Saturday, April 25, 2009

Questioning the Dyn-o-mite Dynamics of Good Times

I’m into about hour sixteen of a twenty-four hour Good Times marathon on TV-One. It’s been fun. I’ve had some laughs. I’ve reminisced. It took me back. But suddenly I’m beginning to question the whole premise on which the show is built.

You see, Good Times is based on a black family living in the projects; the hilarity grows from their efforts to overcome the chaos that surrounds them and the forces which keep them there. And it is hilarious. Until you think of the implications.

Over the five or six seasons or so this show was on the air, the family remained firmly ensconced in the projects. Every plan they conceive of to escape their conditions falls through. The father, James Evans, Sr., is killed when he goes south to pursue a better job. JJ has tremendous talent and potential as an artist, but he can’t seem to catch a break. Thelma’s husband the NFL prospect breaks his leg and doesn’t get the million dollar contract he was expecting, and the younger son Michael is not able to go off to college as he has planned his whole life because he has to stay and help out the family.

If you think about it, this is perhaps the most hapless family I’ve ever saw, and suddenly the show becomes just damn depressing. The shit suddenly ain’t so funny anymore.

But if you think about it, the show could play out no other way. If the family is finally able to progress and get out the projects, the narrative of poverty is broken, and the show no longer functions as a sitcom; perhaps, negroes succeeding just doesn’t seem so funny. Or at least it was not so funny at the time (Remember the shows staff of mostly white writers).

But wait. Another episode is coming to an end. It seems that at the end of this episode, JJ finally signs a lucrative contract with an animation studio and is finally able to move out. Thelma’s husband finally gets an NFL contract, and he and Thelma move out taking the mother with them. And Michael is finally able to go to college. It seems like their luck has changed!

It turns out that this is the last episode recorded; it is the farewell show. Now TV-One is starting over again with the initial episode. The cycle begins anew.

Ha! Seems my theory is correct.


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