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Good Occasions was a by-product of a by-product that premiered on CBS in February 1974. It was the primary primetime sitcom that includes an African American household, and through its six-season run it tackled such critical issues as gang violence, unemployment, discrimination, poverty, and little one abuse. However regardless of the generally heavy subject material, there was at all times laughter and love among the many close-knit Evans household. Have been issues simply as cozy backstage between the performers? Not at all times …

1. “LIONEL JEFFERSON” HELPED TO CREATE IT

Michael Evans, who performed Lionel Jefferson on All within the Household on the time, had heard by way of the grapevine that CBS was taken with producing a collection a couple of black household. He approached Norman Lear and requested if he may strive his hand at pitching a script. Lear gave him the OK, and Evans collaborated together with his good friend, Eric Monte. They wrote a script that featured the Black household: father John, mom Mattie, and kids J.J., Thelma, and Michael. Lear appreciated the idea, however he needed the household to be fatherless. Monte and Evans objected to the change, and the undertaking was placed on the again burner.

2. IT WAS A SPINOFF OF MAUDE, WHICH WAS A SPINOFF OF ALL IN THE FAMILY.

The All within the Household spinoff Maude turned a scores hit in 1972 and Lear smelled one other spinoff within the making. He determined that Esther Rolle, who performed Maude’s housekeeper Florida Evans, may carry a collection on her personal. So The Black Household pilot script was resurrected and used as the premise for the brand new collection. However Lear was nonetheless adamant that there must be no father within the image. Rolle stood her floor and refused to signal on for the undertaking until the “James” character was included.

“I couldn’t compound the lie that Black fathers don’t care about their kids,” Rolle later defined of her stance. Producers agreed to her demand and employed John Amos, who’d appeared often on Maude as Florida’s husband (though his title was “Henry” on the time) to proceed his function.

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3. PRODUCERS BELIEVED THAT RALPH CARTER WOULD BE THE SHOW’S BREAKOUT STAR.

The following actor to be employed after Rolle and Amos was 12-year-old Ralph Carter, who was solid because the youngest son, Michael. Michael was nicknamed the “Militant Midget” by James due to his outspoken views on something to do with politics or civil rights. Producers believed that Carter could be the “breakout” character of the present, not solely as a result of he was cute and regarded youthful than his age, but additionally as a result of it will be humorous but poignant {that a} little one could be espousing such zealous viewpoints. Carter was showing on Broadway within the musical Raisin when he caught the attention of Good Occasions’s producers, and Lear purchased out the rest of his contract to allow him to look on the collection (as evidenced within the ending credit of the primary season).

4. JIMMIE WALKER’S POPULARITY WITH AUDIENCES MADE HIM LESS POPULAR WITH HIS CASTMATES.

Jimmie Walker was a stand-up comedian who had been headlining comedy golf equipment throughout the nation for a number of years when he landed a job at CBS because the warm-up act for the short-lived James Coco sitcom Calucci’s Division. It was there that Lear occurred to catch his act and supplied him the function of J.J. He had no appearing or tv expertise, however he had impeccable comedian timing and an expressive, fluid face, so he shortly turned an viewers favourite. And the extra laughs he acquired, the extra jokes the writers threw his means, which didn’t endear him to Rolle or Amos.

5. JOHN AMOS WAS DEEMED A “DISRUPTIVE ELEMENT.”

Whereas Amos admired Walker as a comic, he was sad in regards to the quantity of consideration the J.J. character was getting versus the opposite two kids. “Michael aspired to be a Supreme Courtroom Justice and Thelma needed to be a surgeon, however all of the emphasis was on J.J. and his rooster hat and him saying ‘dyn-o-mite’ each third web page,” he mentioned in an interview with the American Archive of Tv. He additionally admitted that he wasn’t probably the most diplomatic individual in these days and that the producers “acquired uninterested in having their lives threatened over jokes.”

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Amos apparently complained one too many instances, as a result of he acquired a cellphone name from Lear advising him that he was thought-about to be a “disruptive factor” and his providers have been not required. To clarify the absence of Amos, the primary episode of season 4 confirmed Florida receiving a telegram informing her that James had been killed in an vehicle accident whereas en path to Mississippi, the place he’d simply landed a promising new job.

6. ESTHER ROLLE ALSO GREW DISENCHANTED WITH THE SERIES’ EVOLUTION.

Rolle was equally disenchanted with the way in which J.J. was evolving. “He’s 18 and he doesn’t work,” she advised Ebony Journal in September 1975 of Walker’s character. “He can’t learn and write. He doesn’t assume. The present didn’t begin out to be that.”

Fed up with the flip the collection had taken, within the midst of season 4 she demanded a increase together with higher scripts. She additionally voiced her dismay that the writers had given Florida a brand new love curiosity (Moses Gunn as Carl Dixon) so shortly after James’s loss of life. The producers responded by asking the writers if they may write scripts that didn’t embrace the mom. So Florida married Carl and the couple moved to Arizona, the place the climate could be higher for his newly identified lung most cancers. Willona Woods, the gossipy neighbor and household good friend, was all of the sudden promoted to the brand new maternal determine for the Evans kids.

7. JANET JACKSON JOINED THE CAST, BUT STRUGGLED THROUGHOUT HER RUN.

In an effort to remodel Willona from sassy swinging single to a plausible surrogate mom, the writers determined she wanted a toddler of her personal. They forewent the standard nine-month gestation interval and as an alternative added Janet Jackson as Penny Gordon, an abused little one who’s deserted by her delivery mom and adopted by Willona. Jackson was 11 years previous when she began on the present and has since acknowledged that she was sad throughout her whole run. She’d begun maturing at an early age, so the wardrobe division needed to bind her chest with strips of gauze earlier than every taping.

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8. THE SHOW PRODUCED MORE THAN ONE TEEN IDOL.

Walker was the breakout star of the present, however each Carter and BernNadette Stanis (who performed Thelma Evans) achieved bona fide teen idol standing because of their publicity on Good Occasions, and have been in regular competitors with the Jackson brothers and Diana Ross within the Hollywood gossip columns. Carter launched a profitable singing profession throughout his spare time, and Stanis turned a poster favourite and common journal cowl lady.

9. WALKER RECRUITED A FEW SOON-TO-BE-FAMOUS FACES.

Walker didn’t overlook his associates as soon as his tv profession took off; in truth, he employed a number of of them who have been nonetheless struggling comedians to write down materials for his stand-up act. Two of these buddies have been Jay Leno and David Letterman. Walker finagled a small visitor spot on Good Occasions for Leno throughout season three. Years later, after Good Occasions had been cancelled and Letterman was the star of Late Evening, Walker may nonetheless cellphone Letterman at any time and get a spot on his present. “Clearly David Letterman’s a significant star,” Walker advised The A.V. Membership. “He’s acquired billions of {dollars}, what does he want Jimmie Walker for? However David advised me, ‘You’re my good friend, I’ll at all times have you ever on my present, ‘til the final breath in my physique goes.'”

10. ESTHER ROLLE RETURNED FOR THE FINAL SEASON.

Following the loss of life of James Evans and Florida’s sudden transfer to Arizona, viewers curiosity in Good Occasions started to wane. Ultimately, producers determined that Amos and Rolle could have been proper—that dropping the “household” factor of the collection could have misplaced them some viewers as properly. So that they went again to Rolle and requested her to return; she repeated her earlier necessities—extra money and higher scripts—and the producers agreed. Sadly, it was a bit too late. The collection ended with its sixth season.

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