Celebrating 50 Years of ‘Good Times,’ A Look Back on the Iconic Black Series


February 21, 2024

On February 8, 1974, Good Times aired its first episode on CBS and things have been DYN-O-MITE ever since!

50 years ago, America was introduced to the Evans family: two Black parents, James (John Amos) and Florida (Esther Rolle); and their three children J.J. (Jimmie Walker), Michael (Ralph Carter) and Thelma (Bern Nadette Stanis). Viewers tuned in every week to watch the struggles and joys of this African American family living in the Chicago projects. Black viewers saw their own family dynamics on screen for one of the first times in television history, and the series became an instant classic in households across the country. 

“When I was back in those days, there weren’t a lot of parts. We had nobody to look up to [on television] that was my age at that time, so I guess I was the first,” Stanis told TV One about portraying Thelma, the Evans’ only daughter. “I had no idea what this show was going to be like, what the impact of it really was.”


The series was created by Eric Monte and Mike Evans and was executive produced by Norman Lear, a prolific screenwriter and producer in the world of scripted television. Good Times is actually a spin-off of Lear’s series Maude, which itself is a spinoff of All In The Family, another classic series from Lear. 

Original cast of Good Times (Esther Rolle, John Amos, Jimmie Walker, Bern Nadette Stanis, Ralph Carter)

In stark contrast to the typical, white family-led situation comedies airing at the time, Good Times was the first show in television history that featured an African American family headed by two parents. This was after actress Esther Rolle argued with the showrunners that it was stereotypical to depict a Black family with no patriarch and insisted on having a husband in the show. The series was intended to be a timely show focusing on a family dealing with serious subjects in a comedic way. 

“They would deal with the reality of their world (gangs, drugs, crime, poverty, etc.), and despite that, the kids would not fail to get an education,” Lear said. Viewers immediately fell in love with the series’ serious storylines and with its dynamic cast, especially Walker’s portrayal of J.J., the eldest Evans child. 


J.J. became the breakout character complete with a catchphrase “DYN-O-MITE” and the series started to focus more and more on his hilarious antics, much to the chagrin of Rolle and Amos, who wanted the show to maintain a focus on social issues. Amos would eventually be fired from the series at the end of season three with season four opening with the family learning of James’ death in a car accident. Rolle would depart from the series at the end of season four.

“For me, I loved our cast,” Walker said, reflecting on his time working with different actors and comedians on the series. “People had their problems or whatever it was but for me, the comics were my guys.”

The Evans would gain new friends and family members throughout the run of the show. Johnny Brown’s character of Bookman, the building superintendent, became more prominent, and an 11-year-old Janet Jackson joined the cast as Penny Gordon, an abused girl who had been abandoned by her mother and is eventually adopted by Willona Woods, the Evans’ neighbor portrayed by Ja’Net DuBois. And Rolle would return to the series as the Evans matriarch in the final season. 


Good Times ran for six seasons from 1978 to 1979 before ending after 133 episodes. Each episode taught audiences about life, love, and family, all under the score of one of the catchiest theme songs on television, written by Alan and Marilyn Bergman (a common misconception is one of the lines, “hangin’ in a chow line,” which is actually “hangin’ in and jivin’” according to Forbes).

All these years later, Good Times is still cherished for its humor, its cultural impact, its cast, and the good times they brought into the lives of anyone who watched the show. Ain’t we lucky we got ‘em.

Alt text: Celebrating 50 Years of Good Times, A Look Back On The Iconic Black Series / Photo credit: CBS/Everette Collection


5 1 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Join the BOTWC newsletter for the latest in news & culture!

By clicking Submit, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

Newsletter Signup
Skip to content