It’s “Old School Saturday” and WorldWide Unplugged Episode 9 takes a look at how the Black Panthers helped to change the long term image of black sitcoms on television.
The 1970’s was the start of change in the television landscape for showing different cultures on the small screen. Fresh off the civil rights movement of the 1960’s, the first black family ever on a sitcom appears in the early 1970’s from the city of Chicago. A lot of viewers fell in love with “The Evans Family”, that was a spinoff of the hit sitcom, “Maude”, where Florida Evans (Esther Rolle) was a maid. There was a battle between the star of the show and the original premise of not having a father. The cast members speak on the fight Esther Rolle had in helping to create the first black television father of a full family (Red Foxx would be a widower with his son “Lamont Sanford”.
Although the show had Florida Evans in the city of New York, the “Good Times” series would see a change of landscape with Florida’s family being based in Chicago and her husband got a name change from Henry to James (John Amos). They had children by the names of James Junior (aka JJ), Thelma portrayed by Bernadette Stanis, and the “Militant Midget” Michael (played by Ralph Carter).
The show would garner television ratings success, but there were some people who were not pleased with some of the images portrayed throughout the series. The critics included the iconic Black Panthers along with the cast members of Esther Rolle and John Amos. Comedy Hype recently did a recap about how Black Panthers protested in the office of Norman Lear to demand more positive images of black people. John Amos spoke about threatening the writers on the show for better scripts in an interview with Vladtv below.
The protest would help shape the core idea of “The Jeffersons” show with the “Moving On Up” theme from the working class neighborhood of the Archie Bunker family. It would be a contrast to the hit television shows of “Good Times” and “Sanford & Son”. Check out the preview below.
Future comedy shows that represent the black family structure would see tributes being done for Good Times by sitcoms such as “black-sih” and “The Wayan Bros”. Despite the show’s flaws, it can’t be denied how much impact “The Evans” had on black families watching them during the 1970’s.