Good Times was a Norman Lear-produced Sitcom that ran on CBS from 1974-1979. The show was a Spin-Off of Lear's earlier comedy Maude (Itself a spinoff of All in the Family).The show followed the lives of the Evans family, a poor black family living in the high-rise projects of Chicago:
Florida Evans (Esther Rolle): Matriarch, occasional Mama Bear
Most episodes featured the efforts of the Evans to get by in the ghetto and make a better life for themselves. Despite the fact that those efforts usually ended in bitter disappointment, the show remained surprisingly positive and uplifting. And like most Lear shows of the time, Good Times wasn't afraid to moralize or bring up controversial topics.The show's most controversial move was killing off patriarch James at the beginning of the fourth season. Esther Rolle hoped this would bring a shift in JJ's character from the clownish Kavorka Man he had been, to a more responsible Man Of The House. The writers didn't see it that way, seemingly ramping up JJ's foolishness (though it's worth noting that Jimmie Walker, who played JJ, was a stand-up comedian and not much of an actor). This led to Rolle quitting the show for the entire fifth season, her character having relocated to Arizona to be with her second husband. She was brought back in the sixth and final season with promises to clean up JJ's act (and never reference her second marriage, which Rolle thought went against Florida's character in multiple ways).The series finale aired on August 1, 1979, with a Mega-Happy Ending. Reruns can be seen daily on TV One and occasionally on Nick at Nite's TV Land. All six seasons are available on DVD.
This show provides examples of:
Abusive Parents: Penny's mom. One of the show's most infamous scenes is of her burning Penny with a hot iron.
And that actually happens off-screen, we just see the iron about to be used and the bandaged wound afterwards.
Attempted Rape: Willona's husband Ray makes advances to Thelma, eventually groping her (and he would likely have taken it further had Willona and Florida not walked in). Later, Penny is similarly assaulted offscreen.
Big Brother Instinct: JJ to Thelma and Michael. For all his goofiness and constant teasing of them, he makes it abundantly clear that the best way to set off his Berserk Button is to harm either of them.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Carl Dixon. Florida got married to Carl at the end of the 1976-1977 season and planned to move to Arizona to tend to Carl's chronic health issues; the storyline was planned to explain Esther Rolle's coming departure from the show. At the beginning of the 1978-1979 season, Florida had returned ... without Carl and not offering an explanation. The idea of that was Rolle agreed to return to the show, but only if changes were made, one of them being that there would be no record of Carl ever existing. (Rolle thought it was implausable for Florida, presented as a strong Christian to marry someone who was an avowed atheist and also felt that Florida moved on much too quickly after James' death)
Cousin Oliver: Penny - though much better received by the audience than most, the result was the same.
Hey, It's That Guy!: Janet Jackson, obviously. Vernee Watson (pre Sweat-Hogs and the Big Bang Theory) as a friend of Thelma's in the episode "Thelma's African Romance."
Hollywood Atheist: Carl Dixon, which was one of Esther Rolle's biggest problems with Florida marrying Carl.
Hope Spot: A number of episodes revolved around the characters trying to improve their situation and absolutely failing by the time the credits rolled. The most heartwrenching example though has to be in the third season premiere where James has gotten a promising new job in Mississippi and the family plans on moving to join him soon leaving the ghetto behind forever! Then James dies in a car wreck and they're stuck.
Landlord: Bookman... well, technically a building superintendent, but close enough, as he did collect the rent every month and gleefully served the Evanses their many eviction notices when they were late, pissed him off, pissed off Alderman Davis, etc.
Limited Wardrobe: James seemed to wear the same brown shirt and off-white corduroys every single episode. Lampshaded in one episode when he ponders whether to wear "my brown shirt, my brown shirt or my brown shirt?"
Although sometimes only in comparison to others who might take over the turf if he wasn't there.
Playing Gertrude: John Amos was only 34 when the show began, making him just 8 years older than his "son" Jimmie Walker, and 19 years younger than his "wife" Esther Rolle. He pulled it off by being Younger Than He Looks.
The Rashomon: The episode "Where's There's Smoke"; the couch catches fire and burns a hole in one of the pillows. JJ, Thelma, and Michael each tells Willona their version of what happened. Penny's version of the story is the truth.
Oddly, this wasn't originally planned as one and Florida was added into the mix later in preproduction. This explains some of the odd and unexplained lapses in continuity between Good Times and Maude including Florida and her family appearing to have lived in Chicago for quite some time, her having said her husband was a fireman on Maude and a lack of references to Florida having ever cleaned houses.
Uncle Tomfoolery: JJ fell increasingly into this in later seasons. However, he did improve by the show's final season.
Unperson: Carl Dixon, who became a semi-regular character late in the series' fourth season (1976-1977), and marries Florida in the season finale (to explain the soon-to-be-departing Esther Rolle). Rolle agreed to return to the show, but only if — among other reasons — there was no mention made of Carl; Rolle objected to the idea of a devout Christian (Florida) marrying a hardcore atheist (Carl). That's exactly what happened ... no mention was ever made of Carl when Florida returned to the show, or that she ever married him.