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Starring: Isabel Sanford, Sherman Hemsley, Mike Evans, Roxie Roker, Franklin Cover, Marla Gibbs, Zara Cully, Berlinda Tolbert Damon Evans, Jay Hammer, and Paul Benedict
Opening theme: "Movin' On Up" by Ja'net Du Bois
Country of origin: United States
No. of seasons: 11 No. of episodes: 253
Location(s): CBS Television City, Los Angeles, California Fox Television Center, Los Angeles, California Universal Studios, Universal City, California
Running time: approx. 0:30 (per episode)
Original channel: CBS
Picture format: 480i (SDTV)
Original run: January 18, 1975 – June 25, 1985
Preceded by: All in the Family
Followed by: Checking In
Related shows: Maude, Archie Bunker's Place, Gloria 704 Hauser
The Jeffersons is an American sitcom that was broadcast on CBS from January 18, 1975, through June 25, 1985, lasting 11 seasons, and a total of 253 episodes produced by T.AT. Communications Company from 1975-1982 and Embassy Television from 1982-1985. It is the longest running comedy (or series of any genre) with a predominantly African-American cast in the history of American television.
The show focused on an upper middle-class, African American couple, George and Louise Jefferson. The show was launched as the second spin-off of All in the Family, on which the Jeffersons had been the neighbors of Archie and Edith Bunker.
The show was the brainchild of prolific television producer Norman Lear. However, unlike some of his other shows, it was less sharply political in tone and The Jeffersons evolved into more of a traditional sitcom, relying more on the characters' interactions with one another rather than explicitly political dialog or story-lines. It was the first series to prominently feature an interracial couple: Tom and Helen Willis.
The show had one spin-off, titled Checking In. The short lived series was centered around the character, Florence. Checking In only lasted four episodes, after which Florence returned to The Jeffersons.
The show ended in controversy after CBS abruptly canceled the series without allowing for a proper series finale. The cast were not informed until after the June 25, 1985, episode "Red Robins," and actor Sherman Hemsley said he found out that the show was canceled by reading it in the newspaper. The cast later reunited in a stage-play based on the sitcom.
Click here to see a great Jeffersons video clip
During the January 11, 1975, episode of All in the Family, Edith Bunker gave a tearful good-bye to her neighbor, Louise Jefferson, as she and her husband, George Jefferson, and their son, Lionel, moved from a working class section of Queens into a luxury apartment in Manhattan, thus launching a spin-off of All in the Family and creating the 11-year run of The Jeffersons. George had long ago begun his career as a dry-cleaner and now was operating seven stores in ghetto sections of New York City. Louise made friends with Tom and Helen Willis, an interracial couple. Tom and Helen Willis had two children who George insultingly called "zebras": Allan Willis, their overzealous college drop-out who abandoned the family, passed as a full-blood Caucasian and lived in Paris for two years, and Jenny, their beloved, hard-working, fashion designing, daughter, who dated Lionel. Jenny and Lionel were married on Christmas Eve, 1976, but then divorced in the winter of 1985, due to marriage problems and disagreements regarding their daughter, Jessica (Ebonie Smith).
Also in the series was five-time Emmy-nominee Marla Gibbs as Florence Johnston, their backtalking, wisecracking housekeeper. Florence turned out to be a decent Christian, and dated several men. She often teased George, mostly about his short stature and receding hairline. Paul Benedict arrived as Harry Bentley, a loyal, kind, friendly British next-door neighbor, who worked as a Russian language interpreter at the United Nations. Bentley was written out at the end of the show's seventh season, implying that he moved to the Soviet Union from 1981 until 1983, when he returned into the United States. A common sight-gag of the show was George slamming the door in Bentley's face mid-conversation. Bentley also had a bad back, and frequently enlisted George to walk on his back, since he was the same weight as a Japanese woman who had treated his back in that manner. He also became known for addressing the Jeffersons as "Mr. J" and "Mrs. J".
