Good Times

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Good Times
Good Times Title Screen.jpg
GenreSitcom
Created byEric Monte
Michael Evans
Developed byNorman Lear
Directed byGerren Keith
Herbert Kenwith
Bob LaHendro
Donald McKayle
Perry Rosemond
StarringEsther Rolle (seasons 1–4, 6)
John Amos (seasons 1–3)
Jimmie Walker
Ja'net Dubois
Bern Nadette Stanis
Ralph Carter
Johnny Brown (seasons 2–6)
Janet Jackson (seasons 5–6)
Ben Powers (season 6)
Theme music composerDave Grusin
Alan Bergman
Marilyn Bergman
Opening theme"Good Times" performed by Jim Gilstrap and Blinky Williams
Ending theme"Good Times"
Composer(s)Dave Grusin
Alan & Marilyn Bergman
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons6
No. of episodes133 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)Norman Lear (seasons 1–2)
Allan Manings (seasons 3–4)
Austin and Irma Kalish (season 5)
Norman Paul (season 6)
Producer(s)Allan Manings (season 1–2)
Jack Elinson (season 3)
Norman Paul (season 3)
Austin and Irma Kalish (season 4)
Lloyd Turner (season 5)
Gordon Mitchell (season 5)
Sid Dorfman (season 6)
Camera setupMulti-camera
Running time22–24 minutes
Production companiesTandem Productions
DistributorPITS Films (1978–82)
Embassy Telecommunications (1982–86)
Embassy Communications (1986–88)
Columbia Pictures Television(1988–96)
Columbia TriStar Television (1996–2002)
Sony Pictures Television (2002–present)
Broadcast
Original channelCBS
Original runFebruary 8, 1974 (1974-02-08) – August 1, 1979 (1979-08-01)
Chronology
Preceded byAll in the Family
Maude
 
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Good Times
Good Times Title Screen.jpg
GenreSitcom
Created byEric Monte
Michael Evans
Developed byNorman Lear
Directed byGerren Keith
Herbert Kenwith
Bob LaHendro
Donald McKayle
Perry Rosemond
StarringEsther Rolle (seasons 1–4, 6)
John Amos (seasons 1–3)
Jimmie Walker
Ja'net Dubois
Bern Nadette Stanis
Ralph Carter
Johnny Brown (seasons 2–6)
Janet Jackson (seasons 5–6)
Ben Powers (season 6)
Theme music composerDave Grusin
Alan Bergman
Marilyn Bergman
Opening theme"Good Times" performed by Jim Gilstrap and Blinky Williams
Ending theme"Good Times"
Composer(s)Dave Grusin
Alan & Marilyn Bergman
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons6
No. of episodes133 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)Norman Lear (seasons 1–2)
Allan Manings (seasons 3–4)
Austin and Irma Kalish (season 5)
Norman Paul (season 6)
Producer(s)Allan Manings (season 1–2)
Jack Elinson (season 3)
Norman Paul (season 3)
Austin and Irma Kalish (season 4)
Lloyd Turner (season 5)
Gordon Mitchell (season 5)
Sid Dorfman (season 6)
Camera setupMulti-camera
Running time22–24 minutes
Production companiesTandem Productions
DistributorPITS Films (1978–82)
Embassy Telecommunications (1982–86)
Embassy Communications (1986–88)
Columbia Pictures Television(1988–96)
Columbia TriStar Television (1996–2002)
Sony Pictures Television (2002–present)
Broadcast
Original channelCBS
Original runFebruary 8, 1974 (1974-02-08) – August 1, 1979 (1979-08-01)
Chronology
Preceded byAll in the Family
Maude

Good Times is an American sitcom that originally aired from February 8, 1974, until August 1, 1979, on the CBS television network. It was created by Eric Monte and Mike Evans, and developed by Norman Lear, the series' primary executive producer. Good Times is a spin-off of Maude, which is itself a spin-off of All in the Family along with The Jeffersons.

