Good Times
GenreSitcom
Created byEric Monte and Mike Evans
Developed byNorman Lear
Directed by
  • Herbert Kenwith (seasons 1–3)
  • Various (season 1)
  • Garren Keith (seasons 4–6)
Starring
Theme music composer
Opening theme"Good Times" performed by Jim Gilstrap and Blinky Williams
ComposersDave Grusin
Alan and Marilyn Bergman
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons6
No. of episodes133 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producers
Producers
  • Allan Manings (1974-75)
  • Jack Elinson (1975-76)
  • Norman Paul (1975-76)
  • Austin and Irma Kalish (1976–77)
  • Lloyd Turner (1977-78)
  • Gordon Mitchell (1977-78)
  • Sid Dorfman (1978-79)
Production locationsCBS Television City, Hollywood, California (1974-75)
Metromedia Square, Hollywood, California (1975-79)
Camera setupMulti-camera
Running time22–24 minutes
Production companyTandem Productions
Original release
NetworkCBS
ReleaseFebruary 8, 1974 (1974-02-08) –
August 1, 1979 (1979-08-01)
Related

Good Times is an American television sitcom that aired for six seasons on CBS, from February 8, 1974, to August 1, 1979. Created by Eric Monte and Mike Evans and developed by executive producer Norman Lear, it was television's first African American two-parent family sitcom. Good Times is a spin-off of Maude, which itself is a spin-off of All in the Family.

In September 2020, it was announced that the series would receive an animated sitcom revival with Carl Jones originally attached as showrunner and produced with Norman Lear originally executive producing alongside Seth MacFarlane and Steph Curry for Netflix.[1] In December 2023, it was announced Ranada Shepard replaced Carl Jones as showrunner for the series.[2] It will center on the current generation of the Evans family. The series will be released on April 12, 2024.[3]

Synopsis

Florida and James (renamed from Henry) Evans and their three children live at 721 North Gilbert Avenue, apartment 17C, in a public housing project in a poor, black neighborhood in inner-city Chicago. The project is unnamed on the show but is implicitly the infamous Cabrini–Green Homes, shown in the opening and closing credits.[4][5] Florida and James have three children: James Jr., also known as "J.J.", a budding artist and illustrator who thinks of himself as a "Casanova" type and achieves both success and rejection on his path to monetize his talent into a career; Thelma, a very bright girl who takes education very seriously as she sees it as a way to help her family and is shown attending high school and community college over the course of the series; and Michael, whose passionate activism and support for the Black community and Black issues causes his father to call him "the militant midget."

When the series begins, J.J. is 17 (portrayed by 26-year-old Jimmie Walker, who was just eight years younger than co-star John Amos), Thelma 16 and Michael 11. Their exuberant neighbor and Florida's best friend is Willona Woods, a recent divorcée who works at a boutique. Their building superintendent is Nathan Bookman (seasons 2–6), who James, Willona and later J.J. refer to as "Buffalo Butt" or, even more derisively, "Booger."

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 New York City firefighter. When producers decided to feature the Florida character in her own show, they changed the characters' history to fit a new series that was well into development rather than start from scratch to create a consistent starring vehicle, even though to do so meant changing their Black middle-class family into to a poverty-stricken lower class family. Henry's name became James, he worked various odd jobs due to only being able to attain a sixth-grade education, there was no mention of Maude but it was mentioned that Florida was a maid once before in the episode 'The Checkup' and the couple lived in Chicago.[6]

Episodes of Good Times deal with the characters' attempts to overcome poverty, living in high-rise public housing in Chicago. James Evans often works at least two jobs, mostly manual labor such as dishwasher, construction laborer, etc. Though he is often unemployed, he is a proud man who will not accept charity. He sometimes hustles money playing pool, although Florida disapproves of this.

