On this day in comedy on February 8, 1974 Good Times premiered on CBS.
Created by writer Eric Monte (Cooley High) and actor, Mike Evans (the 1st Lionel from The Jeffersons), Good Times was developed by Norman Lear as a spin-off of Maude (which was a spin-off of All in the Family). The instant hit told the story of the long suffering Evans family: Florida (Esther Rolle), her husband James (John Amos) and their three children, artistic yet buffoonish JJ (Jimmie Walker), fine as hell Thelma (Bern Nadette Stanis) and mini militant Michael (Ralph Carter) and their life in the projects. They have a drop in neighbor Willona (Ja’net Dubois) who has an adopted daughter, Penny (Janet Jackson) and they also have a fat building superintendent, Bookman (Johnny Brown). These characters became like the family we loved, but didn’t want to live with.
Good Times was set in the 1970s and dealt with a lot of issues from that era. Racism, child abuse, drugs, gang violence, police violence and political corruption were all portrayed (sounds like it could be today) and milked for laughs and pathos. James never could keep a job and the family was always in the midst of a crisis, but through it all they had good times. Why? Because they had each other. That dynamic was evident on camera, but behind the scenes there was conflict not scripted. Esther Rolle and John Amos objected to the stereotypical portrayal of the eldest son JJ and pressed their complaints for a more positive direction of the show. The producer’s answer to tampering with a hit was to fire them both. Rolle eventually returned, but Amos’ character was killed off and the show got new characters to keep the audience and sponsors happy; which they did for a while, but like all good things and times, Good Times came to an end.
The last episode aired on August 1, 1979.
By Darryl “D’Militant” Littleton
Check out the clip: