The show starred Esther Rolle as Florida Evans, the role she had been playing on “Maude.” But while “Maude” was set in the New York City suburbs, “Good Times” took place in a Chicago housing project. The original premise of the series was to follow the trials and tribulations of a loving family that was struggling to make ends meet. But, as so often happens in television, one character stood out and, when fans responded, that character was given a larger presence in the show.
The character was 17-year old J.J. (for James Junior), the Evans’ family’s oldest son… and the actor portraying him was 26-year old standup comedian Jimmie Walker. So although the cast was headed by experienced actors Esther Rolle and John Amos, it was Walker who stole the show. And a lot of that had to do with dynamite. I mean, “DY-NO-MITE!”
The word “DY-NO-MITE!” became a huge catchphrase across America as Jimmie Walker’s popularity surged, as did the ratings for “Good Times.” In its first full season (1974-1975) “Good Times” received its highest ratings and was ranked as the #7 show in the country, ahead of even “Maude.”
“Good Times” also starred Bern Nadette Stanis as daughter Thelma and Ralph Carter as Michael, the family’s youngest child. Interestingly, his character “Michael Evans” was given the same name as one of the show’s creators; actor, writer Mike Evans, best known for playing Lionel Jefferson on “All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons.”
After 6 seasons (really 5 ½) and many cast changes, audiences had seen enough. The good times ended for “Good Times” in August 1979.
By the way… coincidentally, Jimmie Walker opens tomorrow night (Wednesday, February 9th) at The Comedy Zone in Port Charlotte, Florida. Why not catch the show and wish him a Happy Anniversary for “Good Times.” He’ll be performing through Saturday night. Don’t forget to tip your waitresses.