The series is set in Chicago. The first two seasons were taped at CBS Television City in Hollywood. In 1975, beginning with the show's third season, the show moved to Metromedia Square, where Norman Lear's own production company was housed.

Synopsis[edit]

Good Times was created by Eric Monte and actor Mike Evans. The series also features a character named "Michael Evans", after co-creator Mike Evans who portrayed Lionel Jefferson on the Norman Lear-produced series All in the Family and The Jeffersons.[1]

The series stars Esther Rolle as Florida Evans and John Amos as her husband, James Evans, Sr. The characters originated on the sitcom Maude as Florida and Henry Evans, with Florida employed as Maude Findlay's housekeeper in Tuckahoe, New York and Henry employed as a firefighter. When producers decided to feature the Florida character in her own show, they applied retroactive changes to the characters' history. Henry's name became James, there is no mention of Maude, and the couple now live in Chicago.[2][3]

Florida and James Evans and their three children live in a rented project apartment, 17C, at 963 N. Gilbert Ave., in a housing project (implicitly the infamous Cabrini–Green projects, shown in the opening and closing credits but never mentioned by name on the show) in a poor, black neighborhood in inner-city Chicago. Florida's and James's children are James, Jr., also known as "J.J." (Jimmie Walker), Thelma (Bern Nadette Stanis), and Michael (Ralph Carter). When the series begins, J.J. and Thelma are seventeen and sixteen years old, respectively, and Michael, called "the militant midget" by his father due to his passionate activism, is eleven years old. Their exuberant neighbor, and Florida's best friend, is Willona Woods (played by Ja'net Dubois), a recent divorcée who works at a boutique. Their building superintendent is Nathan Bookman (Johnny Brown), to whom James, Willona and later J.J. refer as "Buffalo Butt", or, even more derisively, "Booger".

Florida and son J.J., 1974

As was the case on other Norman Lear sitcoms, the characters and subject matter in Good Times were a breakthrough for American television. Sitcoms had featured working class characters before (dating back at least to The Life of Riley), but never before had a weekly series featured black characters living in an urban setting.[4] (Fred and Lamont Sanford of Sanford and Son, though they live in the poor Watts area of Los Angeles, at least have their own home and business.)

Episodes of Good Times deal with the characters' attempts to survive in a high rise project building in Chicago, despite their poverty. When he is not unemployed, James Evans is a man of pride who often stated he would not accept charity. He usually works at least two jobs simultaneously, from a wide variety such as dishwasher, construction laborer, etc. When he has to, he plays pool in order to hustle money, though Florida disapproves of this.

Cast conflicts[edit]

Good Times was intended to be a vehicle for Esther Rolle and John Amos. Both expected the show to deal with serious topics in a comedic way, while also providing positive characters for viewers. However, the character of J.J. was an immediate hit with audiences and became the breakout character of the series. J.J.'s frequent use of the word "Dy-no-mite!" (he also referred to himself as "Kid Dy-no-mite!") became a popular catchphrase. As a result of the character's popularity, writers focused more on J.J.'s comedic antics instead of serious issues. As the series progressed through seasons two and three, Rolle and Amos grew increasingly disillusioned with the direction the show was taking, especially with J.J.'s antics and stereotypically buffoonish behavior in the storylines.[5] Although she had no ill-will against Jimmie Walker himself, Rolle was rather vocal about her dislike of Walker's character. In a 1975 interview with Ebony magazine she stated:

He's 18 and he doesn't work. He can't read or write. He doesn't think. The show didn't start out to be that...Little by little—with the help of the artist, I suppose, because they couldn't do that to me—they have made J.J. more stupid and enlarged the role. Negative images have been slipped in on us through the character of the oldest child.[2]

Although doing so less publicly, Amos also was outspoken about his dissatisfaction with the J.J. character. Amos stated:

