|Created by||Eric Monte
|Developed by||Norman Lear|
|Directed by||Gerren Keith
|Starring||Esther Rolle (seasons 1–4, 6)
John Amos (seasons 1–3)
Bern Nadette Stanis
Johnny Brown (seasons 2–6)
Janet Jackson (seasons 5–6)
Ben Powers (season 6)
|Theme music composer||Dave Grusin
|Opening theme||"Good Times" performed by Jim Gilstrap and Blinky Williams|
|Ending theme||"Good Times"|
Alan & Marilyn Bergman
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||6|
|No. of episodes||133 (List of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Norman Lear (seasons 1–2)
Allan Manings (seasons 3–4)
Austin and Irma Kalish (season 5)
Norman Paul (season 6)
|Producer(s)||Allan Manings (season 1–2)
Jack Elinson (season 3)
Norman Paul (season 3)
Austin and Irma Kalish (season 4)
Lloyd Turner (season 5)
Gordon Mitchell (season 5)
Sid Dorfman (season 6)
|Running time||22–24 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Bud Yorkin-Norman Lear-Tandem Productions, Inc.|
|Distributor||PITS Films (1978–82)
Embassy Telecommunications (1982–86)
Embassy Communications (1986–88)
Columbia Pictures Television Distribution (1988–96)
Columbia TriStar Television Distribution (1996–2001)
Columbia TriStar Domestic Television (2001–02)
Sony Pictures Television Distribution (2002–present, as successor to Tandem Productions)
|Original run||February 8, 1974– August 1, 1979|
|Preceded by||All in the Family
Good Times is an American sitcom that originally aired from February 8, 1974, until August 1, 1979, on the CBS television network. 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 along with The Jeffersons.
The series is set in Chicago. The first two seasons were taped at CBS Television City in Hollywood. In the fall of 1975, the show moved to Metromedia Square, where Norman Lear's own production company was housed.
Good Times was created by Eric Monte and actor Mike Evans. The series also features a character named "Michael Evans", after co-creator Mike Evans who portrayed Lionel Jefferson on the Norman Lear-produced series All in the Family and The Jeffersons.
The series stars Esther Rolle as Florida Evans and John Amos as her husband, James Evans, Sr. 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.
Florida and James Evans 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's and James's children are James, Jr., also known as "J.J." (Jimmie Walker), 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 (played by Ja'net Dubois), a recent divorcée who works at a boutique. Their building superintendent is Nathan Bookman (Johnny Brown), to whom James, Willona and later J.J. refer as "Buffalo Butt", or, even more derisively, "Booger".
As was the case on other Norman Lear sitcoms, the characters and subject matter in Good Times were a breakthrough for American television. Sitcoms had featured working class characters before (dating back at least to The Life of Riley), but never before had a weekly series featured black characters living in an urban setting. (Fred and Lamont Sanford of Sanford and Son, though they live in the poor Watts area of Los Angeles, at least have their own home and business.)
Episodes of Good Times deal with the characters' attempts to "get by" in a high rise project building in Chicago, despite all the odds stacked against them. When he is not unemployed, James Evans is a man of pride and would often say to his wife or family "I ain't accepting no hand-outs." He usually works at least two jobs simultaneously, from a wide variety such as dishwasher, construction laborer, etc. When he has to, he gathers his pool stick, much to Florida's disappointment, and sneaks out and hustles up a few bucks as he struggles to provide for his family. Being a sitcom, however, the episodes are usually more uplifting and positive than they are depressing, as the Evans family sticks together and perseveres.
Cast conflicts 
Good Times was intended to be a vehicle for Esther Rolle and John Amos. Both expected the show to deal with serious topics (in a comedic way) while also providing positive characters for viewers. However, the character of J.J. was an immediate hit with audiences and became the breakout character of the series. J.J.'s frequent use of the word "Dy-no-mite!" (he also referred to himself as "Kid Dy-no-mite!") became a popular catchphrase. As a result of the character's popularity, writers focused more on J.J.'s comedic antics instead of serious issues. As the series progressed through seasons two and three, Rolle and Amos grew increasingly disillusioned with the direction the show was taking, especially with J.J.'s antics and stereotypically buffoonish behavior in the storylines. Although she had no ill-will against Jimmie Walker himself, Rolle was rather vocal about her dislike of Walker's character. In a 1975 interview with Ebony magazine she stated:
"He's 18 and he doesn't work. He can't read or write. He doesn't think. The show didn't start out to be that...Little by little—with the help of the artist, I suppose, because they couldn't do that to me—they have made J.J. more stupid and enlarged the role. Negative images have been slipped in on us through the character of the oldest child."
