Hustle Mindset

‘Good Times’ Review: Netflix’s Reboot Is Offensive

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Fifty years ago, “Good Times” premiered on CBS. The series — starring Esther Rolle, John Amos, Jimmie Walker, Bern Nadette Stanis, Ralph Carter and Ja’Net DuBois — was set in 1970s Chicago in the public housing projects in a poor Black neighborhood. The spinoff of “Maude,” the first series to feature a two-parent Black family on television, was created by Eric Monte and Mike Evans, and developed by the late TV legend Norman Lear.

The sitcom was a historic moment for representation of a Black family on screen, featuring the Evanses trying to keep “their head above water” — and “making a wave” when they can, as it is sung in the iconic theme song.

Fast forward to 2024, and we are now being tortured with a reboot of the sitcom, which premiered Friday on Netflix. The animated series is 10 episodes long and stars J.B. Smoove, Yvette Nicole Brown, Jay Pharoah, Marsai Martin and Gerald Anthony “Slink” Johnson as a new generation of Evanses. (Smoove’s character, Reggie, is James Evans Sr.’s grandson. James was portrayed by Amos in the original series.)

When the trailer was first released, Netflix and creators of the series received a lot of backlash online for producing the show. At the time, audiences could only assume that the series would be just as terrible as its teaser.

On Friday morning, Erin E. Evans, Candice Frederick and Taryn Finley watched the first and second episodes of the new TV series so you don’t have to. Here’s our conversation below:

Let’s start with the trailer and the backlash that quickly followed.

I’ll start by saying this: The “Good Times” trailer is the worst trailer I have ever seen in my entire life. It’s just a bunch of animated characters in vignettes that are not funny and don’t make sense. I have never been more turned off by a concept, perhaps, ever? I knew there had been talk of a “Good Times” reboot, but I also assumed that it was dead in the water since the first announcement about it was in September 2020. This was amid all these (what mostly seems to be false) promises from several industries to invest in diversity and equity. Then Netflix decides to give us … this. Three and a half years later, I thought I had prayed this reboot away. Clearly not! — Erin

I was among, apparently, many people who had no idea this show was even about to happen until Netflix dropped that cursed trailer on social media. And folks devoured it whole, like the fungus that it is. Gratuitous drug use, big boobs and big asses — the kind of clip that seemed to have resulted from an AI search of “stereotypical Black shit” all rolled into one. It was abominable. The original “Good Times” was an earnest, Black family sitcom. If they wanted to, I guess, bring something like that to today’s audience, why not detach it from the original and just allow it to be its own funky idea about a Black family? Not allowing it to exist on its own is more proof that it wouldn’t have garnered any audience had it not. And that’s also disgusting. — Candice

Like so many other reboots or “reimaginations,” my immediate thoughts were that we don’t need another “Good Times.” And after watching the trailer, I doubled down on that. I saw the trailer before seeing the discourse around it and knew immediately that it’d get backlash. I didn’t expect for most of the folks on my timeline to all feel the same way about it. It was so horribly offensive that I wouldn’t have been surprised if Netflix pulled it all together like nothing happened. After watching the first episode, I don’t think we’re all overreacting. They should’ve canned this mess. — Taryn

There was a Change.org petition to stop the series from airing, right, Candice? — Erin

YES! Interestingly, though, I only heard about it two days before the show was slated to drop on Netflix, which is weird. But it was started on March 27 and, for what it’s worth, has over 3,700 signatures as of right now. Obviously it was ineffective since the show actually happened. But the fact that folks went out of their way to try to put a stop to it says a lot. — Candice

The reboot does make nods to the original series.

So the first episode, which is all I watched, does gesture at a few storylines from the first season of the original “Good Times” series. (I have seen the original series so many times, partly because my last name is Evans and I felt connected through that, but also because it was seemingly always on cable in the early 2000s.) They are in apartment 17C, just like the original Evans family. And Reggie is James Evans’ grandson.

“Good Times” premiered on CBS on Feb. 8, 1974, starring Esther Rolle as Florida Evans and John Amos as James Evans Sr.

