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Good Times

Good Times was a half-hour, weekly American sitcom on the CBS television network that ran from 1974 until 1979. The program was a spin-off of the sitcom Maude (itself a spin-off of All in the Family). Like the other two series, Good Times was developed by producer Norman Lear.

The character Florida Evans (played by Esther Rolle) had been Maude Findlay's houskeeper on Maude, but in early 1974 the character was transplanted to a high-rise housing project in a poor, African American neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. In this new incarnation, Florida lived with her husband James (John Amos) and children J.J. (Jimmie Walker), Thelma (BernNadette Stanis), and Michael (Ralph Carter). When the series began, J.J. and Thelma were both in high school and Michael, called "the militant midget" by his father due to his activism, was ten years old. Their exuberant neighbor was Willona Woods (played by Ja'net Dubois).

Like other Norman Lear sitcoms, the characters and subject matter in Good Times were a breakthrough for American television. Working class characters had certainly been featured in sitcoms before (dating back to The Honeymooners), but never before had African American characters living in such impoverished conditions been depicted in a weekly series (Fred and Lamont Sanford of Sanford and Son at least owned their own home and business). Episodes of Good Times dealt with the characters' attempts to get by in an inner-city ghetto despite all the odds stacked against them. When he wasn't unemployed, James Evans usually worked at least two jobs, many of them temporary, as he struggled to provide for his family. Being a sitcom, however, the episodes were more uplifting and positive than they were depressing, as the Evans family stuck together and persevered.

The program was very successful during its first full season on the air, 1974-1975, when it was the seventh-highest-rated program in the Nielsen ratings and a quarter of the American television-viewing public tuned in to an episode during any given week. (During 1974-1975, three of the top ten highest-rated programs on American TV centered around the lives of black Americans: Sanford and Son, The Jeffersons, and Good Times).

Almost from the premiere episode, J.J. was the public's favorite character on the show and his catchphrase "Dyn-o-mite!" became very popular. As the series progressed through its second year, however, Rolle and Amos, who played the Evans parents, were more disillusioned with the direction the show was taking as J.J.'s antics took precedence in the storylines. At the beginning of the 1976-1977 season, Amos's character was killed in a car accident. A year later, at the start of the 1977-1978 season, Rolle left the series (although she returned for the program's final year). To fill the vacuum left by the parents' departure, new characters were added: Johnny Brown as building superintendent Bookman; Ben Powers as Thelma's husband Keith Anderson; and Janet Jackson as Penny, an abused girl adopted by Willona - who herself took on a more central role in the series. (Janet Jackson, of the famous Jackson family, would later make a much larger name for herself as a solo artist in the world of pop music).

The last original episode of Good Times aired in 1979.