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No Gays of Our Lives


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See, though, I always considered the fact that these shows could be about things other than political issues to be a good thing. Good Times might have lost a little something because it specifically took place in the projects and dealt not with just racial issues but also socioeconomic issues, too, but The Jeffersons, IMO, was at its best when it wasn't just the reverse of AITF.

That's why I think What's Happening!! is so damn underrated. Here was a sitcom about black teenagers who had adventures that all other TV teens had at the time. All of the characters could have been white, and the stories would have still been the same.

Oh, I didn't mind that every episode lacked social/political commentary, I minded the fact that these shows that started out so witty, smart, and hilarious got downright corny in their later years. Of course there were still highs (like one of my favorite episodes of all time, "A Matter of Mothers" where Penny's biological mother comes back and she and Willona serve some of the best black soap opera television's ever seen, on a sitcom no less). I mean, I do take issue with the fact that the network seemed to be threatened by the idea of a character like Michael Evans (who was the voice of creator Mike Evans aka Lionel #1 on The Jeffersons) voicing his militancy into his late teens. It was cute when he was the "Militant Midget" but he was lucky to get one politically-charged line every other episode as he became a young man. I don't think GT had to be "ghetto issue of the week" EVERY week by any means, but yeah, when you can't even get basic sitcom funny right it's like, "My, how the mighty have fallen..."

I am a huge What's Happening!! fan, and yes, there are only a couple of episodes that touch upon matters of race. And yet... one of the things that I love most about the show is its flavor which hasn't so much to do with the writing as it does with the characterizations. Frankly, I don't know if a person who doesn't have black relatives and friends will bust a gut at one of Shirley Hemphill's line deliveries the same way I do. I just don't know. But at the end of the day, we're watching a highly entertaining group of friends that anyone can enjoy.

Rerun was in fact originally written as a skinny white guy. And Haywood Nelson (Dwayne) was the show's teen heartthrob. If you catch some of those season 2 and 3 episodes, the girls go wild when he makes his entrances.

You can spot Debbi Morgan in this WH clip:

She had a recurring role as Diane. In this episode she does a scene from one of Rog's plays with Rerun for a class assignment which of course goes all wrong thanks to Rerun.

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I remember Bogle saying that the Good Times episode where the Evans family found out that James had died was (paraphrasing) an embarrassment. I guess in a way he's right, as Florida's "DAMN DAMN DAMN!!" became a camp classic, but I often preferred Good Times when it was more serious. I think that's because I didn't like JJ, so I wanted to see the more dramatic actors. Some stories did not work (remember the one where the cousins of the Evans family let their teenage daughter drink, and she was a secret alcoholic -- the part I remember most is when she toasts to "Sammy Davis Jr.'s birthday!!"), but others I thought worked well. The episode where James was so stressed out and angry all the time and he destroyed a chair and finally went to get help. There was another where an old friend or relative of the family was so desperate for money (I can't remember what for) that he stole a priceless wedding gift from Florida and James. And there was one late in the run where Florida went to work in security at a department store, looking at the see-through mirrors, and she said, in a very powerful monologue by Esther Rolle, that she quit because she had to watch a nun try on a slip.

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LOL, the line about what that nun had between her and her slip was between her and God. That was actually Willona, not Flo, who had the job at the department store watching women behind mirrors in the changing room which of course is beyond illegal these days. :lol: That was a "big brother" themed episode as a higher-up was in fact watching Willona while she watched customers, and of course the episode's message wasn't complete until a voice came over the loudspeaker, an even higher higher-up watching Willona's supervisor. :P

J.J. was not my favorite either, he had his moments of course, but I really don't see how he "stole" the show.

James' death is just so ironic because Esther Rolle and other black actresses in her position have always fought for the inclusion of a father. And then all that drama goes down with John Amos and the J.J. character et cetera, and he ends up getting killed off. Of course Esther also had a problem with the writing for J.J. and she left for a season (which was actually one of my favorite seasons, all of the Penny stuff).

