Times was a spin-off from Maude, which
in turn was a spin-off from All in the
Family. Florida Evans was originally Maude Findlay's maid until, in the
spring of 1974, she got
a show of her own. Florida
and James Evans were lower-middle-class blacks living with their three children in a high-rise
the South Side of Chicago. J.J. was the
oldest (17 when the series started), Thelma was a year younger than he, and Michael
was 10. Trying
to make ends meet on the erratic income provided by James, who was always in and
out of jobs, made life difficult, but there was plenty of love in the family. J.J. was an accomplished
amateur painter who, though going to trade school, was always looking for
some get-rich-quick scheme that would help get him and his family out of
the ghetto. He formed a rock group, managed a young comic, and tried various
other money-making ideas after he got out of school. He did manage to earn
money with his painting and was also quite popular with the girls, something his
mother viewed with mixed emotions. His
catchphrase "Dy-No-Mite" became very popular in the mid-1970's.
Florida's neighbor and best friend was Willona Woods.
the start of the 1976-1977 season, there was a major change in the cast. James found
a job working as a partner in a garage in Mississippi when he was killed
in an auto accident. The entire family, which had been planning to move
to their new home and start a new life, was now fatherless. J.J. became
the man of the house and was even more determined to find a way out of
the ghetto for his family, whether by means that were entirely legal or not. Some of his schemes became
shady. Meanwhile, Florida found a new man in her life in the spring of 1977, in
the person of Carl
Dixon, the owner of a small appliance repair shop. They were married during
the summer of 1977 (though the wedding was not seen), and in the fall were referred to on the show as being
"on their honeymoon."
Series star Esther
Rolle had become disenchanted with the role model for young blacks provided by J.J.'s
"jive-talking," woman-chasing, less-than-honest character and, on the pretense of
illness, left the series prior to the start of the 1977-1978 season. In
the story line, Carl had developed lung cancer and he and Florida were
living in a Southern location that was better for his health. Friend and
neighbor Willona became a surrogate mother to the Evans household.
Little Penny Gordon, a victim of child abuse, became Willona's adopted
daughter. J.J. was working full-time at a small ad agency, a job he had gotten
during the 197601977 season, and Bookman, the building
superintendent, became a more prominent member of the cast.
following fall Esther Rolle returned to the cast (sans Carl or any explanation
on what had happened to him), with the promise that J.J. would be a more respectable
character, and daughter Thelma married football star Keith Anderson. J.J.,
who was paying for the wedding, had lost his job at the advertising agency when a business
slowdown forced them to lay him off. He had to borrow money from loan shark
Sweet Daddy to pay for the wedding and, to make matters worse, accidentally
tripped Keith during the ceremony, resulting in a leg injury that jeopardized
Keith's million-dollar pro-football contract. Money was hard to come by,
and the newlyweds were living in the Evans apartment while Keith recuperated.
Though depressed by his physical problems, Keith drove a taxi to help out,
while Florida got a job as a school-bus driver and J.J. taught art at home.
With falling ratings, Good
Times was pulled from the CBS schedule in December. It returned in the
spring and, in
the last original episode (there were no reruns aired in the last season), everything worked out
for the series principals. Keith got his big contract
as a running back and moved into his own place with Thelma, who was expecting
their first child; J.J. sold the comic strip he had developed to a syndicate
for a healthy advance; and neighbor Willona got promoted to head buyer at
the clothing boutique where she worked.