CBS Photo Archive via Getty Images

In Season 1, Episode 2, Michael hangs up J.J.’s painting of Black Jesus, and Florida has a fit over it while the rest of the family is happy that it seems to bring them good luck. On the reboot, Beverly prays to Black Jesus after the painting of white Jesus falls and breaks. In Episode 3, the Evans family is about to be evicted, and James has to go to the pool house to win some money (despite Florida’s protest). In the new series, we actually see Reggie go to play pool with Junior so he can pay the heating bill; unfortunately, he’s not as good a pool player as his grandfather. Then, Episode 10 is titled “Springtime in the Ghetto,” where Florida wants to win the prize for nicest apartment in the projects. This pilot introduces a “beautification competition” that Beverly is dying to win.

Whew. I’m sure there are more correlations, but I realized I was spending too much time trying to find them. It also reminded me that I wished they would have just left us alone and let us rewatch the original on our own time. — Erin

I’ll admit, I came in with the bar in hell for this show, but when the first scene of Episode 1 showed Reggie singing the “Good Times” theme song in the shower, I rolled my eyes and sighed. Every moment they spend trying to connect this series with the original feels like it’s trying really hard. Too hard, especially considering all the stereotypes driving this show. The first episode is packed with callbacks and gives a great deal of reverence to the O.G. Evans family. They make it clear at the end of the episode, however, that they are a new generation of Evanses and they do things differently. Another eye-roll moment.

Forced references aside, nothing about this show feels like it’s connected to the original. I know it’s hard to sell shows to studios these days, so leaning on existing IP is the way to get a greenlight, but this ain’t it. They besmirched the Evans name. (I’m so sorry, Erin.) — Taryn

Full disclosure: I watched the first two episodes while on the StairMaster this morning. And I almost leapt off that machine multiple times because my eyes rolled so hard they almost got stuck to the back of my head. I kept cringing at the random insertions of excerpts from the original theme song. In my head, I was like, “Stop doing that!”

And I believe it is at the end of the first episode that Reggie screams, “Damn! Damn! Damn!” Like you, Taryn, every reference to the original felt very try hard. As if to say, “If you like the original, you’ll definitely like this.” No, wrong. The new show and its characters give a lot of “not your mama’s ‘Good Times,’” which could only work if there was something actually left to be desired from the original series. It’s just another reminder that, no, it’s not — and what a shame that is. — Candice

So, who is in this reboot, and who created it?

J.B. Smoove voices Reggie, Marsai Martin is Grey, Jay Pharoah is Junior and Yvette Nicole Brown is the voice of Beverly in the new "Good Times."
J.B. Smoove voices Reggie, Marsai Martin is Grey, Jay Pharoah is Junior and Yvette Nicole Brown is the voice of Beverly in the new “Good Times.”

Reggie (J.B. Smoove), the head of the household, Ubers across town to support his family. Beverly (Yvette Nicole Brown) is trying desperately to win this beautification competition to bring some honor back to the Evans family, apparently. (They’re the first Evans household to not win it.) Jay Pharoah — who portrayed J.J. Evans in the live production of “Good Times” — is Junior, the eldest son who is a not-so-smart artist. Grey (Marsai Martin) is the middle child and seems to be most similar to youngest sibling, Michael, from the original “Good Times.” She is a protest warrior and is refusing to eat during the first episode. — Erin

The show is bad, but Dalvin, the drug-dealing baby, is probably the worst thing about it. We meet Dalvin, voiced by Gerald Anthony “Slink” Johnson, selling drugs and drooling over a woman’s breasts. Cartoon versions of Da Baby, Lil Baby and Birdman Baby threaten him to give up his corner or get dealt with. This leads him to return to his family’s apartment, which Reggie banished him from. The Evans’ neighbors make it known that they think he’s a stain on the community who can’t be saved (as many of them noted at his attempted baptism ceremony). His character uses the formula that executive producer Seth MacFarlane used to create Stewie of “Family Guy” and Rallo Tubbs of “The Cleveland Show.” That barely worked for Rallo, who was supposed to be the Black version of Stewie, and it’s not working here. The defiant, trouble-seeking baby archetype was already tired in the 2010s. So I’m struggling to find the purpose of making Dalvin a caricature. — Taryn

Having just watched “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” J.B. Smoove’s voice as Reggie jumped at me immediately. I kept calling him Leon (his character on “Curb”). I think he’s… fine as Reggie, I guess. But all the characters are so thinly drawn that it’s hard to identify actually good voice performances here. Yvette Nicole Brown, Wanda Sykes and Jay Pharaoh all contribute their voices here, too. (And, for reference, Brown was none too happy with folks criticizing her for being a part of this project and defended her choice last month).

