The Jeffersons was, and is an extremely popular TV show from the 70’s and 80”s about a black family making to the top in New York City. (Jeffersons p.1) The show began its run in 1975, and lasted an amazing 10 years to 1985. (p.2) The Jeffersons is 24th highest rated show of all time. (p.2) The show was first introduced on the sitcom All in the Family then, in 1982, the producers decided to create the sitcom The Jeffersons. There were many memorable episodes. Such as the episode where George is mugged and stabbed and the one where Louise witnesses a murder on Halloween and is then cornered by the murder. (p.2) The Martin Luther King Assassination was also another unforgettable episode. (p.3)
George and his wife, Louise, lived in a middle class apartment in Queens. This sitcom, through comedy and some dramatic episodes, shows how an African American family makes it from nothing to the top. It also holds many memorable moment s that are relevant to the time of change for African Americans. George and Louise Jefferson started out with nothing, living with George’s mother. Louise was working as a maid, and George was working off and on, whenever he could. (Jeffersons p.1) After hearing about starting his own business they moved to the Queens with their son, Lionel. Soon after George became successful he was often called “the black Archie Bunker”. He started out with nothing, and moved to the top, being owner of the successful “Jefferson Cleaners”, with seven stores. (p.1) The best friends of the Jefferson’s were the Willies, an interracial couple from a downstairs apartment. They had a daughter, Jenny, who later married Lionel. The Jeffersons brought many funny episodes to the screen as well as light episodes, and ones that would almost make you cry. (p.1)
The Jeffersons first aired in 1975 during a time the world was going through desegregation. Although the “rule of desegregation” had been past, there was and still is a lot of unnecessary racism. “This show was one of the first shows to feature an interracial couple, the Jefferson’s best friends, Tom Willis being white and Helen Willis being black. (p.2) (In real life Helen, played by Roxie Kravitz, was really married to a white man.) George shows a little negativity when his son marries a mixed woman by making wise cracks about light skin people. This attitude brings more of a real life experience to the show by having conflict but unlike real life endings, with a peaceful conclusion. George shortly cut back on the white jokes after his granddaughter was born, Jessica. America will always remember the theme song of The Jefferson’s, “Movin’ On Up”. Some of the lines are “We’ve finally got a piece of the pie”, “Fish don’t fry in the kitchen”, “Took a whole lottta tryin’ just to get up that that hill”, and “As long as we live, It’s you and me baby”. (p.2) This song is also heard on Burger King commercials. I suggest that the producers of this show are trying to show “black middle-class visibility and achievement” through the characters, scripts, and song. (African-American Culture p.133).
In conclusion, one can say that The Jeffersons are an example of the “Black American Dream”. Being one of the first sitcoms to have an interracial couple they had very high ratings. I have always enjoyed this show because it shows how one can succeed if they try hard enough.Like most TV sitcoms, The Jeffersons always had a happy ending. Since, TV is Americas number one influence maybe it showed America the change of freedom for all is for the better. Herman Gray said it best. “One message of these representations of success and failure if that middle-class blacks succeed because they take advantage of available opportunities while poor blacks of our society fail because they do not.” The Jeffersons started out with nothing and moved to the top because they did take advantage of an opportunity that led them to be successful.
Paul Benedict as Harry Bentley
Berlinda Tolbert as Jenny Willis Jefferson
Mike Evans as Lionel Jefferson (until 1976)
Damon Evans as Lionel Jefferson (1976-79)
Zara Cully as Olivia Jefferson, George’s Mother
Jay Hammer as Alan Willis, Jenny’s Brother
Ned Wertimer as Ralph the Doorman
Danny Wells as Charlie the Bartender
Hemphill, B. (1998). African-American Culture. New York: Longman.