Writings Off The Wall

Rodomontades, Balderdash, and Inwits

Dayum, Dayum, Dayum James

with 5 comments

Over the past few weeks, part of my after-work ritual has become watching Good Times on TVOne. I’m actually surprised at the number of times I’ve laughed and also at the amount of social issues it attempted to cover. But there is just one thing so distracting that it sullies the experience of the Evans family in Cabrini Green: JJ. I’ve made no secret that I think young Black actors on TV sitcoms are a collection of the worst actors the world hath ever seen. Aside from Family Matters entirely implausible story lines, Erkel and Eddie Winslow were horrible actors and ruined the show. Theo was barely tolerable on The Cosby Show; Willis and Arnold, terrible; Raj, Rerun, and Dwayne, horrible. Marlon and Shawn, atrocious. Look at any rap video and you’ll see a bunch of numb-mouthed hoodlums horribly plodding through shallow plots and acting as if they are truly rolling in dead presidents when in actuality they are still living at home and spending advance money on shiny hubcaps.

But JJ really takes the cake. He was paid to be the comic relief in otherwise dire circumstances. He was paid to act like a damn fool yet the damn fool couldn’t act. I, for one, should know for I’ve acted a fool many, many a night and I excelled to heights that Jimmy Walker and his tribal Mursi plate lips could never fathom. If it were not for his rubbery countenance and beanpole stature, he wouldn’t have even been hired to sweep the set. Granted, JJ has provided some memorable moments in Black TV history. There was time JJ got shot, his Chicken Shack hat, his bird chest being exposed to the joy of the audience, and his famous exclamation that spawned t-shirts and 1970’s jokes around the water cooler: So never fear it’ll be alright/Thanks to the Kid DY-NO-MITE!!

You ever see the movie The Jacksons? Terrible, terrible, terrible thespianism. And though I haven’t seen the movie, I already knew what to expect when Beyonce and her bootyliciousism hit the big screen yet again: a gorgeous woman who couldn’t act even if she was the 5th book in the New Testament. And when all these actors and actresses convene at the Water Buffalo Lodge, JJ is the Grand Poobah.

But it’s quite easy to be critical when I’m just a voyeur. And after all, it is I who continues to tune in daily to just look out the window and watch the asphalt glow. Besides, I have been known to be a bad actor myself. That is certainly the reason my mother would give me and my siblings the speech before we went into the department store, which always included the directive to “act like you got some sense.” And the times I acted like I didn’t give a $hit when being stood up by some hottie who probably didn’t even remember we had a date. And the times I acted like a hard azz only to turn the other way when I saw some real hard-headed Negroes headed in my direction.

So who I am to judge? Besides, JJ got paid. He ran John Amos and Esther Rolle off the show. Black folks didn’t respond to the show’s constant reminders of the high price of meat and gas, corrupt politics, rampant subversive racism, and the self-destructive behavior of inner-city residents. No, they much preferred the clown who couldn’t act. Does this speak to a larger issue? Is there a reason the class clown who couldn’t read was more popular than the nerd who enunciated? Is there a reason the blinged-out clown on BET attracts more viewers than a History Channel special on Plessy vs Ferguson? Is there a reason hotghettomess gets more clicks than The Root? And is there a reason in its first weekend Obsessed raked in over half the gross revenue that The Last King of Scotland did in all? Probably. But I’m not here to explore the sociology behind such realities.

This is just about bad acting. It’s about JJ sucking and setting the standard of sucksation for all young Black men to follow him on the boob tube. Who cares if social commentary and life lessons play second fiddle to dy-no-mites, did-I-do-thats, and hey-HEY-heys? Who cares if Cosby had to add 27,000 characters to the show and resort to having muppets on an episode? At least we got a favorable time slot so the rest of America could see some Black faces on TV, right? That’s a victory in itself. Besides, hating on the brothers that did find steady work in Hollywood is a distant cousin of self-hatred. I mean, just look at how many brothers are in primetime sitcoms now. So damn James, just let JJ be.


Written by offdwall

April 27, 2009 at 10:02 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

5 Responses

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  1. love good times, even though jay jay was a bufoon, the topics they covered are still very relevant today,
    drug use =debbie allen was on heroine and left jay jay in the hotel room on prom night

    tokenism = the white soror girl came to recruit thelma to meet a racial quota

    privacy rights= wilona took a job spying in a dept store dressing room

    abuse= penny’s mother and the iron

    teenaged pregnancy and sexual assault= penny’s friend is preggers, and her brother attacks penny in the hallway


    April 27, 2009 at 11:03 pm

  2. btw…norman lear felt that a black show dealing with all the heavy issues was not going to be watched if he didn’t throw in some comic relief…you know it’s about the bottom line, and yeah, it worked.


    April 27, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    • Yeah, I’d heard this too. I understand the man needs to make money and meet his bottom line, but then sell the show as JJ’s comedy hour and not as a social commentary on poor Blacks in the inner city.

      I mean, after James and Flo left, JJ was acting as an agent for a fat white girl dressed like a clown. It was horrible. Social dialogues are not to be had to make a buck, but to make a difference.


      April 28, 2009 at 8:20 am

  3. oh and btw…beyonce buys these roles by bankrolling the movie. no sane person would offer her a role.


    April 27, 2009 at 11:08 pm

  4. Offy you ain’t said nothing but the truth. But I hated Good Times. I thought all of the acting was terrible and stale. If you notice, just about every show has that one overly dumb or silly person! I remember when My Wife and Kids first came out…decent and junior was just as normal as the rest of the fam. Then he increasingly became dumber. This irked the crap outta me because it wasn’t necessary. The show was already funny.


    April 29, 2009 at 11:26 am

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