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Good Times

Good Times title card

Created by
Starring
Developed by:
Production company
Tandem Productions
Distributed by:
PITS Films (1978–82)
Embassy Telecommunications (1982–86)
Embassy Communications (1986–88)
Columbia Pictures Television (1988–96)
Columbia TriStar Television (1996–2002)
Sony Pictures Television (2002–)
Network/Country
CBS-TV / Syndication, USA
Original run:
February 8, 1974 - January 30, 1980 (Cancelled)
Seasons/ # of episodes
6 seasons, 133 episodes in total
Picture format
480i (SDTV)

Good Times is an American sitcom that originally aired from February 8, 1974, until January 30, 1980, on CBS. It was created by Eric Monte and Mike Evans, and developed by Norman Lear, the series' primary executive producer. Good Times is a spin-off of Maude, which is itself a spin-off of All in the Family.

Synopsis Edit

Florida (Esther Rolle) and James Evans (John Amos) and their three children live in a rented project apartment, 17C, at 963 N. Gilbert Ave., in a housing project (implicitly the infamous Cabrini–Green projects, shown in the opening and closing credits but never mentioned by name on the show) in a poor, black neighborhood in inner-city Chicago. Florida and James' children are James Jr. (Jimmie Walker), also known as "J.J.", Thelma (Bern Nadette Stanis) and Michael (Ralph Carter). When the series begins, J.J. and Thelma are seventeen and sixteen years old, respectively, and Michael, called "the militant midget" by his father due to his passionate activism, is eleven years old. Their exuberant neighbor, and Florida's best friend, is Willona Woods, a recent divorcée who works at a boutique. Their building superintendent is Nathan Bookman (seasons 2–4), to whom James, Willona and later J.J. refer as "Buffalo Butt", or, even more derisively, "Booger".

The characters originated on the sitcom Maude as Florida and Henry Evans, with Florida employed as Maude Findlay's housekeeper in Tuckahoe, New York and Henry employed as a firefighter. When producers decided to feature the Florida character in her own show, they applied retroactive changes to the characters' history. Henry's name became James, there is no mention of Maude, and the couple now live in Chicago.

Episodes of Good Times deal with the characters' attempts to survive in a high rise project building in Chicago, despite their poverty. When he is not unemployed, James Evans is a man of pride who often stated he would not accept charity. He usually works at least two jobs simultaneously, from a wide variety such as dishwasher, construction laborer, etc. When he has to, he plays pool in order to hustle money, though Florida disapproves of this.

