The ‘Good Times’ TV show blended raw truths with hilarity, and it was epic! (1974-1979)

1970s Good Times TV show at Click Americana

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Good Times offers a candid look into the daily lives of the Evans family, an African American household residing in a Chicago housing project during the 1970s. Through humor and heart, the show portrays their struggles and triumphs, touching on societal issues such as racism, unemployment, and poverty.

The series shines a light on the importance of family bonds, resilience, and hope, even in the face of adversity. With memorable characters and iconic catchphrases, Good Times leaves an indelible mark on television history.

Years on air: 1974 to 1979
# of seasons: 6
# of episodes: 133


  • Florida Evans (played by Esther Rolle): The compassionate and strong-willed matriarch of the Evans family. She’s the glue that keeps the family together, providing wisdom, love, and a firm hand when needed.
  • James Evans Sr. (played by John Amos): The hardworking and proud patriarch of the family. He often struggles to find steady work but is determined to provide for his family and instill strong values in his children.
  • J.J. Evans (played by Jimmie Walker): The eldest Evans child, known for his artistic talent, charisma, and iconic catchphrase, “Dy-no-mite!” He often finds himself in humorous situations, much to the chagrin of his parents.
  • Thelma Evans (played by BernNadette Stanis): The middle Evans child and only daughter. Thelma is intelligent, sassy, and often serves as the voice of reason among her siblings.
  • Michael Evans (played by Ralph Carter): The youngest Evans sibling. He’s socially conscious, outspoken about civil rights, and sometimes referred to as the “militant midget” by his family due to his passionate activism.
  • Willona Woods (played by Ja’net DuBois): The Evans’ stylish and vivacious neighbor and close friend of the family. She often provides comedic relief and offers a supportive shoulder for Florida.
  • Nathan Bookman (played by Johnny Brown): Initially a recurring character, later a mainstay, he is the sometimes gruff but often comedic building superintendent, frequently referred to by J.J. as “Buffalo Butt.”
  • Millicent “Penny” Gordon Woods (played by Janet Jackson): A main character introduced later in the series, Penny is a sweet young girl adopted by Willona after escaping an abusive home. She brings a fresh youthfulness to the show’s dynamic.
  • Keith Anderson (played by Ben Powers): A main character who enters the series as Thelma’s boyfriend and later becomes her husband. A professional football player, he faces challenges that test his relationship with Thelma.

Good Timesir?t=clickamericana 20&l=ur2&o=1 first aired from February 8, 1974 through August 1, 1979 on CBS. Developed by Norman Lear, Good Times was a spin-off of Maude… which in turn was a spin-off of All in the Family.

The show starred Esther Rolle as matriarch Florida Evans, and John Amos James Evans Sr. as the father. Their three children were James Jr, also known as “JJ” (played by Jimmie Walker), Thelma (Bern Nadette Stanis), and Michael (Ralph Carter).

Good Times TV show debuts - Feb 8 1974

In the history of television, few shows have tackled the realities of life quite like Good Times. This groundbreaking series was the first to depict a two-parent African American family navigating both the joys and struggles in a housing project. While it was a sitcom, the show wasn’t just about humor; it tackled pressing social issues of its time — including unemployment, racism, and poverty.

But what truly made Good Times special? Its characters. Each one brought a unique dynamic, from the strong-willed matriarch Florida Evans to her optimistic husband James and their three spirited children. And who could forget the neighbor, Willona, or the iconic catchphrases from the ever-charismatic J.J.? These well-crafted characters made audiences laugh, cry — and, most important of all, think.

Esther Rolle from vintage TV show Good Times

One of the most noteworthy things about Good Times was its ability to blend hard-hitting topics with comedy. While the show never shied away from discussing serious issues, it always did so with a touch of levity. By doing this, the show made tough topics approachable and initiated meaningful conversations in households across the nation.

Behind-the-scenes challenges on the Good Times set

Despite the on-screen magic of Good Times, rumblings behind the scenes spoke of a different narrative. Some of the lead stars voiced dissatisfaction with certain script directions, feeling that their characters were occasionally portrayed in ways that perpetuated stereotypes or didn’t resonate with the show’s initial vision.

Behind-the-scenes on the Good Times set (1974)

This unrest among the cast showcased the very real challenges in maintaining a groundbreaking show’s integrity while catering to audience expectations and network demands. While Good Times remains a much-loved classic, these behind-the-scenes insights offer a more nuanced view of its legacy.

If someone’s looking to understand the television landscape of the 1970s and the power of sitcoms to inspire social change, Good Times would be an essential watch. It wasn’t just a show — it was a cultural phenomenon.

