Series: The Jeffersons

"We're a-movin' on up, movin' on up, to the East Side, to that de-luxe apartment in the sky..."

The longest-running TV series with a predominantly African American cast in the history of American television, The Jeffersons aired for eleven seasons (197585) on CBS. It features an upper-class black couple, George and Louise Jefferson, and is a Spin-Off of All in the Family, in which the characters had been the neighbors of Archie and Edith Bunker.

Although created (like its parent show) by Norman Lear, it wasn't that political. Still, it was the first series to prominently feature a mixed-racial couple, Helen and Tom Willis.

The show had its own spin-off, titled Checking In and centered on the character of housekeeper Florence. Low ratings led to its cancellation after just four episodes, and Florence returned to The Jeffersons.

The show did not get a proper finale, as it was ended early due to Executive Meddling on the part of CBS. Most of the cast found out after the last episode, but actor Sherman Hemsley didn't know until he read about it in the newspaper.


Provides Examples Of:

  • Aloha Hawaii / Vacation Episode: The Jeffersons and Willises take a trip to Hawaii in a four-episode season 7 arc.
  • Amicable Exes: In the season 11 two-parter "Sayonara", Lionel and Jenny—having returned from a stay in Japan—announce they're divorcing. By the end of the episode it's implied they'll be this, although neither character appears again on the show.
  • Anonymous Benefactor: The Christmas Episode "984 W. 124th Street, Apt. 5C" has George sending money and presents to the current residents of the Harlem apartment he grew up in, so their holidays will be less deprived than his own had been.
  • Ascended Extra: Florence proved so popular with viewers she got her own title card and spinoff, Checking In. Florence was the inspiration for Marla Gibbs to play Mary Jenkins in the more successful 227 at the end of the show's run.
  • Automobile Opening: George and Louise are in a taxi following the moving truck on the way to their new apartment.
  • Black Gal on White Guy Drama: The Willises, who suffer no end of derision from George.
  • The Boxing Episode
  • Breakout Character: Florence was initially a one shot character, but Marla Gibbs stayed on, partly on the strength of one line:
    Florence: How come we overcame and nobody told me?
  • The Bus Came Back: Mr. Bentley moved away at the end of season 7, then moved back at the beginning of season 10.
    • Florence also when her spinoff Checking In didn't check out.
  • Childish Pillow Fight: In one episode, George and Louise are given a pair of foam bats as a part of couples therapy. At the end of the episode they, the Willises, and Florence all go after each other (in a playful way) with the bats and some throw pillows for those without bats. A clip of the scene is used in the opening credits of the later seasons.
  • Christmas Episode: Several.
    • "The Christmas Wedding" (season 3); "984 W. 124th Street, Apt. 5C" (season 4); "George Finds a Father" (season 5); "All I Want for Christmas" (season 7); "Father Christmas" (season 10).
  • Clip Show: The three-part episode "George and Louise in a Bind," in which the Jeffersons are tied up by a robber and begin reminiscing, leading to flashbacks (including from their time on All in the Family).
  • Crossover
    • George appears in the pilot episode of the 1984 sitcom E/R, where he's named as the uncle of one of the show's regulars.
    • George and Louise appear in an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and both of them appear again along with Florence in that show's Grand Finale.
    • George, Louise, Florence, and Tom Willis appear in a Dream Sequence episode of Tyler Perry's House of Payne.
  • Drop-In Character: Mr. Bentley.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The first season was trying to find its legs. Florence wasn't initially a Servile Snarker (but thanks to Louise's permission, she became one), and Allan went from being Ambiguously Brown to straight up Caucasian.
  • Funny Foreigner: Mr Bentley is a stock English example.
  • Gang Initiation Fight: A deconstruction. Jenny embeds herself with a street gang in order to do an "inside" story about them. One of the gang members she meets is a pledge and he has to participate in a gang fight before he can become a full member. That evening the gang has a fight with another gang, and the pledge is killed during the fight.
  • George Jetson Job Security: Florence, especially during the early years. At least once, Florence did get fired ... only for her habit of eavesdropping on George's telephone conversations to save him from a potential scam two con artists had wanted to sell George delivery vans that had been damaged in a flood and it also saves Florence's job. By the early 1980s, the trope no longer applied and Florence's place in the Jeffersons' lives was secure.
  • Height Angst: George Jefferson is visibly shorter than his wife Louise, and their maid enjoys needling George about his size. Calling him "runt" is George's Berserk Button.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: George.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: The Willises, at least from George's POV.
  • Mammy: Florence subverts the trope.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Happens twice:
    • In one episode George meets with his old navy buddy who had a sex change (see below).
    • In another George has been working late even though Louise doesn't like it. When he tries to sneak in and is caught she believes he's having an affair and he tells her this rather than let her know the truth.
    • Subverted in another episode, where Louise confronts George about mysterious withdrawals from their banking account and unexplained visits out of town. (This turned into a Jerk with a Heart of Gold moment, as Louise eventually tracked down George to an apartment in the Bronx ... their old apartment, where a black couple and young son were living. George was helping the couple financially as the father was trying to find a good job.)
    • Subverted in another episode where Louise finds George in a hotel room with a lovely young woman (long story, but it is completely innocent), but instantly believes him when he tells her nothing is going on between them, because she notices that he doesn't display the physical tic that usually tells her that he's lying.
  • N-Word Privileges: Rarely did Norman Lear's comedies use the word "nigger," but the notable exception is "Sorry, Wrong Meeting," where two Klu Klux Klansmen freely use the slur towards the regular characters.
    • Usually, this trope was reversed when George calls various white people especially Tom a "honky" and his daughter-in-law a "zebra" (the slur for a bi-racial person born to a Caucasian and an African-American). At least once, however, George uses the term in front of a child he is baby-sitting, and when the kid uses it to one of George's clients, it jeopardizes a lucrative business deal.
    • Tom also used the word once, asking George how he would like it if he called him a "nigger", in response to George calling Tom a "honky".
  • Old Friend, New Gender: George goes to visit his old Navy buddy Eddie Stokes, only to find out he's now Edie Stokes.
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: "The Jeffersons Move on Up", which aired as an episode of All in the Family.
  • Pretty in Mink: A few furs showed up, including Tom buying Helen a red fox jacket after taking a stock tip from George.
  • Pretty Fly for a White Guy: In one episode, George tries to teach Tom how to "act black," in order to fit in with Helen's friends.
  • Rear Window Witness: In a Halloween episode, Louise happens to look across the street into another apartment and witnesses a murder; the murderer is dressed as a giant white rabbit. Nobody believes her but the rabbit saw her seeing him and tracks her down.
  • Repeating so the Audience Can Hear: George's phone conversations.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Florence.
  • Servile Snarker: Florence, again.
  • Shared Universe: With All in the Family and its other Spin-Off, Maude (and its spin off, Good Times).
  • Spinoff Sendoff: In the pilot, as Louise is packing the kitchen Edith Bunker comes over from next door to wish them luck in their new place.
  • Stealth Insult: Mother Jefferson's specialty, directed at Louise.
  • Uncanny Family Resemblance: The "Father Christmas" episode has Sherman Helmsley (George) and Franklin Cover (Tom) playing their characters' fathers via flashback.
  • Wedding Day: Lionel and Jenny get married on December 24 in the first Christmas Episode.