Also: Carl Jones, who’s credited as a co-creator of this “Good Times,” jumped on social media quick last month to say he actually left the project early “due to creative differences.” I bring up both these things because it’s very telling that two big names behind this project have very different reactions to the very same issue folks have pointed out about the series: that it’s a bad look. Oh, I also find it interesting that Ranada Shepard, also a co-creator, is a virtual unknown (though, she has a few lesser-known projects listed on IMDb). I wonder how she came on board.

And lastly: I just want to bring some attention to the fact that basketball star Steph Curry is listed as a producer on this show. I see he’s produced a number of sports-related shows, but I’m curious how he got this project. And I hope this isn’t a case of “any Black name will do” in order to validate a project that should absolutely be DOA. How influential were these Black names to the creative choices in this very stereotypical nightmare, actually? — Candice

I also immediately recognized Tisha Campbell as the voice of Delphine, the building manager and beautification contest leader. She was the only character to kinda make me chuckle at one small moment. It’s also worth mentioning that in the credits for the first episode, Bern Nadette Stanis and Jimmie Walker, who starred as Thelma and J.J. Evans in the original series, are credited as voices on the episode. Stanis recently criticized the direction of the Netflix series, saying that originally she and Walker had pitched a “Good Times” cartoon but shortly after found out that there were other folks behind it, she told TMZ. I’m very curious to see her reaction now that the reboot is out. — Erin

The absolute worst parts of the ‘Good Times’ reboot.

I really, really cannot get past the fact that someone decided it would be a good idea to make the baby Evans, Dalvin, a drug dealer??????? He’s still nursing, and he is a drug dealer. He has a pacifier, and he is a drug dealer. HE IS IN A STROLLER DEALING DRUGS. Why?????? He’s also been kicked out of the house by his father. So we just got babies on the street? I can’t believe this was allowed to happen. — Erin

Gerald Anthony "Slink" Johnson as Dalvin (left) and DaBaby, Lil Baby and Baby as themselves in "Good Times."
Gerald Anthony “Slink” Johnson as Dalvin (left) and DaBaby, Lil Baby and Baby as themselves in “Good Times.”

Erin, it took me a second to realize that baby Evans was actually a baby and not just a small drug-dealing man. It’s like my brain didn’t want to process that! WHY was that even necessary??? Again, the AI machine was working overtime on this one.

I’m very, very bothered by the many close-ups of women’s asses in pants or women’s big boobs. What is that even about? And there was something just… weird, to me, about (and this might have been Episode 2) seeing Beverly’s dramatically tiny hand on Reggie’s large body when they’re in bed together. This is a nitpick, but also it feels quite body shame-y. Is that for comedic purposes? Was I supposed to laugh? Can this show be funny, sometimes?

OK, then there are just the very random shoutouts to Black shit. Like the high school where the teenage siblings go is Twista High School (you know, like the rapper Twista?) and (again, from Episode 2) the thinly coded drug spot where the parents take their son to help him do better in class (don’t ask) is called So So Med Center. You know, like the recording label, So So Def. Just why?

I can actually tolerate the little sister, who gives me very Diane Johnson from “Black-ish” vibes (to note: Marsai Martin, who played Diane, is in this role, too). She is smarter than everyone else in the house and stands on business every day, all day. Love that for her. I don’t know what anyone else is doing here. — Candice

Oh, also, I hate that Reggie was singing the theme song WITH A ROACH in the opening scene. Also, I have a nitpicky thing to complain about, too. The booty hair they squiggled onto Reggie in that same scene. WHYYYYY. — Erin

All of what you two said, but also it’s just not funny. I love adult animation when it’s funny, smart and allows for some escapism. This show is none of that. — Taryn

TL;DR — Here’s why the show does not work.

The “Good Times” reboot is another example of Hollywood executives’ laziness and sheer lack of innovation when it comes to creating art for and by Black folks. That this series was greenlighted and attached to the legacy of the original series is a damn, damn, damn shame. — Erin

It’s a series that relies on stereotypical Black images and text because it has no merit or awareness of authentic Black humanity. Its weaknesses are immediate and frequently exhibited. — Candice

This show doesn’t belong in this era, and it damn sure doesn’t belong under the name “Good Times.” Animation is too expensive to waste on lazy, offensive depictions of Black life, especially when there are so many good stories that deserve to be seen and elevated. — Taryn





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