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Why John Amos Left Good Times

Why John Amos Left Good Times

By Billy Ingram

Good Times TV show castCreated by Eric Monte (Cooley High) and Mike Evans (Lionel on The Jeffersons), developed by executive producer Norman Lear (All In The Family), Good Times is a rare spinoff of a spinoff - All In The Family begat Maude then Maude begat Good Times. The series aired for six seasons on CBS, from February 8, 1974, to August 1, 1979. This was the first African American two-parent family sitcom in TV history.

In fact, star Ester Rolle refused to consider leaving a hit sitcom like Maude to do Good Times unless the Evans family had a mother and a father, the network wanted her to depict a single working gal raising kids in the ghetto.

There were problems almost from the start. Once the J.J. Evans character became a massive breakout superstar, Rolle and John Amos grew increasingly unhappy with the direction of the series. J.J.'s spastic antics ("Kid Dyn-o-mite!!!") reminded them too much of the stereotypically buffoonish depiction of blacks found all too often on TV and movies, what the top billed co-stars wanted at all costs to avoid.

"He's 18 and he doesn't work," Ester Rolle told Ebony magazine in 1975. "He can't read or write. He doesn't think. The show didn't start out to be that... Little by little—with the help of the artist, I suppose, because they couldn't do that to me—they have made J.J. more stupid and enlarged the role. Negative images have been slipped in on us through the character of the oldest child."

Throughout seasons two and three, John Amos was especially vocal on the set about what he saw as a bait and switch with Good Times rapidly becoming the opposite of the concept the network agreed to.

"The differences we had on that show," Amos told the Archive of American Television, "We had a number of differences, as evidenced by my early departure from the show, was that I felt there were two other younger children who aspired to become a Supreme Court Justice, that would be Ralph Carter, Michael, and the other, BernNadette Stanis I think aspired to become a surgeon. And the differences I had with the producers of the show was that I felt too much emphasis was being put on J.J. and his chicken hat and 'Dynamite' every third page when just as much emphasis and mileage could have been gotten out of my other two children and the concomitant jokes and humor that could have come out of that."

Amos was fired after season three due to these heated disagreements with Norman Lear, writers actually killed off his character to guarantee he couldn't return. Amos says, "I wasn't the most diplomatic guy, like I said, in those days and they got tired of having their lives threatened over jokes so they said, 'I'll tell you what, what if we kill him off and we'll all get on with our lives? Life's too short. So that taught me a lesson, that I wasn't as important as I thought I was to the show or to Norman Lear's plan."

At the end of season 4, Ester Rolle also left Good Times. Ratings went into free fall, the series no longer had an anchor, just a rudderless cast of characters.

In an attempt to save the series, Rolle returned with the season six premiere episode after producers agreed to a number of her demands: more money, higher quality scripts, and making J.J. a more responsible character. Her return didn't reverse the lousy ratings so Good Times was cancelled during that 1978–79 season.

In 2016, there was talk that the remaining core cast — John Amos, Jimmie Walker, Ja’net Du Bois, BernNadette Stanis, and Ralph Carter — were open to a motion picture updating the Evans family into the present day, a Kickstarter campaign was started for the project but nothing came of it.

Watch the entire video on why John Amos left Good Times...

 


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Why John Amos Left Good Times

DID YOU KNOW:
Michael Evans played Lenny in the cast of the 1976-1977 Danny Thomas situation comedy The Practice during its second and final season.


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