The vintage 70s Good Times TV series

‘Good Times’ slowly gaining on TV’s top-rated sitcoms (1975)

By Buck Biggers – El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas) June 29, 1975

We admit to a bit of bias in connection with a series.

For years, we carried around a guilty conscience because we had enjoyed “Amos ‘n Andy” on television. When group pressure forced the CBS network to remove the show from its lineup, we struggled to make ourselves quit watching the reruns, but it was no use. We could never resist the temptation.

The truth is that these episodes (which we saw over and over again) became not only our favorites but those of our children as well. Which, of course, only made our guilt greater than ever, since those responsible for the program’s cancellation insisted the show was unfair to blacks and would foster prejudice.

Ebony Sep 1975 Good Times TV show

But now — hallelujah! After all these years, along comes John Amos, co-starring in “Good Times,” to announce: “I was upset when they took ‘Amos ‘n Andy’ off the air. That was real black humor. The blacks never complained. They loved every minute. It was the white liberals who got it canceled, thinking they were doing something for us. But they weren’t — at least not for me.”

ALSO SEE: What’s Happening!! Go behind the scenes on the popular ’70s TV sitcom & see opening credits

Can you blame us for being a little biased toward John’s show? Let’s take a look at ‘Good Times” in 3D (Difference, Depth and Durability).

Good Times scorecard

Florida and James Evans and their three children are a black family living in a Chicago ghetto. They try to keep smiling while they struggle to reach the end of the avenue of woes, down which their lives constantly seem to travel.

The major problem confronting them is lack of financial security due to the difficulty of finding decent, permanent employment for the husband and father. It is this financial need plus the emphasis on family that so clearly separates this from all other black series such as Sanford and Son, The Jeffersons and even the less successful That’s My Mama.

Classic catchphrase - DY-NO-MITE!


By depth we mean talent, and it was in this dimension that we feared the program might encounter difficulty.

We were not greatly impressed by Esther Rolle in her role as the maid on Maude, but CBS’s president, Bob Wood, saw potential we did not. Esther Rolle is a fine actress who, as the mother on Good Times, has a remarkable way of bringing reality to every scene, some of which get quite far out.

Vintage Good Times TV show - Around the table

John Amos, with that solid-as-a-rock image in both looks and voice, has to be rated exceptional. And the lovely lady neighbor, as well as the teenage daughter and younger son, are all very good.

But the actor who more often than not steals this series is Jimmie Walker, the young comedian who plays the teenage son. Walker, looking something like a black version of Joe E. Brown, brings full “body comedy” to the series; eyes, mouth, arms, hips, legs all do their share to keep viewers convulsed.

TV Guide with the Good Times cast 1970s

On the technical side, the scripts for this series are impressive. Somehow they manage to tackle very difficult subjects — school busing, pre-marital sex, interracial marriage, alcoholism, to mention a few — and yet to do so without alienating any but the overly sensitive members of their audience.

Sanford and Son an instant, impressive hit (1972)

Early episodes of the show focused a bit too often on black vs. white humor, a definite deterrent to mass acceptance, but this was quickly corrected.

If you saw one of those first episodes and were turned off by this, be sure and return to see why this is now one of the highest-rated series on the air.

MORE: Watch the show again here!

Good Times - vintage TV show cast

Good Times opening/closing credits & theme song

YouTube video

Good Times theme song lyrics

Good Times.
Any time you meet a payment.
Good Times.
Any time you need a friend.
Good Times.
Any time you’re out from under.

Not getting hassled, not getting hustled.
Keepin’ your head above water,
Making a wave when you can.

Temporary layoffs.
Good Times.
Easy credit rip-offs.
Good Times.
Scratchin’ and surviving.
Good Times.
Hangin’ in and jivin’
Good Times.
Ain’t we lucky we got ’em
Good 20&l=ur2&o=1

Good Times TV series: Behind the scenes

From Ebony magazine (June 1974)

A ‘salt pork and collard greens’ TV show: In ‘Good Times,’ Esther Rolle and John Amos raise a family in Chicago ghetto setting.

Good Times TV show behind the scenes with Esther Rolle (Ebony Jun 1974)

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Comments on this story

3 Responses

  1. According to songwriters Marilyn and Alan Bergman, the correct lyric is not “hangin’ in a chow line,” but “hangin’ out and jivin’.”

    1. Thank you for the correction! I actually found one interview where Marilyn corrects Alan, and says it’s “hanging in and jiving” (according to the text of the article). I’m assuming it’s jivin’ in the song.

      Good times. ;-)


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