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Make Good Times Great Again

Are you tired of all these animated movies and TV shows getting live-action remakes? Netflix is trying a different approach: turning a live-action sitcom into an animated series. The first test subject is Good Times, which was created and written by Seth McFarlane and Carl Jones. Please note that I said original. 

As I finish watching this trailer, I’m left thinking, “TF type of BS are these folks on?” In under 3 minutes, we get James Evans’ adult grandson showing they never made it out of the neighborhood. A drug dealer baby is saying he’s hungry after a “top view” of a woman, a topless side boob. An ass slapped. The teenage son is being held back in the 3rd grade and told to make an OnlyFans account. The only saving grace is the daughter, “Grey”, who talks for 10 seconds to give some inkling of hope for the family. This doesn’t feel like the kind of satire Carl Jones would want to portray in Black culture.

I also think that Seth McFarlane would have wished to tread lightly in this arena after the heat The Cleveland Show received. So how did we get here? Let’s get some notes from the original series.

Origin Of Good Times

The original run of Good Times aired from 1974 to 1979. Many positive moments in history are blooming in this post-civil rights era. The original series focuses on The Evans family as they navigate life in Chicago in the middle of Cabrini Green Apartments. (Sidebar: Candyman came up out of there; you know that ain’t the place to live.) 

Norman Lear and the Legacy

Norman Lear is often mentioned in connection with this show, along with others like The Jeffersons. He is a white man from New Haven, CT. So what does a white dude from Connecticut know about life in Chicago? Not much. The real brains behind the first two seasons were two men named Eric Monte and Mike Evans (Lionel on The Jeffersons). 

Those writers left the show due to creative differences. Some of those significant differences were keeping the image of a black father on television(James Evans, played by John Amos) and not portraying black men as caricatures (“Dynamite!”). One MAJOR creative difference is Eric Monte suing CBS for not crediting him as a creator for this and other shows and accusing Lear directly of creative theft. 

Shifting Focus

After James’ character was killed off and JJ was thrust into the lead male role on the show, even Esther Rolle was enough. The way they wrote her off was pretty lazy. She left (see: abandoned) the kids for her new husband, and we never see her again.

Despite both central figures leaving, the series presses on, making JJ the central fixture of the story. It seems like the networks haven’t changed their views about Black families over the last 50 years. I am not counting the Cosby show. 

Reflections on Today

Now cut to 2024. We’ve been fighting to prove Black Lives Matter. Affirmative Action rolled back. Politicians are fighting to have Black History whitewashed or erased. Is this the time to cut out even the glimmer of Black adult male and female positivity and strength? To make this young black girl the adult of her home?

The worst part of all this is that it seems as though creative differences between the studio and Carl Jones are why we don’t have the series we deserve. Mr. Jones has publicly stated that he left the series due to creative differences early on in pre-production. Based on what I’ve seen, he made the right call. 

However, we live in a time where social media has trained us to hate watching anything. This will help “prove” to Netflix that we will watch anything with blackface on it for one week at least. 

“Good Times” will stream on Netflix on April 12th.

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