Although doing so less publicly, Amos also was outspoken about his dissatisfaction with the J.J. character. Amos stated:
While John Amos was less public with his dissatisfaction, he was ultimately fired after season three because of his behind the scenes fights with Norman Lear. Amos' departure was initially attributed to his desire to focus on a film career, but Amos admitted in a 1976 interview that Norman Lear called him and told him that his contract option with the show was not being picked up. Amos stated, "That's the same thing as being fired." The producers decided not to recast the character of James Evans, instead opting to kill off the character in the two-part season four episode "The Big Move".
Final seasons 
By the end of season four, Esther Rolle had also become dissatisfied with the show's direction and decided to leave the series. In the final two episodes of the season, Rolle's character gets engaged to Carl Dixon (Moses Gunn), a man she began dating towards the middle of season four. In the season five premiere episode, it is revealed that Florida and Carl married off screen and moved to Arizona for the sake of Carl's health.
With Amos and Rolle gone, Ja'net Du Bois took over as the star, as Willona checked in on the Evans children as they were now living alone. New characters were added or had their roles expanded: Johnny Brown as the overweight building superintendent Nathan Bookman, formerly a recurring character, became a regular; Ben Powers is introduced as Thelma's pro football playing boyfriend (and eventual husband) Keith Anderson; and Janet Jackson as Penny Gordon Woods, an abused girl who is abandoned by her mother and eventually adopted by Willona. However, despite these changes, Rolle's absence left the series without a unifying center of attention and as a result, ratings for the series declined.
Before taping of season six began, CBS and the show's producers decided that they had to do "something drastic" to increase viewership. According to then-vice president of CBS programming Steve Mills, "We had lost the essence of the show. Without parental guidance the show slipped. Everything told us that: our mail, our phone calls, our research. We felt we had to go back to basics." Producers approached Esther Rolle with an offer to appear in a guest spot on the series. Rolle was initially hesitant but when producers agreed to a number of her demands (including an increased salary and higher quality scripts), she agreed to return to the series on a full-time basis. Rolle also wanted producers make the character of J. J. more responsible as she felt the character was a poor role model for African American youths. She also requested that producers write out the character of Carl Dixon. Rolle reportedly disliked the storyline surrounding the Carl Dixon character, as she believed Florida would not have moved on so quickly after James' death or leave her children. Rolle also thought the writers had disregarded Florida's devout Christian beliefs by having her fall for and marry Carl, who was an atheist.
When the series returned for season six, Florida has returned from Arizona without Carl to attend Thelma's wedding to Keith. Carl's whereabouts are never addressed (he is mentioned one time in episode 2 of season 6, but is never mentioned again). Despite changes in the series and Rolle's return, ratings did not improve and CBS canceled the series during the 1978–79 season. In the finale, "The End of the Rainbow", each character finally gets a "happy ending." J.J. gets his big break as an artist for a comic book company with his newly created character, DynoWoman, which is based on Thelma (much to her surprise and delight). Michael attends college and moves into an on-campus dorm. Keith's bad knee miraculously heals, leading to the Chicago Bears offering him a contract to play football. Keith announces that he and Thelma are moving into a luxury apartment in the city's upscale Gold Coast district. Thelma also announces that she is pregnant with the couple's first child. Keith offers Florida the chance to move in with them so she can help Thelma with the new baby. Willona becomes the head buyer of the boutique she worked in and announces that she and Penny are also moving out of the projects. Willona then reveals that her new apartment is in the same apartment building that Keith, Thelma and Florida are moving to and, once again, became the Evans' downstairs neighbors.
Cast and characters 
Principal cast 
- Esther Rolle – Florida Evans (seasons 1–4, 6)
- John Amos – James Evans, Sr. (seasons 1–3)
- Jimmie Walker – James "J.J." Evans, Jr.
