‘Good Times’: Was Michael Evans Written to Be Less ‘Militant’ in the Show’s Later Seasons?
One of the most important sitcoms ever, Good Times is known for having very notable and specific characters on the show. However, one of these characters was written differently as the seasons went on.
‘Good Times’ is one of the most iconic sitcoms of all-time
Good Times, was a spinoff of Maude and Maude was a spinoff of All in the Family. The show is credited as being the first two-parent Black family sitcom on television. The show aired 1974 to 1979 and stayed on television for six seasons. It starred John Amos, Esther Rolle, Ja’Net Dubois, Bernadette Stanis, Ralph Carter, Jimmie Walker, and Janet Jackson.
After a few seasons, both Rolle and Amos would end up leaving the show after having issues with its direction (particularly with the J.J. character) that were in conflict with the show’s producers. While Rolle ended up returning to the show as a series regular before its end but Amos’ character was killed off in the third season.
“The truth of it was, when the show first started, we had no African-American writers on the show,” Amos said on Sway in the Morning several years ago. “And some of the attitudes they had written, as per my character, and frankly for some of the other characters as well, caused me to say ‘Uh uh, we can’t do this, we can’t do that.’”
The writing for Michael Evans began to change as the character and actor Ralph Carter started to get older
All of the Evans kids, Thelma (Stanis), JJ (Walker), and Michael (Carter) has distinct personalities. Michael was known for being very pro-Black and a young activist. He even pushes progressive thoughts on his parents and makes them think outside of the box.
However, the character was only like this for the first few seasons and the characterization shifted later in the show. This is something that film/television critic and historian Karen Burroughs Hannsberry talked about in an interview with getTV.
“When you’re having “militant” thoughts come out of an 8-year-old, that’s funny,” she explained. “That’s cute. But when that person is 15, and old enough to put some action behind the militancy, it’s not so funny. I don’t think they could have this young man — because that’s what he became — saying the same kinds of things that little Michael had said.”
Walker is noted as once saying “Ralph Carter faded on us,” as the character began to dim as time went on. Even outside of the “militant” thoughts, the general spunky things that Michael would usually say were now given to the new younger character, Penny.
Hannsberry explained that this was bound to happen once the character was written differently.
“I can see why he faded,” she continued. “What did he have? That was his whole thing, his niche. When you take that away, he didn’t have an identity anymore. There was nothing to base episodes or situations on.”