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What’s Happening Season One debuted in the 70s. It came out during the time that The Jeffersons and Good Times were on the air. This series took place in Los Angeles. Roger Thomas (Ernest Thomas) is the main character of the series. He is a teenager who lives with his mother Mabel (Mabel King) and his bratty little sister Dee (Danielle Spencer). Mabel is divorced from Roger & Dee’s father Bill (Thamlus Rasulala) so she had to raise them on her own. She supported the kids by being a housekeeper. Roger hangs out with his two best friends Rerun (Fred Berry) and Dwayne (Haywood Nelson). Roger, Rerun, and Dwayne hang out at the soda shop with their friends as well as Shirley (Shirley Hemphill) the wisecracking waitress. The teens get into fixes and have to get themselves out of them. In addition to stirring up trouble, the guys also help people out when they get into trouble too. This series was created by Eric Monte who also created the series Good Times.
I really enjoyed watching the reruns of this show when it used to air on television so I wanted to get the dvd. I am glad I did because I get to watch this season whenever I want. I really enjoyed season one of this show. It is my favorite one out of the three seasons that the show aired. The show hit its stride during this season and had some hysterical episodes. I can watch all 21 episodes of this season and never get tired of watching them.
The best thing about this show was that it was funny. I crack up every time I watch the episodes. The show is 35 years old and it is still funny today. The funniest moments were Roger and Dee’s exchanges with each other. Dee gave Roger a hard time about every thing he did. Dee tattled on Roger throughout the season. Even when he bribed her to keep quiet, she tattled on him anyway. She truly was a bratty little sister to Roger. Since my sister and I are twins, I never had to deal with a bratty younger sibling. It was hysterical to see the way she treated Roger. Other funny moments between Roger and Dee were whenever he got in trouble. Dee was usually the reason why he was caught and she instigated whenever Mabel wanted to punish him. Other funny moments were Rerun and Shirley’s insults towards each other.
This show dealt with a lot of issues during this season that are serious, but the writers made them hilarious. The show dealt with shoplifting teen pregnancy, money issues, weight problems, sibling rivalry, divorced parents, scalping tickets, etc. On another show, these issues would not be funny. The writers found a way to make it work. They didn’t overdo the hilarity in a way that downplayed the seriousness of the issues covered. The writers made the situations more lighthearted and I appreciated that. It was a funny way to look at what was going on in the world during the time of the show.
What I like about this show is the fact that the writers didn’t make the lead character too buffoonish. This show came out around the time when Good Times came out. In fact, the same person created the shows so there were similarities between the shows. The Thomas family (What’s Happening) and the Evans family (Good Times) were poor and struggling to make it everyday. There were also actors that appeared on both shows. With that said, the lead character on Good Times (J. J. Evans played by Jimmie Walker) was a clown who used silly catch phrases to get easy laughs out of the audience. That didn’t happen on What’s Happening. The show was funny without having to rely on silly catchphrases. The show had a few catchphrases (Dwayne would say “Hey, Hey Hey”, and Rerun would say “What’s Happening”. Dwyane would also say “uh-uh” whenever he didn’t want to do anything.), but they weren’t as bad as on Good Times. Another thing in What’s Happening’s favor was the fact that Roger was a smart teen as opposed to J. J. who wasn’t.
The acting on the show was pretty good. Everyone had excellent comedic timing. Even if some of the jokes weren’t funny, their delivery of the jokes made me laugh. I had only seen Mabel King in something besides this show so I wasn’t too familiar with the other actors on the show. I was pleasantly surprised at how well they acted. Fred Berry was a dancer before he did the show so it was amazing that he did such a good job in his role. The group he used to dance with (The Lockers) appeared on the show in an episode titled My Three Tons, but they didn’t act that well. Fred Berry proved that he was more than just a dancer.
The actors had fabulous chemistry with each other. The casting directors did an admirable job casting for the show. I could never see anyone else in their roles. Roger, Dee, and Mabel looked as if they could have been a family. Roger, Dwayne, and Rerun looked as if they could have been friends in real life. There aren’t that many shows where the entire cast had great chemistry with each other like this one. Chemistry is what helped make this show a success.