Main cast/charactersEdit

Minor charactersEdit

  • Ned the Wino (Raymond Allen) – The local drunk who frequents the neighborhood and the apartment building where the Evans family reside. In the season one episode "Black Jesus", J.J. uses Ned the Wino as the model for a portrait of Jesus. Another episode is centered around Michael's plan to "clean up" Ned and get him off the booze by letting him stay at the Evans' house.
  • Carl Dixon (Moses Gunn) – An atheist shop owner who Michael briefly works for. Despite their religious differences, Carl and Florida begin dating and become engaged in final episode of season four. Carl breaks off the engagement after he is diagnosed with lung cancer. After a pep talk from Bookman, Carl again asks Florida for her hand in marriage. The two marry off-screen and move to Arizona. Florida returns at the beginning of season six, without Carl, for Thelma's wedding. Carl is referenced briefly in episode two of season six, but he is never mentioned again (Florida continues to use the surname Evans instead of Dixon).
  • Marion "Sweet Daddy" Williams (Theodore Wilson) – A menacing neighborhood numbers runner and pimp, who has a reputation for wearing flashy clothing and jewelry. He is usually accompanied by bodyguards (one portrayed by Bubba Smith, the other by series painter Ernie Barnes) and comes across as cool and threatening, but has shown a soft heart on occasion, particularly when he decided not to take an antique locket (to settle a debt) that Florida had given to Thelma because it had reminded him of his late mother. (Wilson also plays a club owner named Stanley in the season four episode, "The Comedian and the Loan Sharks".
  • Alderman Fred C. Davis (Albert Reed, Jr.) – A local politician with a slightly shady disposition whom the Evans generally despise. Spoofing President Richard M. Nixon, he would state in a speech "I am not a crook." He frequently relies on the support of the Evans family (his "favorite project family") for reelection or support and resorts to threats of eviction to secure their support. In a running joke, Alderman Davis frequently forgets Willona's name and calls her another similar sounding name that began with a "W" (such as Wilhemina, Winnifrieda, Winsomnium, Wyomia and even Waldorf-Astoria and even then names such as "Petronia" and "Philomena". At one time he gets her first name right but her last name wrong – Willona Weeds), thus earning him her everlasting ire as well as the nickname "Baldy".
  • Lenny a.k.a. Lootin' Lenny (Dap "Sugar" Willie) – A neighborhood hustler and peddler who tries to sell presumably stolen items that are usually attached to the lining of his fur coat. He usually approaches people with a laid-back rap and a rhyme ("my name is Len-nay, if I ain't got it, there ain't an-nay"). He is typically rebuffed by the people he approaches and responds by saying "that's cold" or uses a small brush to "brush off" the negativity.
  • "Grandpa" Henry Evans (Richard Ward) – James' long lost father. He abandoned the family years before because he was ashamed that he could not do more to provide for them. This hurt James deeply, who disregarded his father's existence, telling everyone he was dead. Thelma learns about her grandfather while doing some family research. She meets him and invites him to the Evans' home to surprise James for his birthday, not knowing that James was well aware of his whereabouts but chose to stay out of his life. After Henry arrives at the Evans home and meets the rest of the family, he realizes that James would not welcome him in the home and decides to leave. Florida convinces him to stay and talk to James and explains that there may never be another chance to do so. Henry and James have a heart-to-heart talk, with Henry being remorseful and apologetic. James ultimately forgives his father. After James' death, the Evans family embraces Henry into the family, alongside his common law (and eventually legal) wife Lena in later episodes.
  • Wanda (Helen Martin) – Another resident in the apartment building where the Evans reside. Earlier episodes show her at a women's support group, and the tenants rallying around her by giving her a rent party. Later episodes show her appearing and crying at several funerals, whether she knew the person or not, thus earning her the nickname "Weeping Wanda" from J.J. and Willona.
  • Lenela Gordon (Chip Fields) – Penny's abusive biological mother. Mrs. Gordon was abandoned by Penny's father when she became pregnant. As a result, she took her anger and frustrations out on Penny, including burning her with a hot iron. After the abuse was finally brought to light, Mrs. Gordon abandoned Penny, despite Willona's pleas to her to seek help. Just before she disappeared, Mrs. Gordon expressed regret for hurting her child, telling Willona that Penny deserved better than her. She reappeared more than a year later, having remarried, and revealed that her new husband is from a very wealthy family. Mrs. Gordon uses her husband's wealth to send Penny anonymous gifts and, in an effort to regain custody of Penny, she also attempts to frame Willona as an unfit adoptive parent who throws wild parties with less than wholesome attendees. However, her scheme is exposed by being recorded on tape admitting that the scheme was a set up to get Penny back. After trying to get the tape from Penny and threatening her again with being hit (which is stopped by Willona), Penny outright rejects her, telling Willona that no matter what anyone said, she would always consider Willona to be her real mother. Mrs. Gordon is devastated by this, agrees to drop the charges against Willona and leaves Penny with her, never to be seen again.
  • Cleatus Jackson (Jack Baker) – Cousin of J.J. Evans, Thelma Evans Anderson, and Michael Evans and nephew of Florida Evans and James Evans. He made one appearance in the episode "Cousin Cleatus".

SyndicationEdit

The cable network TV One aired reruns of the show since its launch on January 19, 2004 until October 5, 2012. The network began airing the series again in June 2013. Good Times has also aired at various times on TV Land, Antenna TV and on the Canadian specialty cable channel DejaView. Minisodes of the show are available for free on Crackle.

Episodes Edit

Main article: List of Episodes

DVD releasesEdit

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released the entire series on DVD in Region 1 between February 2003 and August 2006, with a complete box set following the separate seasons on October 28, 2008. Season 1 was released on DVD in Region 4 on December 27, 2006.

On August 27, 2013, it was announced that Mill Creek Entertainment had acquired the rights to various television series from the Sony Pictures library including Good Times.[1] They have subsequently re-released the first four seasons on DVD.[2][3]

DVD Name Ep # Release Date
The Complete First Season 13 February 4, 2003

January 21, 2014 (re-release)

The Complete Second Season 24 February 3, 2004

January 21, 2014 (re-release)

The Complete Third Season 24 August 10, 2004

May 20, 2014 (re-release)

The Complete Fourth Season 23 February 15, 2005

May 20, 2014 (re-release)

The Complete Fifth Season 24 August 23, 2005
The Complete Sixth and Final Season 24 August 1, 2006
The Complete Series 133 October 28, 2008


ReferencesEdit

  1. Mill Creek Entertainment Signs Deals With Sony Pictures Home Entertainment To Expand Their Distribution Partnership by Gord Lacey, tvshowsondvd.com, August 27, 2013.
  2. Dyn-O-Mite! Mill Creek Brings the First Two Seasons Back to DVD Soon! by David Lambert, tvshowsondvd.com, November 8, 2013.
  3. Good Times - We've Got Mill Creek's Box Art Now for Their 3rd and 4th Season Re-Releases! by David Lambert, tvshowsondvd.com, April 15, 2014.

External linksEdit

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