on their All in the Family complete-series set.