Episodes

Main article: List of Good Times episodes

SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
113February 8, 1974 (1974-02-08)May 10, 1974 (1974-05-10)
224September 10, 1974 (1974-09-10)March 18, 1975 (1975-03-18)
324September 9, 1975 (1975-09-09)March 2, 1976 (1976-03-02)
424September 22, 1976 (1976-09-22)March 30, 1977 (1977-03-30)
524September 21, 1977 (1977-09-21)April 3, 1978 (1978-04-03)
624September 16, 1978 (1978-09-16)August 1, 1979 (1979-08-01)

Cast and characters

Main

Actor Character Seasons
1 2 3 4 5 6
Esther Rolle Florida Evans Main Does not appear Main
John Amos James Evans Main Does not appear
Ja'Net DuBois Willona Woods Main
Ralph Carter Michael Evans Main
Bern Nadette Stanis[a] Thelma Evans Anderson Main
Jimmie Walker James "J.J." Evans Jr. Main
Johnny Brown Nathan Bookman Does not appear Recurring Main
Janet Jackson Millicent "Penny" Gordon Woods Does not appear Main
Ben Powers Keith Anderson Does not appear Main
  1. ^ Bern Nadette Stanis was credited as "Bern Nadette" during early episodes of season one, and later as "Bernnadette Stanis".

Supporting

Johnny Brown as superintendent
Nathan ("Buffalo Butt") Bookman

Notable guest stars

Louis Gossett Jr. as Florida's brother, Wilbert
J. A. Preston as Walter Ingles, friend of Willona Woods
(Ja'Net DuBois) (1976)

Production

Good Times was created by Eric Monte and actor Mike Evans. The series also features a character named "Michael Evans" after Evans, who portrayed Lionel Jefferson on the Lear-produced series All in the Family and The Jeffersons.[8]

Theme song and opening sequence

Good Times theme
audio icon Sample [0:13] via

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 Motown singer Blinky Williams with a gospel choir providing background vocals. Because of the singing style of the song, and the audio mix, the lyrics to the theme song are notorious for being hard to discern, notably the line "Hangin' in a chow line"/"Hangin' in and 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.[9] The insert for the Season One DVD box set has the lyric as "Hangin' in a chow line." However, the Bergmans, along with Bern Nadette Stanis, confirmed that the lyric is actually "Hangin' in and jivin'."[9] Slightly different lyrics were used for the closing credits, with the song beginning on a verse instead of the chorus.

Casting

Chip Fields was one of the finalists for the role of Thelma, but Bernadette Stanis was selected. Haywood Nelson screen tested and was hired for the role of the youngest Evans child, Michael, but was replaced by Ralph Carter who, at the time, had more experience in front of a live audience. Carter was a cast member in the Broadway musical Raisin and the producers of Raisin were initially reluctant to accept Tandem Productions' buyout offer.[10] While Carter's contract was being negotiated, another young actor, Larry Fishburne (later Laurence) filled the role of Michael during initial rehearsals for Good Times.[10] Early episodes of Good Times contain a notice in the credits: "Ralph Carter appears courtesy of the Broadway musical Raisin."[10]

Cast conflicts

Co-creator Mike Evans (1975)

Good Times was intended to be a timely show in the All in the Family vein focused on Rolle and Amos. Both expected the show to deal with serious topics in a comedic way while providing positive characters for viewers to identify with. However, it was Walker's character of J.J. that was an immediate hit with audiences and became the breakout character of the series. J.J.'s frequent use of the expression "Dy-no-mite!" (often in the phrase "Kid Dy-no-mite!"), credited to director John Rich (first delivered by Walker at the end of the Season 1, Episode 2, "Black Jesus"), became a popular catchphrase (later included in TV Land's The 100 Greatest TV Quotes and Catch Phrases special).[11]

Rich insisted Walker say it in every episode. Walker and executive producer Norman Lear were skeptical of the idea, but the phrase and the J.J. Evans character caught on with the audience.[12] As a result of the character's popularity, the writers focused more on J.J.'s comedic antics instead of serious issues. Throughout seasons two and three, Rolle and Amos grew increasingly disillusioned with the direction of the show and especially with J.J.'s tomfoolery and stereotypically buffoonish behavior.[13] Rolle was vocal about her hate of his 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.[14]

