Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.
TV URBAN LEGEND: John Amos quit Good Times.
Good Times was a spin-off, of sorts, from Maude, with her housekeeper Florida Evans (played by Esther Rolle) and her husband, James (John Amos) getting their own show examining their home life. I’ve explained the “of sorts” part in an earlier TV Legends Revealed.
Both Rolle and Amos believed that the show would be about the struggles of a husband and wife as they try to raise their kids in tough economic times (Rolle specifically liked the idea that the show would depict a “traditional” family, and not a single mother). However, the eldest son on the show, JJ, played by Jimmie Walker, clearly became the breakout character on the show.
JJ was a buffoonish goofball, and soon the stories in the series became less of the plight of a working class African-American family in modern society and more about what wacky antics JJ would get up to that week. And America ate it up! Good Times made it to the Top Ten in its second season!
Amos and Rolle were both appalled at how the show had evolved (or, as I imagine they would argue, devolved), and they were quite vocal about it (Rolle a bit more publicly so – Amos kept his criticisms behind the scenes directly with the producers of the show).
It is often said that Amos, sick of the situation, quit the program after the third season (heck, Amos’ Wikipedia page says, “Unhappy with the scripts and tension with producers, he quit the show after the third season.”).
Is that true?
This is not true. Although, in a lot of ways, I suppose it is pretty darn close. Amos’ option was not picked up for the fourth season, so he was effectively fired. However, it was pretty clear that his constant clashes with the writers and the producers directly led to his being let go, so if you want to REALLY stretch things, you could argue he quit by making it impossible to keep him. That’s a stretch, though, especially since Amos definitely did not want to leave.
The writers got their “revenge” on Amos by killing him off in the first episode of the fourth season. Now stuck on a show with a premise diametrically opposed to what she had originally signed on for, Rolle was not happy, either. She hung on for another season in the hopes that perhaps the death of her character’s husband would bring about some growth in JJ’s character (some maturation as he became the nominal “man of the house”), but after seeing little to that effect in season four, Rolle quit the show. She eventually returned for the sixth (and final) season of the show.
The legend is…
Thanks to John Amos (who has repeated this information in dozens of interviews over the years, and yet it still gets perpetuated – and it’s not like anyone disagrees with him, the rumors just started in 1976 and have kept going for forty years!) for the information!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.