The importance of the Jefferson’s begins and ends for me, as it does for most Black men, with the fact that George Jefferson is the only Black man in history to call a white man a ‘honky’ to his face and never lose his money, freedom, or life. All the other great stuff about the Jefferson’s becomes filler. It was great to see a brother “make it” on television through his own hard work and receive the proper credit. “I Spy” Bill Cosby did all the work and Robert Culp got the girls, although HILARIOUS “Sanford and Son” saw a Redd Foxx call a junk yard in Watts his “castle”, and Jimmy “JJ” Walker (well read one of my earlier post).
George didn’t get off clean, here you are in a high-rise apartment on New York’s Upper East Side, you hire a maid and she doesn’t respect you. CAN’T WIN!!! He did put some of the help in their place, when Ralph “The Doorman” held his hand out for a tip, George handled it in style look at it like “what you want some dap?” Unfortunately, it became ingrained in this country’s collective minds that Black men are horrible tippers, as a result I have to deal with bad service at a bar until I have been in there enough lay down an extra five before the bartenders realize “this guy tips well… but has a horrible drinking problem. He’s been in here 6 times this week and it’s Wednesday.”
When I see the Jefferson’s now and “Helen Willis” walks on the screen, I know somebody somewhere is saying “you know that’s Lenny Kravitz’ mom”. Then somebody responds “I thought Willona from Good Times was his mother”, always happens. Side note: Willona from Good Times sings the theme song for the Jefferson’s, put that in your mental Rolodex during your Thanksgiving Trivial Pursuit games (and show some respect her name is Ja’net Dubois, don’t be an ass and scream out “Ooooh Willon!” idiot!”). Speaking of Good Times… Good Times is the reason we had different “Lionels”. The original Lionel was Mike Evans (not the character Mike Evans you jag-off. If you look at the credits for Good Time Mike Evans is a writer) he left the show to write and produce Good Times. You know Good Times was like a virus, it infected everything in the 70’s.
The whole switching of the Lionels was handled poorly. Not that I needed them to try to find someone who looked just like the original (they at least found a brother with the same last name as the original brother, Damon Evans… file that in your Trivial Pursuit Rolodex too), but do some sly issh. When New Lionel walks out a writer couldn’t be slick and have Weezy say “Lionel you get a haircut? You look different”. When old Lionel comes back a writer couldn’t have him say “I was sick, took some medicine feel like my old self again”. At least let us know that you don’t think your audiences are complete fools.
With a character a strong as George Jefferson, it would have been easy for Sherman Helmsley to never do a bit of work and live off residuals for the rest of his days, but dude went on to another show a few years later, AMEN (That was the name of the show, not trying to imply it was God’s grace and mercy that allowed him to work again. Okay, it was that). Think about other Black male actors from the 70’s and 80’s, Garrett Morris of Saturday Night Live, he never even got a cameo part in any of his SNL partners movies (bruh didn’t even get a funny role in Car Wash). Jimmy “JJ” Walker… you ever see him in anything since? For a brother to be on TV in the 70’s and 80’s as much as Sherman Hemsley the police had to be looking for you or you had to running through an airport jumping over luggage and white children trying to get to your car rental… or both (If anyone gets this reference I will write 3 blogs of choice, any subject/topic).
It was nice that the producers gave some thought to what Louise Jefferson should do. Instead of being seen as a woman sitting at home and her husband being outside the house, they folded in responsibility outside the home for her. Louise and Helen ran the “Help Center”, a pretty generic title but well thought out. Since the producers commitment to what Louise did for a living was the give a name to place and not actually do an episode about it, with it being named the “Help Center” you knew she “helped” people… shove that up your butt Gloria Steinem! Yeah they had a couple of episodes where there was someone from the “Help Center” but that was when they couldn’t figure out which Lionel was which and instead of writing him into the show they would talk about the “Help Center” a bit. One more thing, nobody in his circle has ever thought about telling Lil’ Wayne to not refer to himself as “Weezy”… really? He has no friends.