The writers would prefer to put a chicken hat on J.J. and have him prance around saying "DY-NO-MITE", and that way they could waste a few minutes and not have to write meaningful dialogue.[6][7]

While John Amos was less public with his dissatisfaction, he was ultimately fired after season three because of his behind the scenes fights with Norman Lear. Amos' departure was initially attributed to his desire to focus on a film career, but Amos admitted in a 1976 interview that Norman Lear called him and told him that his contract option with the show was not being picked up. Amos stated, "That's the same thing as being fired."[8] The producers decided not to recast the character of James Evans, instead opting to kill off the character in the two-part season four episode "The Big Move".[9][10]

Final seasons[edit]

By the end of season four, Esther Rolle had also become dissatisfied with the show's direction and decided to leave the series. In the final two episodes of the season, Rolle's character gets engaged to Carl Dixon (Moses Gunn), a man she began dating towards the middle of season four. In the season five premiere episode, it is revealed that Florida and Carl married off screen and moved to Arizona for the sake of Carl's health.[11]

With Amos and Rolle gone, Ja'net Du Bois took over as the star, as Willona checked in on the Evans children as they were now living alone.[12] New characters were added or had their roles expanded: Johnny Brown as the overweight building superintendent Nathan Bookman, formerly a recurring character, became a regular; Ben Powers is introduced as Thelma's pro football playing boyfriend (and eventual husband) Keith Anderson; and Janet Jackson as Penny Gordon Woods, an abused girl who is abandoned by her mother and eventually adopted by Willona. However, despite these changes, Rolle's absence left the series without a unifying center of attention and as a result, ratings for the series declined.[11]

Before taping of season six began, CBS and the show's producers decided that they had to do "something drastic" to increase viewership. According to then-vice president of CBS programming Steve Mills, "We had lost the essence of the show. Without parental guidance the show slipped. Everything told us that: our mail, our phone calls, our research. We felt we had to go back to basics."[11] Producers approached Esther Rolle with an offer to appear in a guest spot on the series. Rolle was initially hesitant but when producers agreed to a number of her demands (including an increased salary and higher quality scripts), she agreed to return to the series on a full-time basis. Rolle also wanted producers make the character of J. J. more responsible, as she felt the character was a poor role model for African American youths. She also requested that producers write out the character of Carl Dixon; Rolle reportedly disliked the storyline surrounding the Carl Dixon character, as she believed Florida would not have moved on so quickly after James' death or leave her children. Rolle also thought the writers had disregarded Florida's devout Christian beliefs by having her fall for and marry Carl, who was an atheist.[3][11]

When the series returned for season six, Florida has returned from Arizona without Carl to attend Thelma's wedding to Keith. Carl's whereabouts are never addressed (he is mentioned one time in episode 2 of season 6, but is never mentioned again).[3] Despite changes in the series and Rolle's return, ratings did not improve and CBS canceled the series during the 1978–79 season.[13][14] In the finale, "The End of the Rainbow", each character finally gets a "happy ending." J.J. gets his big break as an artist for a comic book company with his newly created character, DynoWoman, which is based on Thelma (much to her surprise and delight). Michael attends college and moves into an on-campus dorm. Keith's bad knee miraculously heals, leading to the Chicago Bears offering him a contract to play football. Keith announces that he and Thelma are moving into a luxury apartment in the city's upscale Gold Coast district. Thelma also announces that she is pregnant with the couple's first child. Keith offers Florida the chance to move in with them so she can help Thelma with the new baby. Willona becomes the head buyer of the boutique she worked in and announces that she and Penny are also moving out of the projects. Willona then reveals that her new apartment is in the same apartment building that Keith, Thelma and Florida are moving to and, once again, she and Penny become the Evans' downstairs neighbors.[14]

Cast and characters[edit]

Main cast[edit]

ActorCharacterSeasons
123456
Esther RolleFlorida EvansMainMain
John AmosJames Evans, Sr.Main
Ja'net DuboisWillona WoodsMain
Jimmie WalkerJames "J.J." Evans, Jr.Main
Ralph CarterMichael EvansMain
Bern Nadette Stanis*Thelma EvansMain
Johnny BrownNathan BookmanRecurringMain
Janet JacksonMillicent "Penny" Gordon WoodsMain
Ben PowersKeith AndersonMain
*Bern Nadette Stanis was credited as "Bern Nadette" during early episodes of season one.

