10 Facts You May Not Know about the TV Show, “Good Times”

Good Times was that show that all of us knew better than we know our own relatives.  Most of us can sing the theme song even without knowing all the words, and if I were to walk into a room and say the words “damn, damn, damn!” you would know EXACTLY what scene I was talking about.

But here is a short list of interesting tidbits about the show that you may not know.  We are not sharing this information with you for any reason other than the fact that it’s interesting.  The most notable fact is that the show didn’t start doing poorly until JJ stopped acting like a complete buffoon.  Here’s the rundown….feel free to add your own Good Times-related information to the comment section below:

1) Florida Evans (Esther Rolle) was much older than James Evans (John Amos):  Florida was born in 1920 and James was born in 1939.  So, when show began in 1974, Florida was already 54 years old, married to a 35-year old husband.

2) JJ was an old man too:  JJ, played by Jimmie Walker, was born in 1947, only 8 years later than James.  He was certainly no teenager on the show, being 27-years old when the show released its debut.

3) Willona (played by Ja’net Dubois) was only 2 years older than JJ.  They could have dated each other.

4) Esther Rolle was consistently annoyed that even though the show was created around her, a comedian (Jimmie Walker) was getting all of the attention.

5) The show was created by Michael Evans, who also played Lionel Jefferson on another show you might have heard of.  He based the show on his own childhood.

6) The show was a spinoff of another show, called “Maude,” where Florida was a maid.  They changed the name of her husband in the spinoff.

7) Jay Leno appeared on the show in an episode about STDs, one of the first in the history of television.

8) In her indignation over JJ’s role, Esther said:   “He’s eighteen and he doesn’t work. He can’t read or write. He doesn’t think. The show didn’t start out to be that…Little by little—with the help of the artist, I suppose, because they couldn’t do that to me—they have made J.J. more stupid and enlarged the role. Negative images have been slipped in on us through the character of the oldest child.”

9) When John Amos left the show after failed contract negotiations, he said this about JJ’s character: “The writers would prefer to put a chicken hat on J.J. and have him prance around saying “DY-NO-MITE”, and that way they could waste a few minutes and not have to write meaningful dialogue.”

10) Esther Rolle was convinced to come back during the last season under three conditions:  They would write out the character that she ran off and married after James’ death (since she didn’t think Florida would move on so quickly), they would give her a raise in salary, and JJ would  have more respectable, intelligent roll. Oddly enough, that’s when the show started to tank in the ratings.

Come on people, we’ve got to do better.


In case you don’t know all the lyrics, we pulled them together for you:


Any time you need a payment!
Any time you need a friend!
Any time you’re out from under!
Not gettin’ hassled, not getting hustled!
Keeping your head above water!
Making a way when you can!
Temporary lay-offs!
Easy Credit rip-offs!
Scratchin’ and Survivin’
Hangin’ in a chow line!
Ain’t we lucky we got ’em?
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There are 312 comments for this article
  1. Terry Johnson at 4:15 am

    I loved Good Times. My favorite episode is when
    JJ gets shot and James goes to court to make sure the guy pays for what he did and he has what I believe are pretzels or maybe pencils and cracks them to make it sound like he is breaking dudes legs…priceless!! Also when Janet Jackson, Mizz Jackson if ya nasty, came on the scene and tootie’s ( Kim Fields) momma Chip was beating her…I wanted to hit her in the mouth!

  2. kahlil at 12:05 am

    Ralph Carter aka Michael Evans is politcally conscious in real life just like the show.He has multiple degrees in African Studies and extremely well rounded in global affairs.

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  4. Rob J at 2:36 am

    One of my favoite shows! And it is hanging in a chow line. That comes from one of the cast members thelma, she was on life after. Very good story.