I enjoyed all of the episodes, but I do have some standout favorites. I liked The Runaway. In this episode, Roger wants to go to a party, but has to babysit Dee. This is the first episode of the season. It was hilarious because Roger snuck out to the party and came home to an unpleasant surprise. This episode had me cracking up from beginning to end. In The Birthday Present, Roger wants to buy a present for Mabel’s birthday, but he doesn’t have enough money to get the shirt. He gets in trouble when the manager thought that he, Rerun, and Dwayne were trying to steal the shirt. Mabel was beyond furious with him when she found out what he did. In The Sunday Father, Roger gets expelled from school for playing practical jokes in class. He went to his father Bill to get him back into school. Mabel wanted to show Bill that being a parent isn’t easy so she sends Roger, Dee, Dwayne, and Rerun over to his apartment for the night. They had bad timing because Bill had a date with his girlfriend and she was not happy about the interruption.
In The Maid Did It, Mabel gets fired when her boss accuses her of stealing the ring. It was up to Roger, Rerun, and Dwayne to figure out what really happened to the ring. The episode had a surprise twist concerning what really happened to the ring. In The Hospital Stay, Roger went to the hospital to get fluid drained out of his knee and had a mean roommate. Dee was able to stand up to the roommate and she found out the reason why he was so bitter. In The Tickets, Mabel surprises Roger with tickets to Stevie Wonder’s concert. The only problem is Roger can only invite one of his friends to see it. It was funny watching Roger decide who to take and what happened after he made his decision. In What’s Wrong With Raj, Roger teaches Dee a lesson when she reads his diary. Roger really pulls a fast one on Dee and there is a little surprise at the end of the episode that the characters didn’t see coming. In Nice Guys Finish Last, Dee invites her pen pal over to stay with them. The problem is, she is a convict. Roger was very upset that she was going to stay at the house. Dee gets more than she bargains for when her friend shows up. The episodes are really good that I don’t have any least favorites.
I do have a couple of complaints about the show. One of the complaints is that it can be offensive to overweight people. Rerun, Shirley, and Mabel were all overweight. Rerun and Shirley were constantly picking on each other because of their weight. Roger, Dwayne, and Dee as well as other characters constantly insulted Rerun because he was overweight. To make matters worse, Rerun and Shirley insulted each other when they didn’t have a nerve. You would think that Roger and Dee wouldn’t have insulted Rerun about his weight since their mother was overweight. Obesity is a serious problem that shouldn’t have been a joke. There’s one episode in particular that was offensive. In My Three Tons, Rerun wanted to audition to be a Rocker. He was chose because he was fat. The people wanted to humiliate him by making fat jokes about him. Roger and Dwayne made jokes about Rerun’s weight all of the time, but they didn’t like when the Rockers did it. In fact, Roger and Dwayne made jokes about Rerun in that episode. Dwayne overheard the true reason why Rerun was picked, but he was torn up about what they were going to do to Rerun. I didn’t understand why it was a problem since they constantly make cruel jokes about him throughout the season. The writers made Roger and Dwayne look like hypocrites since they picked on them all of the time.
My other complaint was the dvd didn’t have any features other than the trailers. I would have liked to have seen behind the scene footage of the episodes. Since so many of the actors are dead, there can’t be a reunion episode so it would have been great to see some behind the scene footage of the show. I don’t even look at the trailers since it is just previews of other shows.
The Birthday Present
When Daddy Comes Home
My Three Tons
The Burger Queen
Speak For Yourself, Dwayne
The Sunday Father
The Maid Did It
The Incomplete Shakespeare
The Hospital Stay
The Firing Squad
What’s Wrong, Raj
Nice Guys Finish Last
From Here To Maternity
What’s Happening is a funny and timeless comedy. I could watch the episodes over and over again and still find it funny. The show featured fabulous acting and chemistry among the cast. There were some offensive jokes, but they don’t take away from how good the show was. I recommend it.
I give What’s Happening Season One 4 stars because it was funny and had great acting and chemistry. It loses a star for the offensive jokes and no features other than trailers.
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