Minor characters[edit]

Notable guest stars[edit]

Louis Gossett, Jr. as Florida's brother, Wilbert

Theme song and opening[edit]

The gospel-styled theme song was composed by Dave Grusin with lyrics written by Alan and Marilyn Bergman. It was sung by Jim Gilstrap and Blinky Williams.

The lyrics to the theme song are notorious for being hard to discern, notably the line "Hangin' in a chow line"/"Hangin' and a-jivin'" (depending on the source used). Dave Chappelle used this part of the lyrics as a quiz in his "I Know Black People" skit on Chappelle's Show in which the former was claimed as the answer.[17] The insert for the Season One DVD box set has the lyric as "Hangin' in a chow line". However, the Bergmans confirmed that the lyric is actually "Hangin' and a-jivin'."[17] Slightly different lyrics were used for the closing credits, with the song beginning on a verse instead of the chorus.

Episodes[edit]

Reception[edit]

Ratings[edit]

The Evans family (l–r) Michael, Thelma, J.J., Florida, and James

The program premiered in February 1974; high ratings led CBS to renew the program for the 1974–75 season, as it was the seventeenth-highest-rated program that year. During its first full season on the air, 1974–75, the show was the seventh-highest-rated program in the Nielsen ratings and a quarter of the American television-viewing public tuned into an episode during any given week. Three of the top ten highest-rated programs on American TV that season centered around the lives of African-Americans: Sanford and Son, The Jeffersons, and Good Times.

The Nielsen ratings for the series declined over time, partly because of its many time slot changes.[18] In its third season, the series was that season's twenty-fourth-highest-rated program. The ratings went down when the show entered its final season, perhaps in part due to a Saturday night time slot:

Awards and nominations[edit]

YearAwardResultCategoryRecipient
1975Golden Globe AwardNominatedBest TV Actress - Musical/ComedyEsther Rolle
Best Supporting Actor - TelevisionJimmie Walker
1976NominatedBest Supporting Actor - TelevisionJimmie Walker
1975Humanitas PrizeNominated30 Minute CategoryJohn Baskin and Roger Shulman
(For episode "The Lunch Money Ripoff")
30 Minute CategoryBob Peete
(For episode "My Girl Henrietta")
2003TV Land AwardNominatedCatchiest Classic TV Catch Phrase
(Dy-no-mite!)
-
2005NominatedFavorite Catch Phrase
-
2006WonImpact AwardJohn Amos, Ralph Carter, Ja'net DuBois, Esther Rolle (posthumously), BernNadette Stanis, and Jimmie Walker

Syndication[edit]

The cable network TV One had aired reruns of the show since its launch on January 19, 2004 until October 5, 2012*. It has also aired at various times on TV Land.

Good Times is also seen in Canada on DejaView, a specialty cable channel from Canwest. A selection of full episodes of the show is available to Canadians for free on GlobalTV.com

Minisodes of the show are available for free on Crackle.

Good Times also began airing on digital subchannel Antenna TV on January 3, 2011.

DVD releases[edit]

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released the entire series on DVD in Region 1 between February 2003 and August 2006, with a complete box set following the separate seasons on October 28, 2008.

Season 1 was released on DVD in Region 4 on December 27, 2006.

