A spinoff of Maude, Good Times remains one of the most essential and controversial black television shows ever produced. Created by Cooley High writer Eric Monte, the show focused on the struggles of the Evans family, who lived in a Chicago housing project. Though no one ever came out and said it, the housing project was the notorious Cabrini-Green projects, where Monte grew up.
The main characters included working class parents James and Florida, and their three children. James Jr., or "J.J." was an animated toothpick; Thelma was the middle sibling; and socially conscious Michael was the youngest. The family was frequently visited by their neighbor Willona, who would later adopt abuse victim Penny (played by a very young Janet Jackson). Every now and then, superintendent Bookman would appear with his tool belt.
Good Times depicted a close-knit family that remained positive despite their difficult living conditions. The show was revered for its depiction of urban life, yet declined to portray African-Americans in a negative light—until J.J. turned into a caricature.
After his "Dy-no-mite!" catchphrase became a national fixation, the producers changed the show's direction to focus more on his moronic behavior than the Evans family itself. This did not sit well with leads John Amos and Esther Rolle. Disagreements about the show's direction and a contract dispute led to Amos' James Sr. character being written off of the show. In arguably (and unfortunately) the show's most famous moment, Florida yells, "Damn, damn, DAMN!" after learning that James has been killed in a car accident. Shortly after, Rolle left the show, leaving Willona to occasionally check on the children.
Rolle returned for the show's final season after bargaining with the showrunners, but by then the show's popularity had faded. Good Times lives on through hip-hop references and syndication. Its theme song was immortalized by Chappelle's Show's "I Know Black People" skit. Everybody wondered what the exact lyrics were, but nobody had ever come out and asked. But Dave did. Just another example of Chappelle's Show brilliance.