Despite doing so less publicly than Rolle, Amos also was outspoken about his dissatisfaction with the J.J. character, stating:

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.[15]

While Amos was less public with his dissatisfaction than Rolle, he was fired after season three due to disagreements with Lear and the writing staff, which, according to Amos, were often confrontational and heated. Amos' departure was initially attributed to his desire to focus on a film career, but he admitted in a 1976 interview that Lear called him and told him that his contract option with the show was not being renewed. Amos stated, "That's the same thing as being fired."[16] The producers decided not to recast the character of James Evans, instead opting to kill off the character in the two-part season four premiere, "The Big Move," with Florida finding out that James died in an automobile accident while in Mississippi setting up a new business opportunity at an auto repair shop, which would have allowed the family to move from the ghetto.[17][18]

Final seasons

By the end of season four, Rolle had also become dissatisfied with the show's direction and decided to leave the series. In the two-part season finale, "Love Has a Spot On His Lung," Florida gets engaged to Carl Dixon (Moses Gunn), a man she began dating toward the end of season four. In the season five premiere episode, "The Evans Get Involved Part 1," it is revealed that Florida and Carl married off screen and moved to Arizona for the sake of Carl's health.[19] With Amos and Rolle gone, DuBois took over as lead actor, as Willona checked in on the Evans children since they were now living alone.[5][20]

In season five, Janet Jackson joined the cast, playing Penny Gordon, an abused girl, abandoned by her mother, and eventually adopted by Willona.[19] During that season, Johnny Brown's character of Nathan Bookman, the Evans' superintendent, became more prominent. At the beginning of the fifth season, Brown became a series regular and was included in the opening credits. Ratings began to decline. It was clear to the producers as well as viewers that Rolle's absence had left the series without a much-needed unifying center of attention.[19]

Before the 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."[19]

Producers approached Rolle with an offer to appear in a guest role 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 to 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's death or left 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.[19][21]

In the season six premiere episode "Florida's Homecoming: Part 1," Florida returns from Arizona without Carl to attend Thelma's upcoming wedding to professional football player Keith Anderson (Ben Powers, who joined the cast for the final season). In a rare uncut version of "Florida's Homecoming: Part 2," after Florida arrives home from Arizona, Willona briefly pulls her aside and mentions Carl, to which Florida sadly smiles and shakes her head, implying that Carl had died from cancer. Florida later mentions Carl one last time when she tells Michael about a book they'd both bought him.[6]

Despite changes in the series at Rolle's request and her return, plus the addition of Powers to the cast, ratings continued to fall and CBS canceled the series during the 1978–79 season.[22][23] In the series finale episode "The End of the Rainbow," each character finally gets a "happy ending." J.J. gets his big break as a nationally syndicated artist for a comic book company with his newly created character, DynoWoman, which is based on Thelma (much to her surprise and delight) and is moving into an apartment with some lady friends.[23]

Michael attends college and moves into an on-campus dorm. Keith's bad knee heals due to his exercise and own physical therapy, 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.[23]

Keith offers Florida the chance to move in with them so she can help Thelma with the new baby; Florida accepts the offer. Willona becomes the head buyer of the boutique, she walks 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 to which Keith, Thelma and Florida are also moving; she and Penny become the Evanses' downstairs neighbors.[23]

Broadcast and syndication

Cable network TV One aired reruns of the show since its launch on January 19, 2004. Good Times had also aired at various times on TV Land and on the Canadian specialty cable channel DejaView. Minisodes of the show are available for free on Crackle. Additionally, digital multicast network Antenna TV also aired episodes of the show until January 1, 2018, when GetTV, operated by Sony (which distributes the show), began airing the program. Good Times airs on GetTV with a TV-PG rating.

