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This was a very good series by the way,recapturing most of the
characters from the original "What's Happening!" series that ran for
three seasons in prime-time for ABC airing from 1976 to 1979 and
produced 65 episodes. The spin-off to the original show titled "What's
Happening Now!"(lasted three seasons in first run syndication producing
66 episodes airing from September 7,1985 until March 26,1988 that aired
mostly weekday afternoons in large syndication markets throughout its
run) follows the gang years later and this time around the three main
characters have all grown up and living successful lives. Raj(Ernest
Thomas) is a writer who is married to his college sweetheart Nadine
(Anne-Marie Johnson) and trying to pursue his career as a writer while
his two buddies Rerun(Fred Berry) and Dewayne(Haywood Nelson) are
sharing a bachelor apartment. Rerun by the way is working as an used
car salesman while Dewayne is a computer programmer for a huge
technology firm. And as for Shirley(Shirley Hemphill),she now owns and
operates Rob's Soda Shop where the gang used to go as kids,but now
Shirley is also the manager of the establishment where Raj sometimes
works as her assistant manager. And Raj's bratty sister Dee(Danielle
Spencer) from the original series is all grown up and is going to
school at the nearby university where Raj graduated from who comes home
and helps out around the house.
This syndicated program was on loosely based on Eric Monte's 1975 theatrical picture "Cooley High" and was also based on the original mid- 1970's television series "What's Happening!" that was based on three African-American teenagers living in South Los Angeles. "What's Happening Now!" is based on these teens now grown adults in the mid- 1980's Los Angeles. Eric Monte is the creative force behind this series as serves as executive producer. It is still showed in some markets around the country and it is one of the many black sitcoms from the decade that featured African-Americans in prominent roles. Not to mention the antics and sarcastic one-liners were reminiscent of the original series with Danielle Spencer appearing in recurring roles.
The first two seasons of this show were very good bringing back the cast from the original series which consisted of actors Ernest Thomas,Fred Berry,Haywood Nelson,Shirley Hemphill,and Danielle Spencer,and in some episodes Thalmus Rasulala as Raj and Dee's biological father from the original series. Also added to the mix are Raj's wife Nadine,played by Anne-Marie Johnson,and their adopted daughter Carolyn played by Reina King(sister of actress Regina King). Reina King and Fred Berry were with the series for its only first season.
By the show's last two seasons,the producers who were behind this series basically eliminated important characters on the show leaving Ernest Thomas,Haywood Nelson,Danielle Spencer,and Shirley Hemphill,and Anne- Marie Johnson onward throughout the show's entire run,but what they did to Fred Berry's character of Rerun was wrong----dead wrong--because "What's Happening!" wouldn't be the same without Rerun cause Fred Berry was part of the show!!! Fred Berry quit the series after the first season due to conflict problems with the producers. The writers who were behind the series removed Fred Berry's character of Rerun from the show altogether(a practice referred to as "The Chuck Cunningham Syndrome")where an important character was dropped from a series and was treated like they never existed. Berry believed his was the only reason viewers were tuned in each week and it showed in the first season of the series.
What they did in the show's final two seasons(1986-1988) was bring in new characters to the mix including a teenage looking Martin Lawrence,who was at the time starting out before he became a huge success. Also added to this was Ken Sagoes as part of the crew. Martin Lawrence and Ken Sagoes replaced Fred Berry and Reina King at the start of the second and third and final seasons. However,the show was very good as a spin off,but towards the end it had some problems along the way,but in all was a great series. Shortly after the series ended in 1988,all 66 episodes were added to the previous show's syndication package continuing on many local stations across the United States in a on-again,off-again manner until 2009.
Even though this was a pretty decent series, it was not as good as the original. You do get to see how Roger, Rerun and Dwayne turned out as the reached adulthood, but unfortunately they do not get into as much mischief as they used to. Also, Dee is a more mature young lady and is not the spoiled brat she was when she was younger. But perhaps the main thing that was missing was Mabel King, who played Roger's mother. She was pretty much the centering influence who was there with advice for Roger and the guys.
I was addicted to the first series so when syndication came up with the brilliant idea of bringing back the original gang. I was thrilled. The show came back with the same gang including Raj, Dwayne, Rerun, Dee, and Shirley. It was a shame that Mabel King who played Mama Thomas never returned to the show. I felt her departure from the first series left it a little emptier. She was a great character as Mama Thomas. I would have been thrilled to see her return to the second series. Anyway, you can only ask for so much. I was happy to see Ann Marie Johnson playing Raj's wife. She is an accomplished actress before this show and afterwards as well. Anyway, the show was never hard hitting. Of course, the renovation of Rob's Soda Shop was quite drastic to the original place. What's Happening Now remained the same about the group of friends who grew up together and the friendship among them. That was the glue that kept the show together was the friendship. Even now, I think about Shirley and the gang.
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