Apr 13, 2024

The Netflix "Good Times" Sequel: Still stuck in the projects, still too skittish to admit that gay people exist


When I was a kid in the 1970s, we gathered in front of the tv almost every night from 7 to 9 pm: my parents, my brother and sister, often a friend or two.  But we weren't staring empty-eyed, becoming brain-dead. We were reading, playing, doing homework, and talking.  It was family time. I still tear up when I hear, or think of, the theme songs.

One Day at a Time: This is it.  This is life, the one you get, so go and have a ball.  This is it, rest assured you can't be sure at all... 

Alice: There's a new girl in town, and she's looking good.  There's fresh freckle face in the neighborhood. Things are great when you stand on your own two feet...

And Good Times: Anytime you make a payment.  Anytime you meet a friend.  Anytime you're out from under, not getting hassled, not getting hustled....ain't we lucky we got 'em...good times.

And they were good times.

It was the story of an impoverished black family living in "the projects," probably Cabrini Green in Chicago: Dad James (John Amos, known as the adult Kunta Kinte on Roots), Mom Florida (Esther Rolle); goofy, artistic JJ (Jimmie Walker); driven, intellectual Thelma (Bern Nadette Stanis), and black activist Michael (Ralph Carter, top photo, a major crush).  

I don't remember many plotlines: in those days you could only see an episode when it aired, so you missed a lot, and those you saw, you saw once and never again.  But I remember that JJ and Michael shared a bed, fueling my early-teen gay vibes; and Michael was usually dour and depressed, beat down by the institutional racism that would inform his life, just as I was beat down by the incessant "what girl do you like?" interrogations.  

The show had a lot off-stage problems.  Both John Amos and Ester Rolle disapproved of increasingly buffonish, mistrel-like direction that JJ's character was taking, and wondered why the Evans couldn't move out of the projects into a nice working class home. They were both written out.  But the story had a happy-ish ending, with the family moving on up: JJ a professional comic book artist, Thelma married to a pro-football player, and Michael in college.  

After the curtain fell on the Evans family, we moved on to other programs, and didn't think of them often.  In West Hollywood, I saw John Amos at the gym regularly, but we never actually spoke  Jimmie Walker came out rather vocally against gay marriage. Ralph Carter was living with HIV, but didn't say anything in public for fear that people would think he was gay.  

Eventually those of us who watched as kids and teenagers were approaching retirement age, and most of the adults were gone. This is it -- this is life, the one you get, so go and have a ball.  Then for some reason, Netflix decided to run a ten-episode animated sequel, set in the same Cabrini Green-ish housing project, starring Reggie Evans (JB Smoove), the grandson of the original James Evans, so either JJ or Michael's son.  But JJ became a famous artist, and Michael went to university -- they escaped the cycle of poverty.  

His wife Beverly is scheming social climber - in the projects?  They have an artist son, Junior (Jay Pharaoh, left); a social activist daughter, Grey; and instead of Michael, a drug-dealing baby, Dalvin (Slink Johnson).

Before the first episode aired, BernNadette Stanis, who played Thelma, was complaining because none of the original cast were involved, and because they pitched the show as progressive, but it wasn't progressive at all.

The Hollywood Reporter called it "Coarse and unpleasant..with none of the warmth and charm that defined Good Times

But I won't shun the new Good Times without at least watching the trailer.

Scene 1:
Cabrini Green, with the wacky, slanted building style that one sees in old cartoons.  We cut to the family in their living room. Grey has great news. Junior asks if that the state is going to pay her disability due to her ugliness. Reggie kicks himself for not wearing condoms.   

Scene 2: While playing pool, Reggie tells us about Grandfather James, but skips his own father -- is it JJ or Michael?  We cut to him beating up Grey's boyfriend. 

Scene 3: Junior is repeating 10th grade for the third time. Mama just wants him educated enough to get a job "on the drive-through." Teacher suggests monetizing his feet for fetishists.  Gross.

Scene 4: Mom prays to Black Jesus. We cut to heaven, where he is playing video games.  God hands him the phone. 

Scene 5: Reggie is happy because he doesn't have "that drug-dealing baby" to deal with anymore.  We see the baby in his carriage, selling drugs to a big-breasted women.  He drools with hetero-horniness.  Ugh!  Even the baby is hetero-horny?  

Scene 6: Rats run through garbage as a woman complains that Reggie's neighborhood is a shit-hole.  "It's the system. They put the guns and drugs on the street."  In fact, government-looking white guys are carrying baskets full of guns and drugs into the project.

Scene 7: Montage of a girl taking off her top while Junior gawks, a woman pointing a gun at the baby, Grey pole-dancing with big-butt women; a well-dressed prostitute delighting her coworkers with her bling; a naked woman's butt being slapped; Reggie being electrocuted at a museum; and the prostitute yelling "Dynomite!", JJ's catchphrase on the old show.  Reggie: "We're just as good as the Evans of old." But you have 10 times more objectification of women's bodies, and you're still too skittish to admit that gay people exist.

Scene 8: At the dinner table, Junior asks "What about the struggle?" Grey shrugs: "We're black.  It will be here tomorrow."

But I won't be watching.

See also: John Amos: The guy from Roots and Good Times naked at the gym

This F*king Town; with some celebrities I hooked up with,.um, I mean met

No comments:

Post a Comment

No offensive, insulting, racist, or homophobic comments are permitted.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...