The series also starred the late Zara Cully as Mother Jefferson, who constantly put Louise down as not being a good wife. Cully appeared in the first two seasons of the series, but was written out in the third season (Mother Jefferson died in 1978, due to a heart attack). No episode was centered on Mother Jefferson's death. Cully was removed from the credits after the fourth season. Cully made two appearances during the 1976—1977 season, and three appearances in the 1977—1978 season. Ned Wertimer played the doorman, Ralph Hart, throughout the series. Another character, often spoken about, but rarely seen was Mr. Whittendale played by Jack Fletcher as the building owner.
The Jeffersons premiered January 18, 1975. In its first season (1974—1975), the show ranked at #4, surpassed by its parent series, All in the Family, which landed at #1 for the fifth year in a row. The show's ratings for the following years placed it in the Top 30 but, during the 1977—1978 and the 1978—1979 seasons, (Season 4 and 5), it fell from the top 30, but landed again in the Top 10 from 1979 until 1982. In the spring of 1982, The Jeffersons landed at #3, only surpassed by Dallas and 60 Minutes. As a result, the series appeared on the Nielsen Ratings on the Top 20 for two seasons, and in the summer of 1984, the series landed at #19. The Jeffersons produced and broadcast 253 episodes in total over its 11-year run. For playing their roles as: George Jefferson, Louise Jefferson, and Florence Johnston, both Sherman Hemsley (George) and Marla Gibbs (Florence) was nominated with five Emmy Awards from 1981 until 1985, but Isabel Sanford received her Emmy Award in 1981, although she nominated for six Emmys from 1979 until 1985, and five Golden Globe Awards. Isabel Sanford is the second African-American actress to win an Emmy Award; Gail Fisher preceded her in 1970).
The Jeffersons had many two part episodes, either over two consecutive weeks, or aired as an hour-long episode.
Behind the Series
Before Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford received their starring roles on The Jeffersons, Isabel Sanford first appeared as Louise Jefferson in the All in the Family episode "Lionel Moves Into the Neighborhood", which was broadcast on February 2, 1971, that focused on Lionel, George and Louise moving to a working class section in Queens (George would not appear until 1973). Originally scripted in the series, Norman Lear created the George Jefferson character for Broadway veteran Sherman Hemsley, who was currently starring in the Broadway musical, Purlie. Norman Lear kept holding the George Jefferson character for Hemsley, after Purlie was finished.
Sherman Hemsley shined as George on All in the Family, while George's older brother, Henry Jefferson, was written out of the series. The episode where George is introduced was the final appearance of Mel Stewart as Henry and it wasn't until the final minutes that the two actors shared their one and only scene together. Sherman Hemsley, Isabel Sanford and Mike Evans kept making appearances until 1975, when Norman Lear gave them their own series. The roles of the interracial family, Tom, Helen and Jenny, who had appeared on All in the Family, were recast, with veteran actor, Franklin Cover as Tom, Roxie Roker (real life mother of Lenny Kravitz and cousin of Al Roker) as Helen, and Berlinda Tolbert playing the role of Jenny.
The series grew larger in the second and third seasons, and top the 30-rated television programs (#21 in 1975-1976, and #24 in 1976-1977).
Mike Evans left the show at the end of the first season to work on writing over 47 episodes of Good Times, so his replacement was Damon Evans, who reinstated the role of Lionel Jefferson for Seasons Two to Four, when he left in early December 1977, for an unknown reason. In the 1978—1979 season, Berlinda Tolbert only appeared in one episode of the fifth season, also for an unknown reason. The characters of Lionel and Jenny were written out, and a one-note cast member, Jay Hammer appeared as Allan Willis, a college drop out, and Jenny's globetrotting white older brother, who only appeared in eight episodes.
Behind the Series continued
Evans and Tolbert returned in the 1979—1980 season, with Tolbert's character, Jenny, written back on the series saying she was pregnant with a daughter named Jessica. However, Evans only appeared for another season, as well as Tolbert, marking for seventh year as a series regular. The characters of Lionel and Jenny were written out stating they had marriage problems, as a fact, Evans appeared in two episodes in the 1981-1982 season, and one episode in the 1982-1983 season. While, Tolbert appeared as a recurring character and more of a background character in the later seasons of the series.
