Esther Rolle left the after the 1976-1977 season due to her displeasure with the what she saw as the character of J.J. being a bad role model for young blacks. She returned at the beginning of the 1978-1979 season after the producers guaranteed that they would make J.J. a more respectable character.
Jimmie Walker was only seven and a half years younger than John Amos who played his father. Although James and Florida were supposed to be close in age, Amos was 19 years younger than Esther Rolle, though it was implied that James was older than Florida.
Although the show was a spin-off from the sitcom Maude (1972), there were no actual references to that show or its characters. On that series, Florida was employed as Maude Findlay's housekeeper in suburban New York and her husband Henry was employed as a firefighter. On Good Times (1974), Florida and her husband James live in Chicago and there is no mention of their previous jobs, James ever going by the name Henry or them ever having lived in New York. In fact, Florida and neighbor Willona Woods are longtime friends and are believed to have lived in Chicago for several years. However, in one episode Florida did mention that she was maid.
Mike Evans left his role (as Lionel) on "The Jeffersons" in order to work behind-the-scenes as a writer for "Good Times". When "Good Times" ended in 1979, Evans returned to "The Jeffersons". During his absence from "The Jeffersons", the role of Lionel was played by Damon Evans (no relation to Mike Evans).
The setting for the show was implied to be the Cabrini Green Housing Projects on Chicago's North Side. Exterior shots of the buildings are featured in the opening and closing credits but the name was never stated on the show. On 30 March 2011, the last of the Cabrini Green High Rises was knocked down.
Norman Lear hired artist Ernie Barnes to paint the pictures which J.J. used in the show. Barnes' work displays elongated African-American subjects in everyday scenes. Eddie Murphy owns the original "The Sugar Shack" painting by Barnes.
During the first three seasons that John Amos was with the show, the closing credits showed a portrait of the Evans family painted by J.J. After Amos was killed off, a mural that J.J. painted for the local bank was shown. During the final season, a painting of the cast was shown during the opening credits and it morphed into a live shot of the cast.
For the first couple seasons Good Times and Happy Days were scheduled at the same time, on Tuesday nights at 8pm EST, so they were in direct competition with each other. Good Times was the champ during the first two years, and Happy Days was slated for cancelation. Then Happy Days was retooled in part to copy some of the strong points of Good Times: Good Times had a flamboyant teen idol ladies man type character at it' s core who used lot of catch phrases ( JJ). So Happy Days decided to copy the same format, pushing Fonzie, its teen idol, into the center of the show, giving him lots of catch phrases to compete with Dynomite, like "Ayyyy!" and "coolimundo!". The changes worked: Happy Days jumped to number 1 in the ratings, crushing the competition Good Times.
It is a coincidence that co-creator Mike Evans has the same name as the character Michael Evans played by Ralph Carter. When Evans and Eric Monte created the series, they had not yet come up with a last name for the family. Executive producer Norman Lear decided to make the main character Florida Evans from his series Maude (1972).
While the writers provided the show's storylines, dialogue was usually a collaboration between writers and cast. During table reads of scripts, the cast would review the draft dialogue and "darken it up", as they recalled later.
Black Panther activists confronted Norman Lear in his Tandem Productions office about the negativity of Good Times. They asked him why the characters had to live in a slum, be so poor, be so afflicted by crime and perpetuate so many stereotypes about the black experience. This eventually led to the creation of "The Jeffersons," a show that attempted to show a black family in a more positive, upwardly mobile light.
Esther complained about the JJ character to Ebony Magazine in 1975: "He's 18 and he doesn't work. 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 JJ more stupid and they have enlarged the role. Negative images have been slipped in on us through the character of the oldest child". Jimmie Walker responded to this quote in his autobiography, "Dynomite! Good Times! Bad Times! Our Times": " Ouch! Talk about black on black crime!"
The show was originally supposed to have Esther Rolle raising the family by herself, but Rolle insisted that this was stereotypical and that there should be a father. So they created the character of James. Ironically, James gets killed during the course of the show and the Evanses become a single parent family anyway.
'Ralph Carter' was appearing in the stage musical "Raisin" when he joined the cast; the producers bought out his contract. During the show's first season, he was credited as appearing "courtesy of Raisin".
Sitcom stars recording hit albums is a long storied tradition in Hollywood, dating back to Ricky Nelson on "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" in the 1950s, but Good Times and Diff'rent Strokes star Janet Jackson has done it most successfully, scoring 35 number one hits from her albums over the years.
If you listen to the lyrics, with all it's bluesy wailing about hard times and struggles of day to day life in the ghetto, Good Times can be interpreted as being an ironic title. The toughness, the darkness and the negativity of a lot of the scripts and episode plot lines support this as well. (It's more about the bad times).
Among J.J.'s many girlfriends, the ones that were mentioned the most were Henrietta, "Boom Boom" Belinda, Francine "The Furnace" and Samantha "the Human Panther". Henrietta played by Tina Andrews, Samantha played by Debbi Morgan, and Diana Buchanan played by Debbie Allen were the only ones that appeared on-screen
The inside of the bathroom of the Evans' apartment was only shown in 2 episodes. Both times dealt with the same issue. The first time was in Season 2 episode 'Sometimes There's No Bottom in the Bottle ', when their alcoholic cousin Naomi came to visit. The second time was in Season 6 episode 'The Evans Dilemma ' , when Keith became angry and depressed and started drinking.
In 1997, on The Wayans Brothers episode 'Unspoken Token ', Bernnadette Stanis, Johnny Brown, and Ja'Net DuBois all reprised their roles. Shawn ( Shawn Wayans) dreams that he's JJ in an episode of Good Times. Ja'Net DuBois also had a recurring role as Shawn and Marlon's grandmother on the show.
In his autobiography "Dynomite! Good Times! Bad Times! Our Times" Jimmie Walker says that Norman Lear was deeply hurt by the all the backlash from the show; that many in the black community saw the show and the JJ character in particular as nothing more than a perpetuation of negative stereotypes.
"Dy-no-mite!" became such a popular catch phrase as a result of Jimmie Walker and Good Times, that it led to the creation of Dynamite the popular children's magazine, which was published from 1974 to 1992. Jimmie Walker appeared on the cover in April of 1975.
Good Times and Make Room For Daddy have one thing in common. Ironically, they both were two shows that consisted having a parent being killed off after three seasons as a result of the actress/actor leaving the series. About two decades apart. Jean Hagen as Margaret Williams on Make Room For Daddy in 1956 and John Amos as James Evans on Good Times in 1976.
Norman Lear saw Gary Coleman in a bank commercial and was determined to develop a vehicle for him, so he showcased him on both Good Times and The Jeffersons as a way of testing potential pilots for him. Eventually Lear teamed up Coleman with a couple other Tandem production veterans, Conrad Bain (Maude) and Charlotte Rae (All in the Family), and together they starred in Norman Lear's Different Strokes.
Chip Fields auditioned for the role of Thelma Evans, but didn't get it. The producers kept her in mind though and later she was cast as Penny's abusive mother. Eventually Chip's daughter Kim was featured on the show as a friend of Penny's and one of the students Florida was driving her school bus for. Kim would then go on shortly after that to star in another Norman Lear/Tandem production, The Facts of Life.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
John Amos was fired from the series after the third season after comments he made about the backstage fights in an interview. His character was one of the first comedy sitcom characters to ever be killed off.