It could be a little heavy-handed, and GT characters were quick to spout of some statistics, but I agree that they handled drama very well. The hypertension ep was good, and then there was the one where J.J.'s girlfriend played by Debbie Allen was shooting up.

Frances Foster, Alex's domestic help Vera on GL, guested in a VERY memorable episode where she played the Evans' friend and neighbor, Gertie. She had fallen on tough times and had resorted to eating pet food. They invited her over to dinner and she brought along a meatloaf, and well, you can guess the rest... hilarity ensues. J.J. has one of his finer moments in that one. When they bow(-wow) to say grace, J.J. prays, "The Lord is my German Shepherd..." :lol:

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It was Wilona? Geez it's been a long time since I've seen that episode, obviously. I liked the dramatic ones that were more in your face and didn't try to be cute, as they did at times like with the painting of a black Jesus. I always liked Wilona. I know she got a lot of criticism for being the stereotypical sassy/man-hungry neighbor (years later one of the sketch comedy shows even had a scene where they had various awards for black actors on TV, and one was clip after clip of sassy, man-hungry neighbors), but I thought she was believable and had that dramatic underpinning which sitcoms need if they aren't going to try to be surreal or kooky.

They did seem to struggle with what to do with Michael. I think he spent 3-4 seasons with that awful attempt at a mustache above his upper lip, just standing around looking confused. I remember Bogle described what was done to the daughter (Thelma?) as shameful. All I remember about her in terms of story is when she was married to the football player who began beating her.

I can see why JJ got such attention, he was an easy character in a show full of pain, but putting him in a lead role was a horrible idea. It would have been like making Horshack the lead of Welcome Back Kotter.

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I liked 227 a lot as well. I liked that communal atmosphere which also appealed to me in soaps later on. And I liked the rapport between the cast members. Sandra got all the attention but my favorite was Rose (RIP Alanna Reed :( ).

The show ran a few years too long though. I remember adjusting to Paul Winfield but when they had the white guy on there in some attempt to be hip yet appeal to other demos...no thanks. He reminded me of that Gimme a Break episode where Joey was breakdancing and kept saying "My man, my man." Then Nell walked up behind him and said, "My man, my man," in one of those many moments where the people around her were terrified she was going to beat them to death.

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WH eliminated the Black Father then made him a cheat, greatly reduced Mabel King's role each season to the point where she left & cast Fred Berry cause the network didn't want a Black teen heartthrob.

Oh, I see. I guess I never held any of this against the show too much. I do think it was ridiculous that the producers objected to letting Mama Thomas go to night school to be a nurse like Mabel had suggested or at least got a job as something other than a domestic. At the end of the day, though, I appreciated that it was just a sitcom being a sitcom.

I liked 227 a lot as well. I liked that communal atmosphere which also appealed to me in soaps later on. And I liked the rapport between the cast members. Sandra got all the attention but my favorite was Rose (RIP Alanna Reed :( ).

The show ran a few years too long though. I remember adjusting to Paul Winfield but when they had the white guy on there in some attempt to be hip yet appeal to other demos...no thanks. He reminded me of that Gimme a Break episode where Joey was breakdancing and kept saying "My man, my man." Then Nell walked up behind him and said, "My man, my man," in one of those many moments where the people around her were terrified she was going to beat them to death.

Ugh. Dylan McMillan. It was him and that guy he roomed with in the building, the young "hip" guys who were gonna come in and be young and hip. Lame. 227, to me, is Mary, Lester, Brenda, Sondra, Rose, Rose's daughter, Pearl, and Calvin. I didn't even like Countess Vaughn, who I loved on The Parkers. I loved The Parkers. And now one of them is an Academy Award winner.

Some of the 227 cast reunited on The Today Show a few weeks ago (along with the Eight is Enough and Partridge Family people). We never get to see that cast together again ever, so it was great to see them. It was Mary, Lester, Brenda, Sondra, and Calvin.

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I know I know Khan! I tried to be good by at least making tiny soap references (Debbi Morgan, Frances Foster), of course they had nothing to do with the Gays of Our Lives. At ANY rate folks, we can take the black '70s sitcom talk to another thread if you like folks? :D

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