was a breakthrough of sorts - the first hit comedy in TV history to be based on
who played pushy, egotistical George Jefferson on The Jeffersons for ten years,
played a similar character here as an insufferable deacon (and lawyer) whose
father had founded the
First Community Church of Philadelphia, and who intended to keep it under
his thumb. Unfortunately, the new minister, Rev. Gregory, had other ideas
and every week he quietly deflated the strutting Deacon. Both, of course, really had the Church's
best interests at heart.
Thelma was the Deacon's 30-year-old, unmarried,
romantically frustrated daughter, who eventually began dating the handsome new
pastor; Casietta and Amelia chattering sisters who were members
of the Church board, and Rolly, the board's wise old voice of reason.
in later seasons included the marriage of Rolly to Thelma's great
aunt Leola in November 1987; Deacon Frye's "fantasy wedding" to colorful guest star Jackee
later that season; and the long-awaited moment when Thelma finally tied the
knot with the man of her dreams, Rev. Gregory, in February 1990. In the final season, Deacon Frye was appointed a judge so he could
wreak havoc in the courts too.
Younger faces on the show included a charismatic 12-year-old preacher, Rev. Johnny Tolbert
(played in several 1987 guest appearances by real-life child Minister Rev. William Hudson, III); 6-year-old parishioner
Chris, who was not shy about his opinions; and in the last season, a hip street kid and aspiring
rapper named Clarence, who was taken in by the Deacon and who who looked up to
final original episode was memorable. Deacon Frye staged a telethon to raise money to save the
Church, culminating in his wild imitation of James Brown - which was topped when
Brown himself walked on and launched into his patented "I Feel Good!"
His screams were echoed by screams offstage as an overdue Thelma went into labor
and gave birth to the Deacon's first grandchild.
Clifton Davis, best known as the star of the 1974 series, That's
My Mama, was also a
real-life minister. While appearing in the top-rated
Amen, he served as assistant
pastor at the Loma Linda, California Seventh-Day Adventist Church.