Hey HEY Hey! What’s Happening...and all that Jazz!
I don’t know about anyone else, but I love good television binges. There is always a strange feeling in the air when one watches back-to-back episodes of a chosen series; especially when it may be a series they didn’t expect to like. The feeling that occurs when an unexpected discovery, can go one of two ways: failure or success. My show hit rate has been strange lately; I have had more misses than hits! Luckily, the following show turned out to be a winner!
As I explained in a previous blog, it can be incredibly difficult to see any true US archive officially in the UK, so I take whatever I can get. Amazon Prime Video has the complete series of the 1970s sitcom What’s Happening!! on their service; something which I had not heard of previously. I love sitcoms and love watching a series of this age, it’s easy to be deterred by aspects of the show that have not aged well...but I soon forgot about it once hummed the Henry Mancini penned theme tune.
What’s Happening!! aired on ABC from 1976 to 1979; running for 65 episodes over three seasons. The sitcom starred Ernest Thomas, Haywood Nelson, Fred Berry, Danielle Spencer, Shirley Hemphill and Mabel King. It followed the lives of three African-American teens, Roger (Thomas), Dwayne (Nelson) and Rerun (Berry), who live in Los Angeles. Other characters included their friend Shirley, (Hemphill) Roger’s younger sister Dee (Spencer) and their mother Mabel (Mabel King).
After binging several episodes in a row, it drew me towards the characters, I could relate to the situations they found themselves in and wanted to see where it went next. I particularly enjoyed scenes with Dee, who stole every scene she appeared in as the smart alec younger sister. I even found myself using many of the show’s catchphrases in my everyday life! I cannot be alone when I say that the first two seasons were strongest before the usual decline that sets into a sitcom of this type. I can understand the need to move things forward, but the third season changed things for the sake of change and put them in even more implausible situations.
I realise that I have been vague in some respects, but I never like to spoil things for people. I think I binged the series in about two weeks and am thinking of starting again soon! I would give a warning to anyone who considers trying it, some of the running gags have not aged well. Jokes about size and weight may have been acceptable in the 1970s, but they are not on the menu these days. However, please don’t let this stop you from seeing a classic studio sitcom.
What was the last classic series you binge watched?