Good Times Season Four
Jimmie Walker, Janet Dubois, Esther Rolle
3 DVDs
24 Episodes
Sony Home Entertainment

Good Times Season Four starts off when the Evans family is planning to move from the projects to Mississippi. The going away party is marred by the death of the father and the season moves on from there. It is interesting to note that John Amos, who played the father, was the second actor to be “McLeaned” (i.e. killed off a show to make sure the character cannot come back), and, ironically, suffered the same fate playing Admiral Percy Fitzwallace on The West Wing.

Perhaps the first and definitely the last successful situation comedy set in the projects, Good Times is more than a time capsule to the seventies and to Jimmie Walker’s catch phrase Dyn-O-Mite. It is also a funny and realistic sitcom with, being a Norman Lear creation, a social conscience at times. Granted, Jimmie Walker is not a great actor -and never claimed to be at the time– and his J.J. character does wear a bit thin but overall this sitcom was pretty good at the time and has survived well.

Season four of Good Times began with a lot of behind the scenes controversy as baggage: both Esther Rolle and John Evans were angry about the turn the show was taking, the negative portrayal of Black Americans it was giving through the J.J. character and it is said John Amos was killed off because an interview he gave and his politics angered the producers of the show. Then again, you do not have to know all this to enjoy this one of a kind sitcom.

One of the strong points in this Black comedy is the writing. This is a sitcom, so even serious subjects such as joining a street gang, being held-up after winning a few bucks at the lottery, running numbers for organized crime, eviction, and attempted suicide are dealt with in twenty-four minutes and quickly forgotten. Here, however, the writers will sometimes insert a line or two that plays up the Norman Lear tradition of social relevance and social commentary under the entertaining humor. The Evans live in an oppressive environment under difficult situations yet manage to survive and remain strong. This is probably why Good Times is more interesting than The Jeffersons or the Cosby Show and often much funnier.

There are also many moments in this sitcom where the one-liners catch you unawares such as: “I have to get to the boutique. We’re having a white sale … we’re selling off the landlord.”, “Must be the woman across the hall. Always stealing our paper and then complaining about how the crime rate is going up.” , or “Your government is behind you. … I like my government in front of me where I can keep an eye on it.”

Thankfully, not all episodes have a message or a point to make so you can also just kick back and enjoy this excellent sitcom, season four of which is a solid collection and example of the kind of sitcom we unfortunately do not get to see anymore

Good Times was controversial in its days. Many objected to the growing stereotypical characterization of J.J. and the fact he was uneducated, often working one scam or another, and so on. The producers did make him into an artist, and a very good one at that, but that never seemed to be very realistic. This sitcom started out as a mid-season replacement and lasted just long enough to have enough episodes in the can to go into syndication. It was another Norman Lear creation (All In The Family, The Jeffersons, Maude -in fact, Good Times is a spin-off from Maude itself a spin-off of All in the Family; Florida Evans was Maude’s maid) and is visually and storyline wise similar to his other sitcoms.

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