You can’t talk about Black women in television in the 1970’s without talking about Weezie Jefferson and Florida Evans.
Weezie Jefferson was the first time I saw a Black woman on television that a) didn’t have to work and b) had her own maid. Florida Evans was the Black mother in the Projects, but she had a husband, and was a loving and devoted mother/wife.
The Jeffersons is an American sitcom that was broadcast on CBS from January 18, 1975, through July 2, 1985, lasting 11 seasons and a total of 253 episodes. The show was produced by the T.A.T. Communications Company from 1975 to 1982 and by Embassy Television from 1982 to 1985. The Jeffersons is one of the longest-running sitcoms in the history of American television.
The show focuses on George and Louise Jefferson, an affluent African-American couple living in New York City. The show was launched as the second spin-off of All in the Family, on which the Jeffersons had been the neighbors of Archie and Edith Bunker.
The show was the creation of prolific television producer Norman Lear. However, it was less sharply political in tone than some of his other shows. The Jeffersons eventually evolved into more of a traditional sitcom, relying more on the characters’ interactions with one another than on explicitly political dialogue or storylines. It did, however, tackle a few controversial topics, including racism, suicide, gun control and adult illiteracy. Also, the words “nigger” and “honky” were used occasionally, especially during the earlier seasons.
The Jeffersons had one spin-off, titled Checking In. The short-lived series was centered on the Jeffersons’ housekeeper, Florence. Checking In only lasted four episodes, after which Florence returned to The Jeffersons. The Jeffersons also shared continuity with the show E/R, which featured Lynne Moody, who made a guest appearance in one episode of The Jeffersons as George’s niece. Sherman Hemsley guest-starred as George in two episodes of the series, which lasted for one season.
The show ended in controversy after CBS abruptly canceled the series without allowing for a proper series finale. The cast was not informed until after the July 2, 1985, episode “Red Robins”, and actor Sherman Hemsley said he found out that the show was canceled by reading it in the newspaper. Sanford, who heard about the cancellation through her cousin who read about it in the tabloids, has publicly stated that she found the cancellation with no proper finale to be disrespectful on the network’s part. The cast reunited in a stage play based on the sitcom. In the 1996 series finale of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the Jeffersons made a guest appearance and bought the house from the Banks family. In an episode of Tyler Perry’s House of Payne in 2011, Sherman Hemsley and Marla Gibbs reprised their roles of George Jefferson and Florence Johnston.
Good Times is an American sitcom that originally aired from February 8, 1974, until August 1, 1979, on CBS. 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.
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 and James’ children are James Jr., also known as “J.J.”, Thelma, and Michael. 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, a recent divorcée who works at a boutique. Their building superintendent is Nathan Bookman (seasons 2–4), to whom James, Willona and later J.J. refer as “Buffalo Butt”, or, even more derisively, “Booger”.
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.
Episodes of Good Times deal with the characters’ attempts to survive in a high rise project building in Chicago, despite their poverty. When he is not unemployed, James Evans is a man of pride who often stated he would not accept charity. He usually works at least two jobs simultaneously, from a wide variety such as dishwasher, construction laborer, etc. When he has to, he plays pool in order to hustle money, though Florida disapproves of this.