Another classic Norman Lear sitcom is getting revived, but this time in a whole new format. And, uh, with a couple of unexpected producers.
Good Times, the ‘70s hit that gave the world J.J. Evans and his shouts of “DY-NO-MITE!”, will return as a new animated series for Netflix. The Evans family will remain the focus, but it’ll be set in the present day, and deal with contemporary issues facing society (which, in many depressing instances, probably won’t be all that different from issues facing society back in the ‘70s). And along with Norman Lear, the original’s producer, the new show will be produced by basketball great Steph Curry and Family Guy creator / vanity crooner) Seth MacFarlane. Carl Jones, who’s worked on The Boondocks, Black Dynamite, The Last O.G. and more, is the show’s creator and showrunner.
The original Good Times started as a serious-minded comedy about a poor Black family living in a Chicago housing project modeled on Cabrini-Green Homes. The Maude spinoff (which was itself an All in the Family spinoff) starred Esther Rolle and John Amos as Florida and James Evans, with Jimmie Walker playing J.J., the oldest of their three kids. J.J. was initially the pure comic relief in a show that explored the struggles of poverty in America in the ‘70s, but he became so popular that he shifted the gravity of the whole series. Like the Fonz on Happy Days and Urkel on Family Matters, J.J. came to dominate Good Times, undermining its original ambitions and turning it into a goofy family sitcom with what was essentially a living cartoon character as its focus. Openly disappointed with the show’s changes, both Rolle and Amos left at different points, although Rolle returned for the last season.
Like a lot of Norman Lear shows, those early episodes of Good Times still hold much of their power today. If you were raised on the sitcoms of the ‘80s, ‘90s and ‘00s—shows that rarely ever dealt with serious issues outside of maudlin, self-important “very special episodes”—the candor and seriousness of Lear’s sitcoms can be jarring. And with animation often able to pull off more trenchant satire and commentary than live-action, perhaps the new version will hone in more on the original show’s early concept and less on the Jimmie Walker star vehicle that it became.
Also, again, if you missed it: Steph Curry, the three-point king, is producing this show. With the American Dad guy. And almost 100-year-old living legend Norman Lear. It’s the weirdest group of producers you’ll ever see.
There’s no word on when the show will start, or how many episodes it’ll have, or who’ll be doing the voices. I predict a lot of people will be bummed if Walker isn’t involved somehow—as well as Janet Jackson, who starred in the last few seasons when she was very young. We were provided with quotes from the various producers, including Steph Curry and his producing partner Erick Peyton. Try to imagine Curry saying this: “We are so excited about this project! Unanimous [Curry and Peyton’s production company] is all about authentic partnerships and this team felt genuine from the beginning. Good Times strives to remind us that with the love of our family we can overcome any obstacle. We think, now more than ever, the world needs to see a show with hope and positivity.”