  5. Lynn at 3:17 pm

    I see this show as an unfortunate start of decline for black people. Prior to this show, black people/characters walked, talked and acted like everyone else. JJ’s character began to walk, talk and act different and it became associated with acting “black” creating a Hollywood stereotype that is still portrayed today. When you watch the show, the other characters (parents and siblings) did not speak with any dialect. In all countries and all races people are judged by their ability to speak the native language correctly. Incorrect grammar/words will hold people back, as will some accents (watch “My Fair Lady”). I would like to see people hold themselves to a higher level of accountability in language and behavior as that is what will truly open doors. We need to reject what is holding people back, and stop pretending it isn’t so. Interesting to see that the parents in the show were also bothered by this (items 8, 9 and 10 above). Accountability: we will be treated as lowly as we act.

  6. Allen Jerkins at 2:24 pm

    I’m a 39 year old white male, and “Good Times” was one of my favorite shows as a kid. And yes, I too had a little crush on Thelma. It’s only as I’ve gotten older that I’ve understood some of the more weighty social issues that the show tackled, both directly and indirectly.
    I can say this- when you ask me to name a TV dad, the first one I think of is Andy Taylor (“The Andy Griffith Show”). But ask me to name a TV mom, and Florida Evans will probably come to mind first. Great acting from both her and John Amos.

  7. Korean at 1:09 pm

    I love goodtimes I’d give anything to go back to the 70’s I hate it now all these reality shows with African Americans fighting cursing among each other pure ignorance in the 70’s there was a sense of unity and coming together they had to stop that can’t have blacks being to strong the men wareing their pants down round their ankles the women angry looking like sluts I hate how it is now in the 70’s there was brother and sister hood unity now it’s a shame just listen to the garage on the radio none of the music now compares to the temptations Marvin gaye smokey Robinson e.t.c

    • LadyBug at 7:40 am

      I too miss the 70’s. I love Good Times!! I own all the seasons on DVD. My mom teases me about still living in the 70’s mentally. I just miss how Blacks had morals, were united, and TV was not like it is today. The overexposure of curse words, sex, homosexuality, and violence is disgusting on TV now. I used to wish my father loved me and my family like James loved his family. I believe the show declined after James died. He was funny and serious at the same time and Florida taught me how to allow your husband to head the household. She was a humble soul and knew what it took to be a great wife. Although I have seen every episode, I still sit and laugh hysterically at this classic show. I wish they would have done a reunion show.

  8. Dontrell Laxton at 1:28 am

    Fuck all the characters except JJ. Esther rolle is too damn old to be jealous and wilona is a golddigger and Micheal and Thelma never positively supported JJ with shit.

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  10. Clarice Smith at 10:57 am

    I watched GOOD TIMES during the 70 ‘s and am watching them at present nightly. I like the episodes with John Amos because he gives a POSITIVE image having a FATHER in the household. FLORDIA portrays the STRONG mother, a role Black women have always had to be in order to keep their families together. It’s sad that WHITE PEOPLE can’t ACCEPT Black families having the same goals for family life as their own. JJ was funny, but Black children know they have to prepare themselves for life. It’s NOT all about fun and games.

  11. John at 1:31 am

    I came across this site in a totally roundabout way. As a white boy growing up in the seventies in a relatively affluent neighborhood, I can tell you that this show profoundly impacted my growth and development.

    Good Times was a GREAT show at first…it degenerated a bit but what show doesn’t? Anyone who thinks this was just another stupid comedy doesn’t get it.

    Wow there were TONS of good shows in that era…All in the Family, Bob Newhart, MASH…dozens more. Since this site obviously focuses on Black issues I’ll give you my opinion (in case you care) about the “Black” shows from that era and later.

    I liked Sanford and Son too but I watch it now and find it mostly silly.

    The Jeffersons started strong but I never bought the premise. Before long it degenerated into something almost meaningless. (Do you remember the episode about the “George Jefferson Museum”? Terrible! Almost like a cartoon!)

    What’s Happening was harmless fun but it wasn’t devoid of content. The main character (was it Roger?) was a positive role model for any kid of any ethnicity.

    The Cosby Show…meh.

    I wasn’t old enough to have ever seen Julia.

    It’s a shame that IMO the Black role on TV hasn’t grown more than it has.

    As for the lyric it always sounded to me like “hangin’ in a chow line” but I too read somewhere that it was actually “hangin’ and ‘a jivin.'”