In the later seasons of the series, George stopped his racist comments. This implied that Tom, Helen and George started to like and know each other a little better.
In the spring of 1981, Paul Benedict left the show for two seasons, and returned in the final two seasons of the series. However, the ratings sank above the top 30 and The Jeffersons aired its last episode on July 2, 1985. after 11 years on network television and lasting over 253 episodes.
The balcony windows and doors were fitted with a special non-reflective material used in television to simulate real glass without the glare of studio lights. Most Norman Lear shows can be seen using this special effect.
There was a hard-to-see, decorative entry fence that establishes the foyer.
The picture on the Jeffersons' desk by the telephone changed in every episode. It alternated between shots of Louise, George, George and Louise together, Lionel, and Mother Jefferson.
The design of the Jeffersons' apartment is not physically possible in relation to the design of Mr. Bentley's apartment.
In early episodes, only Tom and Helen's kitchen and, in one or two episodes, their bedroom was shown. In later seasons, the Willis' living room and foyer were the only parts of their apartment that were featured.
The Jeffersons lived in apartment 12D.
Ja'net Du Bois (from Good Times) and Jeff Barry co-wrote The Jeffersons' catchy theme song, "Movin' On Up", which was sung by Du Bois with a gospel choir.
"Movin' on Up" found new life in the 1990s and 2000s in a number of television commercials and other references: for example, in Nelly's song "Batter Up", in Will Smith's song "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It" (Now they give it to me nice and easy/Since I moved up like George and Weezie); and in "Whoa Now", a 2002 chart single by Baltimore rapper B Rich, which was built on a sample of "Movin' On Up". Hemsley and Sanford reprised the characters George and Louise Jefferson in the late 1990s in episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, including the series finale where they purchase the family's Bel Air home.
PRIMETIME (all times Eastern Time):
January 1975- August 1975, CBS, Saturday 8:30-9:00pm
September 1975- October 1976, CBS, Saturday 8:00-8:30pm
November 1976- January 1977, CBS, Wednesday 8:00-8:30pm
January 1977- August 1977, CBS, Monday 8:00-8:30pm
September 1977- March 1978, CBS, Saturday 9:00-9:30pm
April 1978- May 1978, CBS, Saturday 9:00-9:30pm
June 1978- September 1978, CBS, Monday 8:00-8:30pm
September 1978- January 1979, CBS, Wednesday 8:00-8:30pm
January 1979- March 1979, CBS, Wednesday 9:30-10:00pm
March 1979- June 1979, CBS, Wednesday 8:00-8:30pm
June 1979- September 1982, CBS, Sunday 9:30-10:00pm
September 1982- December 1984, CBS, Sunday 9:00-9:30pm
January 1985- March 1985, CBS, Tuesday 8:00-8:30pm
April 1985, CBS, Tuesday 8:30-9:00pm
June 1985, CBS, Tuesday 8:30-9:00pm
June 1985- July 1985, CBS, Tuesday 8:00-8:30pm
February 1980-September 1981, Monday-Friday 10:00 a.m.
Season 1: CBS Television City (1975)
Seasons 2-7: Metromedia Square (1975-1982)
Seasons 8-11: Universal City Studios (1982-1985)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has released the first six Seasons of The Jeffersons on DVD in Region 1 for the very first time.
DVD Name Release Date Additional Information
The Complete First Season August 6, 2002 Includes all 13 episodes from Season 1.
The Complete Second Season May 13, 2003 Includes all 24 episodes from Season 2
The Complete Third Season April 12, 2005 Includes all 24 episodes from Season 3.
The Complete Fourth Season October 11, 2005 Includes all 26 episodes from Season 4.
The Complete Fifth Season August 15, 2006 Includes all 24 episodes from Season 5.
The Complete Sixth Season March 27, 2007 Includes all 24 episodes from Season 6.
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Make an appointment
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