13 February 2006 | rcj5365
Brilliant spin off to a processor from the golden age of the 1970's TV
If there were a "Sitcom Hall Of Fame",for brilliance, the television series "The Jeffersons" would surely have a cherished spot as one of the best situation comedies of the 1970's. For the eleven and a half years that it ran on television,the series became one of CBS' longest-running shows of all time,right up there with "Frasier","Cheers",and even "M*A*S*H" and "Happy Days" for its longevity. From its premiere episode that aired on January 14,1975 to the final episode of the series on July 23,1986 it is amazing that the show survived during its astounding run on the air. The series cranked out more than 254 episodes during its run. It is also to note that "The Jeffersons" also was nominated for several Golden Globes and Emmys including a historic moment in the history of not only the show,but television itself. The series won the Emmy in 1981 for Isabel Sanford who in fact made history as being the first African-American woman to win for Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series and also for Sherman Hemsley as Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series as well,and for Marla Gibbs too who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.
It is no wonder that "The Jeffersons" is one of television's top fifty all time programs in the history of television and it is right up there with the best of the bunch of classic television shows. Need I say more? This was a spin off to "All In The Family" by the way since the series was created by Norman Lear,the man who was behind some of the greatest shows of that period including "All In The Family","Maude","Good Times", "One Day At A Time","Sanford and Son",and so much more. Out of all the shows that had a predominately African-American cast of that period,the series "The Jeffersons" was the better show out of the entire bunch. Only Norman Lear's other show "Good Times" comes in a close second. The reason? For one you saw a successful black family doing something positive and for the first time in television history a successful African-American with a successful business and living the high life on TV,but at the same time you got to see not only a white side of bigotry but a black side of that too. Sherman Hemsley's character of George Jefferson was just that.....the opposite side of Archie Bunker,a bigot on the opposite side of racial intolerance. It was kind of a reflex towards the opposite The Bunkers,who basically were still living on 704 Hauser Street in Queens while their once neighbors The Jeffersons were living it up in a deluxe apartment complex on New York's upper rich side toward Park Avenue in Manhattan.
However,the set-up of a African-American family living in the high part of town and having a successful business establishment was something totally different and new when it aired back in 1975 since it was very odd to see this and America was paying very close attention to this as well since African-Americans at that time were making strides toward racial equality during that period. You saw a married couple George and Louise Jefferson(Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford)living the good life with their son Lionel(played by Mike Evans and then by Damon Evans)while making the best of any situation that comes at them with ease,but with hilarious results. The next door neighbors Tom and Helen Willis (Franklin Cover and Roxie Roker)were a interracial couple with their young daughter Jenny(Belinda Tolbert)and also their son Allan(played by Jay Hammer during the 1978-79 season)whom The Jeffersons also had another neighbor across from them as well,like the British neighbor Mr. Bentley(Paul Benedict)and others that were in the same tenant building as well like George's overbearing mother(played by Zara Cully during the 1975-78 season)who comes by for a visit and causes chaos for Louise and others like Mr. Whittington and so forth like the doorman Ralph or Charlie the bartender whose bar is downstairs but in the same building. The best part of this series and basically who could give George a run for his money in a scolding match would be the Jeffersons' housekeeper Florence Johnson(Marla Gibbs). This is what kept the series going strong because of the brilliant comedy chemistry that Sherman Hemsley and Marla Gibbs had and the sparks flew within a funny rapport that kept audiences laughing hard. Oh yeah,I forgot that Isabel Sanford kept the laughs provided too as Louise and George get into one predicament after another. But the series showed its darker side too right along with the laughs and insults as well as the series explored issues that were relevant to the day's topics from interracial relationships,racism, women's rights,and civil rights were the order of the day and other issues were added in that at the time were too intense for television but they were handled with tact and dignity.
Several brilliant episodes of this series come to mind that were memorable including the one where The Jeffersons go to Hawaii;George being a secret Santa to a Harlem family who lived in his building;The night the Jeffersons remember the riots that engulf a nation back in 1968 during the looting of his store over the death of MLK;Louise and Helen opening a health center for a lonely girl who commits suicide;and the marriage of Lionel and Jenny,which George disapproves. The proudest moment of the series came during the arrival of Lionel and Jenny as parents and George & Louise become grandparents to a little baby girl.The saddest moment of the series when George learns the death of his beloved mother.
Speaking of this series,it is to note that five of the show's cast members have passed away but will be fondly remembered. Actor Sherman Hemsley who played businessman/family provider George Jefferson passed away in 2012. Zara Cully,who played Mother Jefferson;Roxie Roker who played Helen Willis;Isabel Sanford who played Louise Jefferson,and most recently Franklin Cover,Paul Benedict and Mike Evans.