The original run of the series debuted on Fox on Sunday, January 10, 1999 in the time slot, following a divisional conference football playoff game. Two days later, the second episode aired in its regular Tuesday night time slot, following King of the Hill.
43 episodes aired during the show's 3-year run. Each took over 2 months to produce, owing to the laborious stop-motion process. After 2 seasons on Fox, the show moved to The WB in 2000. Its high budget and declining ratings led to its cancellation in 2001; the final 2 episodes weren't aired until 2003. The show aired in syndication for a time on Trio and Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, and now can be seen on TV One.
The PJs won 3 Emmy Awards and one Annie Award during its run. Some social activists (including director Spike Lee) accused the show of depicting negative racial stereotypes of life in the projects. Quincy Jones' son QD3, along with George Clinton, produced the theme music for the show.
Thurgood Orenthal Stubbs (also known as The Super or simply Super) (Eddie Murphy) - the superintendent of the Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs projects and the main protagonist. Thurgood is short-tempered, impatient, not very bright, and suffers from a variety of health issues. He wears a white short-sleeved shirt, blue overalls, and brown shoes. He also has salt and pepper hair, which changed from an afro to its current style following a dance accident the day he and Muriel were married. Thurgood is terrified of black rats, as revealed in "Fear of a Black Rat." Much of the show's humor is derived from Thurgood's unwillingness to repair the dilapidated projects or deal with the many frustrations of leading a community of the urban poor. Despite his laughably poor education, he is shown to be kind and a natural leader when the situation calls for it. His diet is another source of humor, as he prefers fried foods, red meat, and Forties. Thurgood throughout the series has used a variety of interjections in reference to African-American icons. Such interjections are "What on Eartha Kitt?", or "Mother Marion Barry!".
Muriel Stubbs (née Warren) (Loretta Devine) - Thurgood's wife and the voice of reason. She wears a pink sweatsuit with the word "Paris" on it (which she got on a trip to Paris with Don King) and light pink shoes. Muriel has a sister named Bebe Ho who is married to another tenant. Muriel and Bebe were likely raised in Alabama during the era of school desegregation, as evidenced by Muriel's having met her state's governor when she attended an all-white high school. However, Muriel attests that the only reason she got to meet the governor was because he was blocking the school door.
Other main characters
Florence Normandy Avery (Mrs. Avery) (Ja'net Dubois) - a senior citizen who antagonizes Thurgood throughout the series. She, like the other tenants, hates him with a passion because he never fixes her run-down apartment. A retired con artist, Mrs. Avery often tells random and inappropriate stories of her past as a grifter. She suffers from numerous ailments and has had multiple strokes. She keeps a loaded shotgun with her named "Mrs. Jones", which she used to shoot Thurgood, the garbage man, the mailman, a helicopter, as well as using it as a general threat to get her way. She also has a dog named Lucky who was originally a stray and given to her by Thurgood to get out of taking care of her after he caused her to fall down an elevator shaft. It was later revealed she had not become impaired by this fall, but was lonely and seeking companionship.
Portrait of most of the major characters
Calvin Banks (Crystal Scales) and "Juicy" Hudson (Michele Morgan) - two children, who are best friends and idolize Thurgood. Calvin is a thin and intelligent boy, while "Juicy" is overweight and slow-witted. Juicy's parents are morbidly obese shut-ins, leaving Calvin and Thurgood as a surrogate family. He is often made to wear a sign stating "Do Not Feed" when he leaves his apartment. In late episodes they are rival admirers of Sharique.
"Smokey" (Shawn Michael Howard) - a homeless crackhead, whose antics often anger Thurgood. His real name is Elister, but was referred to as "Mr. Crackhead" and "Mr. Crack" in the first 3 episodes of the series. In one episode, it is revealed that "Smokey" used to train fighting rats under the name, "Ratman Crothers". He is often insulted with the phrase, "You damn stupid crackhead!" by Thurgood. (This phrase results in a stand-up comedy act with Smokey and Thurgood in one episode) "Smokey" later quits drug use by season 3, but is still homeless. Despite his homelessness, as well as his tendency to steal from tenants whenever possible, Smokey is considered a part of the projects community by most residents.
Jimmy Ho (Michael Paul Chan) - a Korean tenant, who considers himself part of the African-American community. He is married to Bebe, making him Thurgood's brother-in-law. Jimmy frequently uses urban or "ghetto" phrases (colloquialisms) when he speaks, and also speaks of himself as a black person, much to Thurgood's frustration.
Bebe Ho (née Warren) (Jenifer Lewis) - Muriel's loud and obnoxious sister. She extremely dislikes Thurgood, and has a jealous feud with Muriel. Bebe appears to have had an active dating/sex life, having slept with most of her high school teachers and an exotic dancer the night before her wedding. Jimmy Ho is her fifth husband.
(Mambo) Garcelle Dupree aka "Haiti Lady" (Cheryl Francis Harrington) - She is the resident Voodoo queen of the Hilton-Jacobs Projects and a Haitian immigrant. Her powers, though highly potent and proven in the episodes, "U Go Cart" and "Cruising For A Bluesing" are rarely seen in action. Examples of her powers are seen when she drives the go-cart built by Supah, Calvin, and Juicy to "Hell and back" literally. She also summons a cyclops to scare Calvin and Juicy after they disrespected her and Mrs. Avery. She often incurs Thurgood's anger for regularly clogging her toilet with paper towels. He is generally unfazed by the animal parts and voodoo accessories she flushes with the paper towels, however.