Most episodes run on TV One with a TV-G rating, with the lone exception being the season three episode "J.J. in Trouble," in which J.J. fears he may have contracted an STD. That episode airs with a TV-14 rating, as well as the "parental guidance is suggested" slide that preceded the episode when it was originally broadcast on CBS. In the past, it aired on TV Land with a TV-PG rating.

As of March 27, 2023, episodes have been airing nightly on the Catchy Comedy (formerly Decades) digital retro TV network.

Home media

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.[24] They have subsequently re-released the first four seasons on DVD.[25][26] On September 1, 2015, Mill Creek Entertainment re-released Good Times: The Complete Series on DVD in Region 1.[27]

All episodes are available to stream on Peacock.

DVD name Ep # Release date
The Complete First Season 13 February 4, 2003
January 21, 2014 (re-release)
The Complete Second Season 24 February 3, 2004
January 21, 2014 (re-release)
The Complete Third Season 24 August 10, 2004
May 20, 2014 (re-release)
The Complete Fourth Season 24 February 15, 2005
May 20, 2014 (re-release)
The Complete Fifth Season 24 August 23, 2005
The Complete Sixth and Final Season 24 August 1, 2006
The Complete Series 133 October 28, 2008
September 1, 2015 (re-release)

Reception

Ratings

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, the show was the seventh-highest-rated program in the Nielsen ratings, with more than 25% of all American households tuning into an episode each week. Three of the top ten highest-rated programs on American TV that season centered on 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 and the departure of John Amos.[28] The ratings went down considerably when the show entered its final two seasons:

Season TV Season No. of Episodes Time slot (ET) Nielsen ratings[29]
Rank Rating
1 1973–1974 13 Friday at 8:30 pm 17 21.4 (Tied with Barnaby Jones)
2 1974–1975 24 Tuesday at 8:00 pm 7 25.8
3 1975–1976 24 24 21.0
4 1976–1977 24 Wednesday at 8:00 pm (Episodes 1-15, 17–24)
Wednesday at 8:30 pm (Episode 16)
26 20.5
5 1977–1978 24 Wednesday at 8:00 pm (Episodes 1, 3-16)
Wednesday at 8:30 pm (Episode 2)
Monday at 8:00 pm (Episodes 17–24)
55 [30] 17.4 [30]
6 1978–1979 22 Saturday at 8:00 pm (Episode 1)
Saturday at 8:30 pm (Episodes 2-10)
Wednesday at 8:30 pm (Episodes 11–22)
91 [31] 13.0 [31]

Awards and nominations

Year Association Category Recipient(s) Result
1974 Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actor – Television Jimmie Walker Nominated
1975 Golden Globe Awards Best TV Actress – Musical/Comedy Esther Rolle Nominated
Best Supporting Actor – Television Jimmie Walker Nominated
Humanitas Prize 30 Minute Category John Baskin and Roger Shulman / episode: "The Lunch Money Ripoff" Nominated
30 Minute Category Bob Peete / episode: "My Girl Henrietta" Nominated
2006 TV Land Awards Impact Award John Amos, Ralph Carter, Ja'net DuBois, Esther Rolle (posthumously), BernNadette Stanis, and Jimmie Walker Won