  12. mike at 1:01 pm

    this was a situation COMEDY, with I think all positive role models.JJ was a comedian on a sitcom who was an exceptional artitist not just a good one. He did not sell drugs or hang in a gang,but had a great job when he was grown graduated from highschool, and wore a suit to work. We tend to overlook the positive for the negative.Yes he said funny things on a comedy show(duhh) I still saw a different career out instead of the stereotypes that were forced down our throats.Take another look at JJand you can see something more than a buffoon.#positive overnegative

    • Monica at 1:13 am

      Yes he did wear a suit and go to a job. Read the info again that was AFTER they convenced Esther to come back for the LAST season. All that happened on the last season but before that JJ was an idiot point blank period. Never really knew that Esther felt this way. I knew she was jealous though.

  13. ireke Amoji at 6:12 am

    I can’t forget that scene when”Mad Dog”,a gang leader comes to JJ’s home and and has this exchange with Thelma.He asks her her name and when she tells him,he scoffs and quips “Thelma?” (lol),what kinda a name is that?” To which she replies”Well,when I was born, my Momma took one look at me and called me “Thelma”,just as when you were born,yo Momma took one look at you and called you “Mad Dog!”. Lol,eternal lines.AWESOME show,lit up my growing years in Lagos,Nigeria,in the 1970’s!

  14. djizz at 4:00 pm

    Seriously. This show was a 70’s dramedy. About a black family’s life in the ghetto. There were many moments where you laughed and cried. But it was entertaining. The problem was with the producers: this family was never going to prosper and move up. But that was the shows premise: ghetto life. I enjoyed seeing a 2 parent black family. The way the father provided and protected his family. To me the demeaning part wasn’t JJ’s character or silliness but how they kept the black head of household character down and constantly struggling. I still watch today, laughing and crying. You can see the dramatic changes after James died yet the show hung on for a few more years. …

  15. john Rhodes at 11:46 pm

    I think there were several reasons why ratings went down. When John Amos left the show that was one of the main reasons. JJ was funny and made us all laugh. It wouldn’t have been much of a show if everyone was serious and not cracking jokes. When Penny was added I felt that brought the ratings up. When Florida was not in the show, that was a downfall. Every show has a point when the writers can’t come up with new skits.

  16. lashun fisher at 9:39 am

    I always understood JJ’s character to be that of comedy relief in light of a situation that was supposed to be sad and depressing. I seriously don’t think the show would have been as successful had that character not been introduced..Im from the inner city and was raised in lower class society and it’s not all gloom and tears..there are some very hilarious characters that i knew personally growing up that probably werent all that book smart but was funny as heck and was major talented in other areas..I don’t know why people would be offended by this role..The Cosbys unfortunately do not represent the masses where minorities are concerned..and yes im also a big fan of the Cosby Show as well..

  17. Eugene at 10:06 pm

    The show might have been for Florida ,but her chrachter was overshadowed by James & then JJ.Once the strong male lead left the show was doom.

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  20. The truth! at 11:06 am

    The show was great. I remember staying up with my family just to watch it. It dealt with real life situations. James was the man of the house. He always wanted to work and take care of his responsibility. No drug selling, gang banging or foolish behavior was allowed in the house. A strong figure for his sons and daughter. Flo respected his role and he gave it back to her. Living in those conditions/the worst projects in the country, the show displayed high morals and unity among the family. Education was also the “KEY”! Today, there no show on TV for Black folks that display what “Good Times ” was about. Yes, we were lucky we had them. Good Times.

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  22. cheche at 12:39 pm

    I was living in LA at this time and I met the all of the cast members at a UNNCF fundraiser. John Amos, Michael and Wilona were classy and very nice but bernadette JJ and Esther were the meanest and most snobby actors I met, they were awful!

