TV You Haven’t Watched but Should: The Jeffersons

I’m sure a lot of you have heard of the show I’m discussing this week, “The Jeffersons.” If you have ever switched to TV Land, even by accident, it was probably on. You also may have heard your parents mention watching the show when they were younger and seeing the daily trials and tribulations of George and Weezy. If you were a big “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” fan, you might have seen the Jeffersons make guest appearances. Even if you haven’t heard of the show, chances are you’ve heard the show’s theme song, “Movin’ On Up.” It’s been used in a number of commercials, is part of the bridge in Nelly’s “Batter Up,” and can even be found on the soundtrack to the movie “Tropic Thunder.” As much as you may have heard of “The Jeffersons” or come across references, chances are you haven’t watched it yourself. Allow me to explain why you should, and why I don’t think you’ll regret it.

“The Jeffersons” premiered in 1975 as a mid-season replacement. However, the characters of George and Louise Jefferson and their son Lionel had already been on television for years. Lionel and Louise both debuted in 1971 on “All in the Family” as Archie and Edith Bunker’s neighbors. During the first three seasons, Lionel, Louise, and Lionel’s uncle Henry would sporadically pop up in the Bunker’s lives. In 1973 George Jefferson debuted. The excuse used as to why George Jefferson was absent for two and a half years was that he refused to step foot on his racist neighbor Archie Bunker’s property. For the next year and a half, the Jefferson’s made more frequent appearances on “All in the Family” until they were given their own spin-off which ran for 11 seasons.

“The Jeffersons” started out similar to “All in the Family.” It tackled a lot of big issues at the time while still managing to be hilarious. Everything from suicide to racism was discussed. “The Jeffersons” was also famous for having one of the first interracial married couple on television. The show does this very impressively, managing to switch from outrageous comedy to dead seriousness. An example of this is in season seven’s “Sorry, Wrong Meeting,” when George and his friends accidentally attend a Ku Klux Klan meeting. After being verbally attacked by the leader, George ends up saving his life when he has a heart attack. When the leader awakens though and finds out that he was saved by George, he responds “you should have let me die.” It is such a stunningly upsetting moment, especially for a sitcom, but it is also beautifully written and acted. While it’s hilarious to watch George realize where he is, it’s very eye opening to see how the scenario turns out. Few comedies have you in hysterics and then ten minutes later force you to face serious issues which they handle with tact and grace. This is one of the most impressive features of “The Jeffersons.”

What makes “The Jeffersons” such an appealing show is that even though the main protagonist is a blow hard and severely ignorant, you can’t help but fall in love with the characters and get drawn into their world. George has a big mouth and is never afraid to use it. He is just plain entertaining as he never seems to understand the importance of using one’s brain. While he’s a brilliant business man, he has about as much social etiquette as Ke$ha. That’s where his wife, Louise “Weezy” Jefferson, comes in. She’s the voice of reason and the only one capable of talking George down when he’s about to do something stupid, most of the time.

The true highlight though is the Jefferson’s maid, Florence. While she appears sporadically through the first two seasons, she moves in with the Jeffersons in the third season and becomes a main cast member in season four. The reason Florence is such a highlight is because she’s the only one who can put the loud mouthed George in his place. Across 11 seasons she is never at a loss for words when it comes to shooting an insult at George in response to one of his outrageous remarks or actions. The writing for Florence is brilliant and so impressively quick witted that you can’t help but fall in love with her. I have watched a lot of situational comedy, and some of the absolute best dialogue between two characters that I’ve seen is between Florence and George. George usually tries to hold his own with Florence, but always ends up the butt of the joke in the end.

“The Jeffersons” is one of my all-time favorite programs. Like other shows I’ve discussed, it makes you laugh, and it makes you think. It’s comedy packed with social criticism, which for me is the best kind. If you want to see “The Jeffersons,” most of the episodes can be found on YouTube and the show still airs both on TV Land and TV One. The first six seasons are also available on DVD. Episodes that I would recommend include season one’s “The Piano,” season two’s “Florence’s Problem,” season three’s “A Case of Black and White,” or season nine’s “Death Smiles on a Dry Cleaner.” C’mon Franklin Pierce, take a trip to that deluxe apartment in the sky!

 

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