On August 27, 2013, it was announced that Mill Creek Entertainment had acquired the rights to various television series from the Sony Pictures library including Good Times.[25] On November 8, 2013, it was announced that they will be re-releasing the first two seasons on DVD on January 21, 2014.[26]

DVD NameEp #Release Date
The Complete First Season13February 4, 2003
January 21, 2014 (re-release)
The Complete Second Season24February 3, 2004
January 21, 2014 (re-release)
The Complete Third Season24August 10, 2004
The Complete Fourth Season23February 15, 2005
The Complete Fifth Season24August 23, 2005
The Complete Sixth Season24August 1, 2006
The Complete Series133October 28, 2008

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lewis, Dan (February 19, 1974). "Good Times Is Maude Spinoff". St. Joseph News-Press. p. 15. Retrieved February 24, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Robinson, Louie (September 1975). "Bad Times On the 'Good Times' Set". Ebony (Johnson Publishing Company) 30 (11): 35. ISSN 0012-9011. 
  3. ^ a b c Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle F. (2007-10-17). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present (9 ed.). Ballantine Books. p. 869. ISBN 0-345-49773-2. 
  4. ^ Newcomb, Horace (2004). Encyclopedia Of Television: A-C (2 ed.). CRC Press. p. 2278. ISBN 1-579-58411-X. 
  5. ^ Fearn-Banks, Kathleen (2009). The A to Z of African-American Television 49. Scarecrow Press. p. 169. ISBN 0-810-86348-0. 
  6. ^ Mitchell, John L. (2006-04-14). "Plotting His Next Big Break". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2006-05-24. Retrieved 2006-07-25. 
  7. ^ Ingram, Billy. "Good Times?". tvparty.com. Retrieved 2008-01-19. 
  8. ^ "'I Was Fired,' Reveals Good Times' John Amos". Jet (Johnson Publishing Company) 50 (10): 57. May 27, 1976. ISSN 0021-5996. 
  9. ^ Dawidziak, Mark (January 17, 1994). "Lear, Amos paired up again". Herald-Journal. p. C3. Retrieved February 24, 2013. 
  10. ^ 5000 Episodes and No Commercials: The Ultimate Guide to TV Shows On DVD. Random House Digital, Inc. 2011. p. 125. ISBN 0-307-79950-6. 
  11. ^ a b c d Marguiles, Lee (June 10, 1978). "Esther Rolle Returning To 'Good Times'". St. Petersburg Times. p. 11B. Retrieved February 24, 2013. 
  12. ^ Beck, Marilyn (September 23, 1977). "It's 'good times' for Ja'net Dubois". St. Petersburg Times. p. 14D. Retrieved February 24, 2013. 
  13. ^ Newcomb 2004 p.1012
  14. ^ a b Bodroghkozy, Aniko (2012). Equal Time: Television and the Civil Rights Movement. University of Illinois Press. p. 223. ISBN 0-252-09378-X. 
  15. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0590954/
  16. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0590954/
  17. ^ a b "Backstage with... Alan and Marilyn Bergman". Time Out New York. 2007-02-01. Retrieved 2007-07-31. 
  18. ^ "Good Times In Trouble; Jeffersons Holding Own". Jet (Johnson Publishing Company) 55 (13): 64. December 14, 1978. ISSN 0021-5996. 
  19. ^ "TV Ratings > 1973". ClassicTVHits.com. Retrieved 2011-10-28. 
  20. ^ "TV Ratings > 1974". ClassicTVHits.com. Retrieved 2011-10-28. 
  21. ^ "TV Ratings > 1975". ClassicTVHits.com. Retrieved 2011-10-28. 
  22. ^ "TV Ratings > 1976". ClassicTVHits.com. Retrieved 2011-10-28. 
  23. ^ "TV Ratings > 1977". ClassicTVHits.com. Retrieved 2011-10-28. 
  24. ^ "TV Ratings > 1978". ClassicTVHits.com. Retrieved 2011-10-28. 
  25. ^ Mill Creek Entertainment Signs Deals With Sony Pictures Home Entertainment To Expand Their Distribution Partnership
  26. ^ Dyn-O-Mite! Mill Creek Brings the First Two Seasons Back to DVD Soon!

External links[edit]