Today, we honor Carl Weathers by spotlighting his TV debut in a classic Good Times episode.
This is “All the Best Things,” a spotlight on the best TV episodes, movies, albums, etc.
This is a Year of Great TV Episodes, where every day this year, we’ll take a look at great TV episodes. Note that I’m not talking about “Very Special Episodes” or episodes built around gimmicks, but just “normal” episodes of TV shows that are notable only because of how good they are.
All this month, I’ll be spotlighting great Black-centric TV episodes.
I was always planning on featuring a Good Times episode, but I’ll admit that this was not the one that I was going to feature, and honestly, it wouldn’t even be in my top ten Good Times episodes, but it IS a legitimately funny episode, and, well, come on, the great Carl Weathers sadly passed away, and his TV debut happened to be in this episode of Good Times, so I thought it was just too on point to not spotlight this one.
This actually brings me to a point about this month. There will be more episodes like yesterday’s East Side/West Side episode, about the awful aspects of racism, but I think it is important in a month celebrating great Black-centric TV episodes that we get that there are just as many great JOYFUL Black-centric TV episodes as there are serious and dark great Black-centric episodes, and so I want you all to know that this isn’t going to be 28 odes to bleakness. That’s why shows like Good Times and The Jeffersons are so important. They’re often good TV shows that, yes, do often touch on serious subjects (the episode I was going to feature of Good Times was a brilliant one where John Amos’ James Evans reacts to a gang member shooting James Jr, played by Jimmie Walker), but also had just happy or wacky plots, too, and that’s cool, as well. I was going to use a funny Jeffersons episode today, but instead, in honor of Weathers, I’ll do a funny wacky episode of Good Times instead.
As you might all know, one of the best parts of Good Times was also its worst part, which is the breakout success of Walker as James “JJ” Evans, the oldest child in the Evans family, which is a family living in the projects in Chicago (Amos and Esther Rolle played the parents, James and Florida Evans). Walker was a charismatic and funny actor, but the success of J.J. took the show from its early, grounded period, to a bit of a sort of hacky period by the end of the series (Amos and Rolle were both disgusted at how the show started to center on J.J.’s buffoonish behavior). JJ became a cartoon character, and it really dragged the series down (although it found some great moments with the introduction of Janet Jackson’s Penny character later on). Early on, though, the show fought its damndest (aided by Walker himself, who didn’t WANT to become a cartoon character – it was just hard to say no when the show kept wanting to center itself around his antics) to keep J.J. as grounded as possible. One notable example is that Walker insisted on only using his catchphrase, “Dy-no-mite!” once per episode, while the producers wanted to run that thing into the ground (much like Happy Days eventually would with all of its ridiculous catchphrases).
So this Season 2 episode, “The Nude,” had J.J. at his wacky, but still relatively restrained, greatness, as a beautiful woman in the building (Betty A. Bridges) is willing to pay J.J. $50 to paint her portrait as a gift for her husband. She wants a nude portrait, but Florida convinces her that a painting of her in a swimsuit would be better, and she agrees.
However, after J.J. is finished painting her, the husband shows up, as he believes she is cheating on him, although he can’t believe she’d cheat on him with a gawky teenager like J.J. The husband, of course, was Weathers, making his TV debut…
Weathers is funny in the scene, showing his shock at who his wife is cheating on him with. In the end, though, he is thrilled when he learns it was all just about his wife getting a present for him, and things end on a high note.
Amos was hilarious in the episode as a man who found J.J.’s model very attractive, as well, much to the consternation of his wife, Florida.
RIP, Carl Weathers, you were a great actor.
Okay, if I’m going to have 333 more of these (and 26 more this month), I could use suggestions, so feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!