Emilio Sanchez (or just simply known as Sanchez) (Pepe Serna) - Thurgood's luckless Cuban friend. He speaks with an electrolarynx because of years of smoking, but it was implied in the episode "Haiti Sings the Blues" that Haiti Lady may have used her voodoo powers to cause that. He once wanted to become an Opera singer. He often expresses sadness over his dead wife, Esperansa. Sanchez wears a blue and white trucker hat with "Nevada" written on the front, which he actually bought in California.
Walter Burkett (Marc Wilmore) - the neighborhood parole officer with a past as a crooked cop. His past is regularly alluded to, as many people around the projects owe him favors or are subject to his blackmail. In the Christmas episode, "How the Super Stole Christmas," Walter arrested a thug for stealing an old woman's purse, but kept the thug locked in his trunk rather than call the police. He also once helped Thurgood get into prison for free dental care, and is shown to be willing (and able) to blackmail judges and business owners. He is also portrayed in many episodes (such as "Haiti and the Tramp") to be a sexual deviant, most likely a result from admitting to growing up in a whore house (revealed in "Bougie Nights")
Tarnell (James R. Black) - the local street corner hustler, who Thurgood usually turns to when he needs something unusual. He speaks almost entirely in street slang, which Thurgood usually misunderstands, leading to Tarnell delivering the wrong items.
Papa Hudson and Mama Hudson - Juicy's parents. They are morbidly obese and confined to their apartment. Because Papa Hudson is so fat, we usually only see his arm and stomach through his door or window. In the episode "Bougie Nights," Poppa's face is shown for the first time. In the episode "What's Eating Juicy Hudson?", Papa leaves the apartment for the first time. In the episode "Boyz N the Woods", Papa is confirmed to weigh more than half a ton. Because of the Hudsons' obesity, Juicy is tasked with performing most household functions for the family.
HUD Lady (Cassi Davis) - is the receptionist at HUD, always seen through frosted glass, who always refuses to give Thurgood what he wants. Despite her unwillingness to help Thurgood do his job, she is surprisingly friendly to Muriel and is willing to grant Thurgood's requests after hearing them from Muriel. Her trademark phrase is "Next!," which she yells at the end of most sentences directed at Thurgood. Her son's name is Chevron, her sister's name is Latrine, and her daughter's name is Lasagna. She represents the stereotype of faceless, underfunded and uncaring bureaucracy upon which HUD residents depend for supplies and guidance.
Sharique (Wanda Christine) - in late episodes, a beautiful teen runaway who comes to the projects after her uptown parents are jailed for investment fraud. Beloved by Calvin and Juicy, she moves in with Mrs. Avery.
Babs and De-Shawn (N/A) - Babs and De-Shawn are also addicted to Crack and living on the streets like Smokey. Even though whenever Babs speaks, it always seems to be sound like an animal screaming, but Smokey is the only one that can understand her. Bab's is also portrayed as a hooker (in "He's Gotta Have It" Smokey announces to Bab's she has a customer when Thurgood brings up sex). De-Shawn never speaks and is usually seen with Babs and Smokey. Smokey also mentioned that De-Shawn has Tuberculosis in "U Go Kart" and has a diet of rats in "Fear of a Black Rat". Also, whenever Smokey forgets to say something, either Babs or De-Shawn whisper to him what to say (seen in "U Go Kart", and "Let's Get Ready to Rumba").
Nula - a girl that probably is Calvin and Juicy's classmate which Juicy has a crush on (although Nula doesn't approve of his crush on her)
Lucky - Mrs. Avery's beloved pet dog that is seen in a lot of episodes. He got his name from being shot three times by Mrs. Avery's shotgun, one time because Thurgood let him in, and then two more times to be sure he is lucky. Lucky is probably the only person that Mrs. Avery shows constant affection and love to.
Note: Because of a rumored dispute between Eddie Murphy and the Fox network (apparently over unfavorable scheduling of the show), Mark Moseley (an impressionist known as Eddie Murphy's voice double; Moseley can be heard scattered throughout almost PJ's episodes covering re-written Thurgood dialogue that time did not allow Murphy to re-record) and Phil Morris took over the role of Thurgood in several late episodes. Some sources indicate that Murphy was actually busy on a movie role at the time.
Thurgood and Muriel's Apartment - A below street-level apartment near the front of the building.
Front of the Building and Courtyard - Most outdoor scenes take place here. Thurgood and Sanchez occasionally play chess at the table in the corner of the courtyard.
Boiler Room - The room where Thurgood comes to plan ideas or relax with a Forty and his collection of Jet Magazines. It was briefly a beauty salon for Muriel and Bebe in "Weave's Have a Dream." In one episode, it also features a nuclear reactor that powers the projects.
The Roof - A variety of events and activities take place here, including the community garden (as seen in "Haiti Sings The Blues") and a gumbo cookoff in "Operation Gumbo Drop."
Street Corner - This is where Thurgood usually meets Tarnell and gets the items he's after.
HUD Building - This is where Thurgood comes to get equipment for the building. The front sign features a number of cynical HUD "slogans" that change in each episode.