- Ja'net Dubois – Willona Woods
- Ralph Carter – Michael Evans
- Bern Nadette Stanis (credited as Bern Nadette in the early episodes) – Thelma Evans
- Johnny Brown – Nathan Bookman (seasons 5–6; recurring 2–4)
- Janet Jackson – Millicent "Penny" Gordon Woods (seasons 5–6)
Minor characters 
- 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), thus earning him her everlasting ire as well as the nickname "Baldy".
- Lenny (Dap 'Sugar' Willie) – A neighborhood hustler and peddler who is 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.
- Mrs. Lynnetta 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 merely 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 (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".
Notable guest stars 
- Debbie Allen, as J.J.'s drug-addicted fiancee, Diana
- Matthew "Stymie" Beard (former Our Gang child actor), in five episodes, including four appearances as James' friend Monty
- Sorrell Booke, as Mr. Galbraith, J.J.'s boss at the ad agency
- Roscoe Lee Browne, as a shady televangelist named "Reverend Sam, the Happiness Man", who befriended James in the military and nearly recruits him for his crusade, against Florida's wishes
- Grand L. Bush, in a two-part storyline ("J.J.'s New Career"), playing the role of Leon, J.J.'s bully
- T. K. Carter, as J.J.'s friend "Head" (part of the "Awesome Foursome", later the "Gleesome Threesome")
- Rosalind Cash, as Thelma's teacher, Jessica Bishop, who becomes romantically involved with a much younger J.J.
- Gary Coleman, in two 1978 episodes as Gary, a sharp-tongued classmate of Penny's
- Kim Fields, in two episodes as Penny's friend, Kim (she is the real-life daughter of Chip Fields
- Carl Franklin, as Larry, Thelma's fiance', ultimately breaking up when Larry is offered a job on the West Coast and Thelma is not ready to accompany him
- Alice Ghostley, in season five as a social worker who is working on Penny being adopted by Willona
- Ron Glass, as Michael's elementary school principal who met with James and Florida regarding busing Michael to another school; also made an appearance as a blind encyclopedia salesman who tries to swindle the Evans family
- Louis Gossett, Jr., in season two as Thelma's much-older paramour, which Florida and James object to their relationship because of the age difference; also appears in a later episode as Uncle Wilbur (Florida's brother), who comes from Detroit to look in on the family while James is away
- Robert Guillaume, as Fishbone the wino in the episode "Requiem for a Wino"
- Shirley Hemphill, as "Roz", the dimwitted sister of Edna, who was being tutored by Thelma
- Jay Leno, in the season-three episode "J.J. in Trouble", which was one of the first times that the subject of STDs (then referred to as "VD") was addressed on a primetime television series
- Calvin Lockhart, as Florida's cousin Raymond, who earned his riches by betting on horses
- Paul Mooney, in the Episode J.J. and T.C.
- Debbi Morgan, as a date of J.J.'s; appeared in another episode as Ellen
- Charlotte Rae, as a hiring manager for a sales job that Florida stole from James
- Philip Michael Thomas, in season one as Eddie, Thelma's college-age boyfriend (while she is in high school)
- Adam Wade, as successful businessman Frank Mason, Willona's on-and-off boyfriend
- Carl Weathers, husband of the 'nude' model for J.J.'s painting
- Hal Williams, as one of the movers in a season one episode; James' friend, Willie Washington, in a season two episode; and Mr. Mitchell, the father of Earl Mitchell, who is an art student of J.J.'s
- John Witherspoon appears as second cop in the episode "A Matter of Mothers"
Theme song and opening 
The lyrics to the theme song are notorious for being hard to discern, notably the line "Hanging in a chow line"/"Hanging in and jiving" (depending on the source used). Dave Chappelle used this part of the lyrics as a quiz in his "I Know Black People" skit on Chappelle's Show in which the former was claimed as the answer. The insert for the Season One DVD box set has the lyric as "hangin' in a chow line". However, the Bergmans confirmed that the lyric is actually "hanging in and jiving." Slightly different lyrics were used for the closing credits, with the song beginning on a verse instead of the chorus.