References

  1. ^ Porter, Rick (September 14, 2020). "'Good Times' Animated Revival Scores Series Order at Netflix". The Hollywood Reporter.
  2. ^ "Netflix's 'Good Times' Toon Taps New Showrunner, Voice Stars". Animation Magazine. December 12, 2023.
  3. ^ "Good Times: Netflix Previews Animated Series Take on Classic Sitcom". 20 March 2024.
  4. ^ "Cabrini-Green Set For Demolition". cbslocal.com. December 9, 2010.
  5. ^ a b Simms, Gregory (September 8, 1977). "Ja'Net DuBois Tells Diet And 'Good Times' Secrets During Swing Through Chi". Jet. Vol. 52, no. 25. Johnson Publishing Company. pp. 62–63. ISSN 0021-5996.
  6. ^ a b Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle F. (October 17, 2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present (9 ed.). Ballantine Books. p. 869. ISBN 978-0-345-49773-4.
  7. ^ J.J.'s Fiancee with guest star Debbie Allen at IMDb
  8. ^ Lewis, Dan (February 19, 1974). "Good Times Is Maude Spinoff". St. Joseph News-Press. p. 15. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
  9. ^ a b "Backstage with... Alan and Marilyn Bergman". Time Out New York. February 1, 2007. Retrieved July 31, 2007.
  10. ^ a b c Dalton, John (7 February 2017). Television Academy Interviews: Interview with Jimmie Walker. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  11. ^ The Star Ledger. December 11, 2006
  12. ^ "Jimmie 'J.J.' Walker lights 'Dy-no-mite' on gay marriage, Leno and dating". CNN. July 16, 2012. Retrieved February 12, 2012.
  13. ^ Fearn-Banks, Kathleen (August 4, 2009). The A to Z of African-American Television. Vol. 49. Scarecrow Press. p. 169. ISBN 978-0-810-86348-4.
  14. ^ Robinson, Louie (September 1975). "Bad Times On the 'Good Times' Set". Ebony. Vol. 30, no. 11. Johnson Publishing Company. p. 35. ISSN 0012-9011.
  15. ^ Mitchell, John L. (April 14, 2006). "Plotting His Next Big Break". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on April 16, 2016. Retrieved November 3, 2017.
  16. ^ "'I Was Fired,' Reveals Good Times' John Amos". Jet. Vol. 50, no. 10. Johnson Publishing Company. May 27, 1976. p. 57. ISSN 0021-5996.
  17. ^ Dawidziak, Mark (January 17, 1994). "Lear, Amos paired up again". Herald-Journal. p. C3. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
  18. ^ 5000 Episodes and No Commercials: The Ultimate Guide to TV Shows On DVD. Random House Digital, Inc. November 9, 2011. p. 125. ISBN 978-0-307-79950-0.
  19. ^ a b c d e Marguiles, Lee (June 10, 1978). "Esther Rolle Returning To 'Good Times'". St. Petersburg Times. p. 11B. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
  20. ^ Beck, Marilyn (September 23, 1977). "It's 'good times' for Ja'net Dubois". St. Petersburg Times. p. 14D. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
  21. ^ Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle F. (October 17, 2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present (9 ed.). Ballantine Books. p. 552. ISBN 978-0-345-49773-4.
  22. ^ Newcomb 2004 p.1012
  23. ^ a b c d Bodroghkozy, Aniko (January 1, 2012). Equal Time: Television and the Civil Rights Movement. University of Illinois Press. p. 223. ISBN 978-0-252-09378-4.
  24. ^ "Mill Creek Entertainment Signs Deals With Sony Pictures Home Entertainment To Expand Their Distribution Partnership". tvshowsondvd.com (Press release). August 27, 2013. Archived from the original on October 6, 2014.
  25. ^ "Dyn-O-Mite! Mill Creek Brings the First Two Seasons Back to DVD Soon!". tvshowsondvd.com. November 8, 2013. Archived from the original on November 9, 2013.
  26. ^ "Good Times - We've Got Mill Creek's Box Art Now for Their 3rd and 4th Season Re-Releases!". tvshowsondvd.com. April 15, 2014. Archived from the original on April 16, 2014.
  27. ^ "Good Times DVD news: Announcement for Good Times - The Complete Series - TVShowsOnDVD.com". Archived from the original on 2015-07-10.
  28. ^ "Good Times In Trouble; Jeffersons Holding Own". Jet. Vol. 55, no. 13. Johnson Publishing Company. December 14, 1978. p. 64. ISSN 0021-5996.
  29. ^ Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946-Present (Ninth ed.). Ballantine Books. pp. 1687–1688. ISBN 978-0-345-49773-4.
  30. ^ a b "FCC cites ABC as 'negligent' in handling of boxing tournament" (PDF). Retrieved February 5, 2020.
  31. ^ a b "Rounding up the ratings for 'the season'" (PDF). Retrieved February 5, 2020.