Good Times—Season 1

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8.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Fun series that was different at the time

Loses edge by becoming The J.J. Show, easily predictable plots

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Chicago never felt so crappy!

The Evans are just getting by.  Living in the projects in Chicago, James (John Amos) tries to keep a job while his wife Florida (Esther Rolle) watches over the kids and house while her friend Willona Woods (Ja’net DuBois) chimes in on everything.  Young Michael (Ralph Carter) is militant and seeking equality for his people, Thelma (BernNadette Stanis) hopes to have a date with Billy Dee Williams, and J.J. (Jimmie Walker) aspires to be an artist…while meeting all the girls he can.

Good Times—Season 1 was produced by Norman Lear and aired from February 8, 1974 to May 10, 1974 as a mid-season replacement.  The series spun Esther Rolle’s Florida Evans character off of Maude (which in turn spun-off of All in the Family).  The series episodes were frequently shown out of order (the third episode “Getting Up the Rent” was actually the pilot for the series).

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Ever been upstaged by your “kid”?

I can remember watching Good Times growing up (already in reruns).  As a kid (of course), I like the J.J. character and his patented “Kid Dy-no-mite” catch phrase.  It however was Kid Dy-no-mite that got Good Times in a bit of trouble, and you can even see the problem emerging early in the series.

The show was mean to circle around Esther Rolle and John Amos.  Both were having success in other shows and the idea of a show focusing on African-American in a real life situation of struggling to get by allegedly appealed to the actors.  James was supposed to have never gotten past the sixth grade and Florida stayed at home to keep her kids out of trouble.  In the series, Florida was supposed to be three years younger than James, but in reality John Amos was in his mid-thirties and Esther Rolle was nineteen years older than him and already in her fifties when the series began.

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Dy-no-mite!!!!

J.J. became the problem of the series however.  Early on, Jimmie Walker began stealing scenes.  That wasn’t necessarily the problem, but many on the show and in the African-American community felt that Jimmie’s character represented a lot of stereotypes of the past and at the time.  Early on in the series, you can start to see this and even by the end of the season, it is becoming The J.J. Show as Walker’s outlandish behavior doesn’t quite seem to fit in with the serious nature of some of the shows.  In later seasons, this ends of leading to conflict among the cast.

This season, you can just enjoy the show for what it is…a comedy.  It doesn’t feel as deep and layered as something like All in the Family, but you can see some edginess.  Part of the fun of the show is that it is dated.  You can tell what was popular when the show was being made (like references to gas shortages and even The Exorcist).  It is a fun little time capsule that is slight step above some of the other comedies of the time.

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I’m sure things will work out this time (sarcasm)

Good Times isn’t perfect, but it is fun.  There is kind of a malaise surrounding the stories in that you know no matter how good something seems, the Evans are going to get shot down by the end of the episode.  Unlike something like Sanford and Son where you know the characters will continue to get by fine, you find yourself worrying for the Evans because they are a family.  Good Times couldn’t be made now because it is “too light”, and drugs, shootings, and more serious plotlines would be inserted.  With the situation set-up by the series, every episode of Good Times would have to be “a very special episode” with a moral at the end.

Good Times—Season 1 Complete Episode Guide:

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“Too Old Blues”

1.1       Too Old Blues Airdate:  02/08/74

James (John Amos) gets a job offer that can change the lives of the Evans family with a steady income.  With a party planned, James gets bad news about apprenticeship.

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“Black Jesus”

1.2       Black Jesus Airdate:  02/15/74

J.J. (Jimmie Walker) paints a black Jesus (who has a striking resemblance to the Ned the Wino).  When things start working for the Evans family, they wonder if Black Jesus could their good luck charm.

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“Getting Up the Rent”

1.3       Getting Up the Rent Airdate:  02/22/74

Florida (Esther Rolle) is recovering from surgery and learns that it is eviction day unless the family can come up with the rent.  As James heads back to the pool hall to hustle, J.J., Thelma (Bern Nadette Stanis) , and Michael (Ralph Carter) plot a scheme and Florida and Willona (Ja’net Dubois) go to the welfare department for help.

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“God’s Business Is Good Business”

1.4       God’s Business Is Good Business Airdate:  03/01/74

James’ old Korean War buddy Reverend Sam (Roscoe Lee Browne) is in town.  When Sam offers James a job, Florida tries to convince James that Sam isn’t an honest man.

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“Michael Gets Suspended”

1.5       Michael Gets Suspended Back Airdate:  02/12/74

Michael is suspended from school for calling George Washington a racist.  As the family debates Michael’s argument, the Evans learns that there is a whole different black history they’ve never learned.

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“Sex and the Evans Family”

1.6       Sex and the Evans Family Airdate:  03/15/74

Thelma is dating a twenty-one year old (Philip Michael Thomas).  When Florida finds a paper called “Sexual Behavior in the Ghetto”, she learns Thelma’s boyfriend might have more than just a date on his mind.

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“Junior Gets a Patron”

1.7       Junior Gets a Patron Airdate:  03/22/74

J.J. gets someone to support his art but James puts his foot down when he learns it is Leroy Jackson (Ed Cambridge).  With J.J.’s future in the balance, J.J. might be forced to move out.

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“Junior the Senior”

1.8       Junior the Senior Airdate:  03/29/74

J.J. could be held back.  When he passes all his classes, Florida and James wonder how it could be possible.

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“The Visitor

1.9       The Visitor Airdate:  04/05/74

Michael writes a letter to the papers complaining about the condition in the projects.  When a man from the housing authority comes to question the Evans, the Evans find they might have a visitor.

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“Springtime in the Ghetto”

1.10     Springtime in the Ghetto Airdate:  04/19/74

Florida is out to win a contest for best apartment in the projects.  Unfortunately, Michael has picked today to try to help Ned the Wino (Raymond Allen).

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“The TV Commercial”

1.11     The TV Commercial Airdate:  04/26/74

Florida is approached at the grocery to do a TV commercial for Vita-Brite.  It could be Florida’s big break, but Vita-Brite might not be the miracle elixir.

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“The Checkup”

1.12     The Checkup Airdate:  05/03/74

The family worries that James’ increasingly violent outbursts could be hypertension and try to get him to see the doctor.

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“My Son, the Lover”

1.13     My Son, The Lover Airdate:  05/10/74

J.J. has a new girl, and it could be serious.  Marcy (Ta-Tanisha) is the most popular girl in school and is sitting for J.J. for a portrait…and J.J.’s in love.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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