×

Why ‘Black-ish’ Is Paying Tribute to ‘Good Times’ in Its Season 2 Finale

As it did with its first-season finale, ABC’s “Black-ish” is closing out its second season with a high-concept episode. Variety has a set of exclusive pictures from “Good-ish Times,” and spoke to creator Kenya Barris about the genesis and production of the episode, which airs May 18.

In the finale, a stressed-out Dre (Anthony Anderson) falls asleep during a marathon of “Good Times” episodes, and in his dream, the Johnson family turns into the Evans clan from the classic Norman Lear sitcom of the ‘70s.

Taking on the task of paying homage to “Good Times” was not without its challenges, Barris said. Not only is he a huge fan of Lear and highly influenced by that show in particular, “Black-ish” shot this special episode at the end of a production cycle, a time in which a cast and crew’s energy can sometimes flag.

As it happened, the unusual finish ended up being a positive thing for the cast and crew, Barris said. “Because we knew we were going to try to go out big, it added a little bit of energy when we were sort of dragging,” Barris said. “There’s a little bit of fun happening. It’s almost like a wrap party.”

Another challenge presented itself when Tracee Ellis Ross, who plays Rainbow Johnson, lost her voice during the rehearsal process.

“We shot the show multi-cam, and the cast had to prep” for multi-cam shooting, Barris explains. “She was such a soldier, because she had to mouth her lines while someone said them offstage so we could block the episode and everyone could rehearse.”

Given that “Black-ish” is shot single-cam, the writers, crew and cast also had to adjust to the particular rhythms and style of the multi-cam format.

‘Black-ish’ Season 2 Finale Takes on ‘Good Times’

“It was not only multi-cam jokes, it was multi-cam jokes from the ‘70s, so we had to sort of match that, but make sure they played for today,” Barris said. The writing staff and Jenifer Rice-Genzuk Henry, who penned the finale, “did a really good job trying to play between two worlds. I think the staff and the cast and the crew really came together and melded the two time periods and matched up then and now. I really wanted to do a good job on it, and the cast really came in and stepped into the roles in really fun, funny ways.”

One of the hardest challenges in the episode was paying tribute to Jimmy Walker’s famous portrayal of J.J. Evans, a task that fell to Marcus Scribner, who plays Andre Junior on “Black-ish.”

“Marcus, who did not grow up with Jimmy Walker, did his best to sort of do an homage, but you can’t really do an homage to that character,” Barris said. “That character was iconic. All you can try to do is take a swing and tip your hat to Jimmy Walker.”

Obviously the Johnsons are more wealthy than the Evans, but even Barris laments the fact that so much of scripted TV tends to ignore families that aren’t well-to-do.

“You don’t see the working class” on TV, Barris noted. “Where is the blue collar-family? What happened to ‘Roseanne,’ where is ‘All in the Family’?”

That said, in Barris’ view, even thought the two families aren’t in the same income bracket, there are still threads that connect the Walkers and the Evans.

“[‘Black-ish’] is about family, and ultimately that’s what ‘Good Times’ was about,” Barris said. “No matter what they were going through, they always fell back to depending on the love of their family, and that’s the connection between those two shows.”

More TV

  • Baldvin-Z

    Iceland’s Baldvin Z Crime Series “Black Sands” Added to All3Media Slate (EXCLUSIVE)

    GÖTEBORG, Sweden  All3Media is to handle international rights on Icelandic crime series “Black Sands” which, currently in development, is to be pitched at the Göteborg Festival’s TV Drama Vision confab on Thursday. “Black Sands” marks the first crime thriller to be created by Icelandic helmer Baldvin Z (“Trapped”) since the hit series “Case.” Commissioned by [...]

  • Justin Timberlake performs onstage during the

    Ad Time in Fox's Super Bowl Was Sold Out. Until it Wasn't

    Fox declared in November that it had sold all the advertising time available in its looming February 2 broadcast of Super Bowl LIV. But just this week, it found a little more. After holding nearly two months’ worth of discussions, Fox and the National Football League have devised a way to add commercial inventory to [...]

  • NBC Orders Drama Pilot 'Ordinary Joe'

    NBC Orders Drama Pilot 'Ordinary Joe' From 'House' Alums

    NBC has given out its fifth drama pilot order for the 2020-2021 season. The broadcaster has commissioned “Ordinary Joe.” It explores the three parallel lives of the show’s main character after he makes a pivotal choice at a crossroads in his life. The series asks the question of how different life might look if you [...]

  • Bong Joon Ho 'Parasite' Director

    Listen: Who Will Take Home the Oscars for Best Director and Picture?

    The Oscars are just two weeks away, so it’s time to start making final predictions about who is going to win. On this week’s episode of “The Big Ticket,” Variety and iHeart’s movie podcast, I invited the magazine’s deputy awards and features editor (and my “Pick of the Week” co-host) Jenelle Riley onto the show [...]

  • Dazzler, Tigra, Hit-Monkey, and M.O.D.O.K.

    'Howard the Duck,' 'Tigra & Dazzler' Animated Marvel Shows Not Moving Forward at Hulu

    Marvel Television’s remaining slate continues to dwindle. Variety has confirmed that the animated shows “Howard the Duck” and “Tigra & Dazzler” — two of four animated Marvel projects set up at Hulu — are no longer in the works at the streamer. The other two shows, “M.O.D.O.K” and “Hit Monkey,” are currently still on track [...]

  • Star Wars Obi-Wan Kenobi movie

    After 'Star Wars' Obi-Wan Kenobi Delay, Is the Force Still Strong With Disney Plus?

    The issues on Disney Plus’ Obi-Wan Kenobi series are either a minor stumble or a portent of trouble ahead, depending on who you ask. It was reported on Thursday that series writer Hossein Amini was no longer attached to the project as Disney wished to overhaul the scripts. The move led to pre-production in London [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content