The program premiered in February 1974; high ratings led CBS to renew the program for the 1974–75 season, as it was the seventeenth-highest-rated program that year. During its first full season on the air, 1974–75, the show was the seventh-highest-rated program in the Nielsen ratings and a quarter of the American television-viewing public tuned into an episode during any given week. Three of the top ten highest-rated programs on American TV that season centered around the lives of African-Americans: Sanford and Son, The Jeffersons, and Good Times.
The Nielsen ratings for the series declined over time, partly because of its many time slot changes. In its third season, the series was that season's twenty-fourth-highest-rated program. The ratings went down when the show entered its final season, perhaps in part due to a Saturday night time slot:
- 1973–1974: #17 (14,166,800 households)
- 1974–1975: #7 (17,673,000 households)
- 1975–1976: #24 (14,616,000 households)
- 1976–1977: #26 (14,596,000 households)
- 1977–1978: #39
- 1978–1979: #45
Awards and nominations 
|1975||Golden Globe Award||Nominated||Best TV Actress - Musical/Comedy||Esther Rolle|
|Best Supporting Actor - Television||Jimmie Walker|
|1976||Nominated||Best Supporting Actor - Television||Jimmie Walker|
|1975||Humanitas Prize||Nominated||30 Minute Category||John Baskin and Roger Shulman
(For episode "The Lunch Money Ripoff")
|30 Minute Category||Bob Peete
(For episode "My Girl Henrietta")
|2003||TV Land Award||Nominated||Catchiest Classic TV Catch Phrase
|2005||Nominated||Favorite Catch Phrase||
|2006||Won||Impact Award||John Amos, Ralph Carter, Ja'net DuBois, Esther Rolle (posthumously), BernNadette Stanis, and Jimmie Walker|
Good Times also began airing on digital subchannel Antenna TV on January 3, 2011.
DVD releases 
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.
|DVD Name||Ep #||Release Date|
|The Complete First Season||13||February 4, 2003|
|The Complete Second Season||24||February 3, 2004|
|The Complete Third Season||24||August 10, 2004|
|The Complete Fourth Season||23||February 15, 2005|
|The Complete Fifth Season||24||August 23, 2005|
|The Complete Sixth Season||24||August 1, 2006|
|The Complete Series||133||October 28, 2008|
- Lewis, Dan (February 19, 1974). "Good Times Is Maude Spinoff". St. Joseph News-Press. p. 15. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
- Robinson, Louie (September 1972). "Bad Times On the 'Good Times' Set". Ebony (Johnson Publishing Company) 30 (11): 33–34. ISSN 0012-9011.
- Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle F. (2007-10-17). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present (9 ed.). Ballantine Books. p. 869. ISBN 0-345-49773-2.
- Newcomb, Horace (2004). Encyclopedia Of Television: A-C (2 ed.). CRC Press. p. 2278. ISBN 1-579-58411-X.
- Fearn-Banks, Kathleen (2009). The A to Z of African-American Television 49. Scarecrow Press. p. 169. ISBN 0-810-86348-0.
- Robinson, Louie (September 1972). "Bad Times On the 'Good Times' Set". Ebony (Johnson Publishing Company) 30 (11): 35. ISSN 0012-9011.
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- Ingram, Billy. "Good Times?". tvparty.com. Retrieved 2008-01-19.
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- Dawidziak, Mark (January 17, 1994). "Lear, Amos paired up again". Herald-Journal. p. C3. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
- 5000 Episodes and No Commercials: The Ultimate Guide to TV Shows On DVD. Random House Digital, Inc. 2011. p. 125. ISBN 0-307-79950-6.
- Marguiles, Lee (June 10, 1978). "Esther Rolle Returning To 'Good Times'". St. Petersburg Times. p. 11B. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
- Beck, Marilyn (September 23, 1977). "It's 'good times' for Ja'net Dubois". St. Petersburg Times. p. 14D. Retrieved February 24, 2013.
- Newcomb 2004 p.1012
- Bodroghkozy, Aniko (2012). Equal Time: Television and the Civil Rights Movement. University of Illinois Press. p. 223. ISBN 0-252-09378-X.
- "Backstage with... Alan and Marilyn Bergman". Time Out New York. 2007-02-01. Retrieved 2007-07-31.
- "Good Times In Trouble; Jeffersons Holding Own". Jet (Johnson Publishing Company) 55 (13): 64. December 14, 1978. ISSN 0021-5996.
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