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Good Times

By Bret Fetzer

What first comes to mind is super-skinny Jimmie Walker proclaiming "Dyn-o-mite!" and waving his arms like a funky scarecrow in a whirlwind of 1970s jive. But while Walker's James "J.J." Evans Junior became the most famous face of Good Times, the bedrock of the sitcom were the actors playing his parents, Esther Rolle and John Amos as Florida and James Evans, two good-hearted but fallible people struggling to raise their family amid the poverty of the Chicago projects. Add to the mix boy-crazy daughter Thelma (Bernnadette Stanis), preadolescent black activist Michael (Ralph Carter), and Florida's world-wise best friend Willona (sassy Ja'net DuBois), and you've got one of the best comic ensembles of the time.

Modern politically correct sensibilities may wince a bit at J.J.'s sometimes cartoonish antics, but what's far more striking about the first season of Good Times is how frank the show was willing to be about race, politics, class, religion, sexual double standards, and family conflicts--considerably more direct and daring, in fact, than just about anything you'll find on television today.

The topics of shows range from the corruption of television evangelism and white-centered history classes in school (Michael gets suspended for stating that George Washington owned slaves) to more typical sitcom themes like a housekeeping contest or J.J.'s girlfriend troubles--but even the most lightweight episodes tosses out a few acerbic (and genuinely funny) comments on the difficulty of being black in America.

In one of the second season's comic centerpieces, the Evans family avoids eating a neighbor's meatloaf because they think it's made with dog food. The scene is played as hilarious farce, but the acknowledgment of a poor old woman living on dog food gives the sequence an underlying bite.

An episode about a pregnant teen ends on an unexpectedly moving note, without any strings on the soundtrack to cue the audience's heartstrings--that's solid writing and acting.

With buffoonish Jimmy "Dy-no-mite!" Walker, foxy Ja'Net Du Bois, sweet BernNadette Stanis, and militant Ralph Carter rounding out the cast, Good Times is a time capsule both for fashion (even though they lived in the projects, the Evans' fashion-plate neighbor Willona, played by Du Bois, was rarely without a glamorous get-up) and for a time in which mainstream sitcoms had the freedom to reflect the tougher side of reality

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Good Times is now available on DVD! Get it at Amazon.com!
Season One, Season Two, Season Three, Season Four, Season Five

 

Share Your Memories In Our Forums!

Check out our Good Times forum! Do you have a favorite episode of the show? What do you remember about the series? Do you have any questions about it or its stars? Now you can post comments and questions directly to our TV forums! Click here to see what other Good Times viewers have said or to post your own comments about the show!

Your Memories Shared!

What fans remember most about 'Good Times' is the episode in which the Evans family is grieving over the loss of husband and father, James. All grieved but Florida. It wasn't until the final end that Florida gave in and smashed a punch bowl yelling the emotional "DAMN!" DAMN!" "DAAAAAAAMN!"

--Anonymous

Note: This is just a random sample of the Good Times messages in our TV forums! Click here to see what others have said or to post your own comments!

 

TV TIDBITS

Aired: February 1, 1974 - August 1, 1979

Cast: Jimmie J.J. Walker, Esther Rolle, John Amos, Ja'net DuBois, Bernadette Stanis, Ralph Carter, Janet Jackson

Network: CBS

Genre: Sitcom

Theme song

Image courtesy of CBS


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Use of this site is subject to our Terms of Service.
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Review copyright Amazon.com and used by permission.