A pleasant, somewhat forgotten 1980s sitcom on NBC, one of several of the era to feature all-black casts. It lasted from September, 1986 to May, 1991. A total of 110 episodes in five seasons. Set in an urban Philadelphia church, it starred Sherman Helmsley as Deacon Ernest Frye, an attorney with a considerably lacking sense of ethics, and Clifton Davis as the Rev. Reuben Gregory, a young, naive and idealistic minister. Another cast member was Anna Maria Horsford as Frye's 30-something spinster daughter, Thelma.Despite the church setting, many of the plots were standard sitcom fare, with little or nothing to do with the show’s ecclesiastical context. Two of the recurring themes of the show were Deacon Frye’s often harebrained schemes to raise money for the church, and Thelma’s initially unrequited love for the reverend. (They eventually marry and, in the final episode, have a baby.)
This show provides examples of:
Actor Allusion: In one of the show's Christmas Episodes, the choir is bickering over which song to sing for a competition. When someone suggests "Mary's Boy Child", Rolly scoffs at the idea, claiming. "I never cared for that one." That's odd, seeing as how Jester Hairston, Rolly's portrayer, WROTE THE SONG. Later in the episode, he sings it during the competition.
All Take and No Give: Frye’s fund-raising schemes are usually more slanted towards lining his own pocket than the church’s coffers.
Amen Break: not an exact example, but the theme song is a spoken-word version of the source music for the Amen Break. The theme song is probably what's most remembered about the show, besides Sherman Helmsley post-"The Jeffersons."
Amoral Attorney: Attorney Frye never met a loophole, scheme or conniving tactic he didn’t like.
Aesop Amnesia: Thelma and Deacon Frye are the most egregious offenders.
Brother Chuck: Inga, Cassieta, Jeanette, Lorenzo (the choir director)
Citizenship Marriage: Deacon Frye fakes a marriage to Inga so she could fool an INS agent and stay in the country. The INS agent was really a messenger from her attorney's office; he was bringing a letter telling Inga that she received a six-month extension on her visa.
Cousin Oliver: Chris. Jeanette too, even though she shows up early in the show's run, rather than late, like most examples of this trope. Clarence also, even though he's much older than most versions of this trope.
Crazy Jealous Guy: Reuben could be like this regarding Thelma—even before they officially began dating.
Deadpan Snarker: Rollie (Jester Hairston) is a textbook example. Many of the funniest lines are his pithy, sarcastic asides and reactions.
The Ghost: Deacon Frye lost his wife when Thelma was a young girl. She is often mentioned, but glimpsed only once in a flashback.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: A widowed man begging the Reverend and the Deacon to help him find a new wife, because it's been a long time since his wife died, and he has "very strong needs". Later, after Thelma and Reuben marry, he apparently deals with a bout of impotency. Never stated outright, of course, but his uneasy rebuffing of her advances hint at it pretty strongly.
Gossipy Hens: The Hettabrink Sisters, hands down. Amelia became less of one after Cassieta left the show.
Grand Finale: The church raises enough money to stay open, and Thelma and Reverend Gregory have their baby boy.
Hollywood Dateless: Thelma, who despite constantly complaining about her lack of a social life, actually dates a decent amount of men, nearly marrying one—and that's one of several who wanted to make her his wife—before getting together with Reverend Gregory.
Jerkass: Deacon Frye is a vain, amoral, conniving, self-serving Ambulance Chaser, with few, if any, saving graces. Somehow, he manages to maintain his church office and enjoy the tolerance and forgiveness of his fellow parishioners.
This is mainly because Deacon Frye's grandfather founded the church. Otherwise, he would have been kicked out a long time ago.
May-December Romance: Deacon Frye is considerably older than many of his love interests, especially Halle Berry, who prompted Thelma to exclaim, "No wonder he's acting like a teenager—he's DATING ONE!"
My Beloved Smother: Reuben's mother, who constantly takes passive-aggressive digs at Thelma and tries to make her feel like she's not good enough for him. Not until Thelma finally tells her off does she admit that her son is the only family she has left and that she was afraid of losing him. Ernie counts too, for the way he tends to treat Thelma like a child, to the point where she and Reuben have to throw him out of their honeymoon suite.
Oblivious to Love: The reverend, at least in early episodes, is oblivious to Thelma’s flirting.
Preacher Man: Actor Clifton Davis is, in real life, also an ordained minister.
As well as Child Prodigy Reverend Johnny (now in his early 30's) who has his own mega church outside of Chicago.
"The Reason You Suck" Speech: Thelma to Ernie, Ruben, and Ruben's best friend. In another episode, after Ernie loses an election, he gives one to the core cast.
Runaway Bride: Thelma almost does this to her would-be groom before finally sitting him down and gently telling him that she doesn't love him the way he deserves to be loved. Similarly, Reuben hem-haws on proposing to Thelma, then faints during their (first) wedding, basically a physical manifestation of his fears about marriage. She then basically pulls this trope again by storming out on him and refusing to accept his apologies.
She Cleans Up Nicely: Thelma is depicted as somewhat of a whiny, frumpy, plain Jane, but when she makes the effort to dress and groom nicely, she is a rather attractive lady.
Wedding Day: Thelma and Reverend Gregory (twice), Rollie and Leona.
Thelma also had one in the first season. She left him at the altar.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Thelma took in a foster child named Jeanette, and she appeared in about 4 episodes. Then she was gone with no mention of what happened to her.
Where Da White Women At?: Inverted—It's the Swedish Inga who takes a liking to Frye, though the racial difference is never mentioned.
Yes Virginia: In the Christmas Episode "Miracle on 134th Street", Frye must defend a department-store Santa against an assault charge—he punched a man who was ridiculing him. Despite initially thinking that the man is bonkers, Frye comes to believe that he is in fact, truly Santa Claus and decides to use this as his defense. Sure enough, his identity is proven in court after reading a letter that the prosecutor wrote to him as a young boy. At the end of the movie, Frye receives a train set that he had always wanted, apparently as a reward for being "good".
Episodes of this series provide examples of:
24 Hour Party People: The 15 or so people that we've never seen before who attend Thelma's bridal shower.
Armed Farces: A six-episode arc in the fourth season has Thelma joining the Army, with predictable results, despite initially presenting herself as a very competent would-be soldier.
Thelma was a very competent soldier-she made it through basic training-and most likely would have had a decent military career (and a man who didn't need more time to marry her) if marrying the reverend wasn't her all-consuming life's goal.
Hey Lets Put On A Show: The “talent show” episodes in the third and fourth season, plus the fund-raising telethon in the series’ two-part finale.
On One Condition: An elderly parishioner dies and leaves her successful restaurant to the church. They can use some of the profits for church projects, if they keep the restaurant open. Hilarity Ensues
Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: A very rich parishioner offers the church a huge amount of money if Reverend Gregory finds him a woman to marry. Of course he refuses to help and Deacon Frye gladly offers up Thelma.
Teen Pregnancy: A young member of the choir is pregnant and Reverend Gregory tries to kick her out. Surprisingly, Deacon Frye defends her after he delivers her baby. He also convinces the baby's father to marry her in a later episode.
Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Deacon Frye has a fear of snakes and overcomes it by being locked in a room with one that wraps itself around him.