  23. Barbara Williams at 5:46 pm

    I was a fan of Good Times also (along w/my family). J.J was pretty silly – but you always have to have the goofy one or it wouldn’t be a comedy! Still they dealt with heavy social issues. In my opinion John Amos and Ester Rolle made the show. They did a great job with putting together the characters. My favorite episode was also the one about the woman and the
    dog food. Chip Fields did a superb job when she played Penny’s mom. I watched Bernadette Stanis on a documentary…she sang the lyricss to Good Times and said herself its is actually “hangin and a jivin”

  24. JoyJaa at 10:14 pm

    I’m 64…watchKing GOOD TIMES right now pn a vhs video tape from a weekend of TV LAND taping. It opened the way to The Cosbys…served its purpose well…

  25. RaeJ at 2:05 pm

    Why did the charter Florida Evans wear orange in most of her outfits? Was orange symbolic of her name being Florida and the state of Florida known as The Sunshine State?

  26. Charles at 11:59 pm

    When the show piloted Ralph Carter was under contract on Broadway so he wasn’t available at first. When they couldn’t get him they casted Lawrence Fisburne who played Michael Evans in the pilot episode. However it is said that Lawrence was very disappointed at being dropped from the role.

  27. pdc422 at 11:40 am

    I enjoyed reading the comments by the reading audience! Powerful stuff! Good Times to me represented real black life! Not always good not always bad! JJ brought humor and laughter to this show! John Amos brought a strong father figure to the show, which is what all black families need! Let’s not forget, “A strong father figure is still what’s lacking in the black family today! “

  28. wayoli at 3:47 pm

    I grew w/Good Times and loved the show. Sometimes I didn’t understand the issues the family faced when I grew up in a single family home, went to private school, private summer camps every year, had my own bedroom, had the love & support of my family, was in drill team, gymnastics, track & piano growing up in Compton, CA but I did understand their was other less fortunate than myself. This show was a lesson learned for me as I child, I didn’t have a father in my home, he paid CS but we never say him. but very close to the rest of his family. James for me was the father figure who came with a strong hand and that’s the type of man I’ve always gone for, the one who is stand up for wants right and won’t back down.

  29. norlisha at 7:30 am

    I’m a big fan of goodtimes, I watch the show everyday, actors were all excellent! When John Amos left the show in my opinion it wasn’t the same. I just learned of all there ages today thru reading I never knew jj was almost 27 an playing a teenager he did a good job lol. An the age difference with Flo an James wow! Even Wilona, 2 yrs older than jj. This show to me showed hard times an how we can over come an be thankful 4 what we have. one of my favorite shows an always will be~

  30. sabrina robinette at 2:28 pm

    2 aspects of the show that were interesting to me were; the ghetto hood – “sweet daddy” and alderman davis. Did people like them really exist back then or were they only add-ins (for whatever effect producers were trying to create?). It somewhat sadden me the episode – post James – when ald. davis wanted J.J to “praise” him at a charity benefit dinner and he said no. Davis started eviction proceedings against them. Florida had to swallow her (pious) pride and concede. Really gut wrenching reality of how women head of households are sometimes preyed upon by cold hearted men.

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  32. Christopher at 10:31 am

    I loved Good Times, especially the episodes with John Amos. I always had a crush on Wilona, especially in later episodes when she became Penny’s mother, she was gorgeous. I’ve seen every episode at least three times, and have half of them on tape. Good Times is one of my favorite shows of the 1970s, and my favorite is the one with “mad dog”.

  33. Billy Wyze at 7:01 am

    Who cares whether or not JJ character had questionable scholastic issues. Or when he wore a chicken hat. That fact of the matter is that we identified with Good times. Because we lived it. In the 70’s every one had a JJ, a Micheal, a Thelma, an angry father or should i say misunderstood by us adolescence back then and the back bone of the family “MOM”..
    Good times was the jam. We simply enjoyed it… Now that I am over 50 years of age. I can see Esther Rolle’s concerns.. But still; I love the show then and I damn sure love it now. Because I have both sides of understanding and relativity. Both as an adolescence and now as an adult.. After all; The show was created by a black man… How much more Identifying did you need?.

  34. TONI at 12:25 pm

    JJ may have come off as a idiot, but to me he was a kid that was trying to find his self. He was a very good artist, no one has even mentioned his paintings, it is really weird to find out there was so much jealousy on that set.

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