(L to R) Jay Pharoah as Junior, Marsai Martin as Grey, Yvette Nicole Brown as Beverly, Gerald Anthony ‘Slink’ Johnson as Dalvin and JB Smoove as Reggie in Good Times. Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2024

It’s fitting that I watched the first episode and a half of Netflix’s Good Times animated series while I was taking care of business in the bathroom.

TMI, I’m sure, and of course, I don’t make a habit of letting the nation know when I’m using the bathroom. But when it comes to Good Times, the toilet seems like the best seat to watch this series from.

I hate that this show has so much talent in the voice cast–J.B. Smoove, Yvette Nicole Brown, Marsai Martin, Gerald “Slink” Johnson, Jay Pharoah, Wanda Sykes, Gary Anthony Williams, Godfrey, Tisha Campbell, Phil LaMarr, Lil Rel Howery, Cree Summer (who also served as voice acting director), Rashida Olayiwola, Da Brat, Gabrielle Dennis, Ego Nwodim and original series actors Jimmie “JJ” Walker and BernNadette Stanis. I hate it because this show is so terrible. It’s the worst kind of terrible where it’s part-mediocre, part-heinously offensive. A show can’t be both mid and offensive to its audience and still survive–at least in the court of public opinion (because Velma is back for Season 2, but from what I’ve heard, two seasons was written into its contract).

Good Times. Yvette Nicole Brown as Beverly in Good Times. Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2024
Yvette Nicole Brown as Beverly in Good Times. Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2024

In just the first two episodes, there is a mountain of stereotypes to digest in order to find some semblance of “humor” in the storylines. From presenting everyone in the projects as derelict and neglectful, to painting a majority-Black school system as lazy and ignorant, to even portraying the local doctor’s office in the neighborhood as one ran by a drug lord, Good Times isn’t interested at all in the dignity of the Black experience. It’s not trying to portray any kernels of truth in being Black in America; all it’s interested in is glorifying “the struggle,” as if struggle is all that defines Blackness. The showrunner, Ranada Shepard, is a Black woman and NBA star Stephen Curry is behind the series as an executive producer. Even the writers listed on IMDb all appear to be Black people. So I’m confused as to why the series feels like it’s the brainchild of white writers intent on shoehorning what they believe the Black experience to be down viewers’ throats.

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We do know that Family Guy and American Dad creator Seth MacFarlane is also an executive producer, and we know how his humor can be hit or miss. We also know he has tried creating a Black sitcom before with The Cleveland Show; while that show had more conventional storylines than Family Guy, it also had its own faux pas, such as a white actor voicing Cleveland, a Black character. But just how much say did he have in Good Times, especially since a surprising number of Black creatives are executive producers?

Good Times (L to R) Pretty Vee as Qiana, Marsai Martin as Grey, Gabrielle Dennis as Danita and Ego Nwodim as Shawnte in Good Times. Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2024
(L to R) Pretty Vee as Qiana, Marsai Martin as Grey, Gabrielle Dennis as Danita and Ego Nwodim as Shawnte in Good Times. Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2024

Could it be that a lot of the Black executive producers left early in the season, like The Boondocks producer Carl Jones? He made it clear on X a few weeks ago that he didn’t much influence on the end result of the series because he left over “creative differences.” Maybe a lot of these producers also cite creative differences, but just haven’t talked on social media about their involvement.

A mass exodus of talent leaving, while the voice actors are left unaware of behind-the-scenes conflict, is the only way I can see a show like this making it to air. Stanis, who voices a character named “Peaches,” one of the “hoes” in the show (this is how the “ho” characters describe themselves; these are not my words), said recently how she was misled as to what type of show this would end up being. She was told one thing, but the powers that be were going in an entirely different direction. So who knows what she was told. Who even knows if her character was going to be “ho.” But that’s what we have now–Thelma from Good Times playing a “ho.” I think if that doesn’t say what you need to know about this show, nothing else will.

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