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The Jeffersons title card, used from Season 3 on
|Created by||Don Nicholl
|Developed by||Norman Lear|
|Directed by||Bob Lally
|Theme music composer||Jeff Barry
|Opening theme||"Movin' On Up" performed by Ja'net Dubois|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||11|
|No. of episodes||253 (List of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||David Duclon
Michael G. Moye
Donald L. Seigel
|Running time||22–24 minutes|
|Production company(s)||T.A.T. Communications Company (1975-1982)
NRW Productions (1975-1979)
Ragamuffin Productions (1980-1981)
Embassy Television (1982-1985)
|Original run||January 18, 1975– June 25, 1985|
|Preceded by||All in the Family|
|Followed by||Checking In|
Archie Bunker's Place
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. The show was produced by the T.A.T. Communications Company from 1975–1982 and by Embassy Television from 1982-1985. The Jeffersons is the longest-running sitcom with a predominantly African American cast in the history of American television.
The show focuses on George and Louise Jefferson, an affluent African American couple living in New York City. 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 creation 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 storylines. It did, however, tackle a few serious topics including racism, suicide, gun control and adult illiteracy. Also, the words "nigger" and "honky" were used occasionally, especially during the earlier seasons.
The Jeffersons had one spin-off, titled Checking In. The short lived series was centered around the Jeffersons' housekeeper, 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 was 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. In the series finale of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in 1996 the Jeffersons made a guest appearance and bought the house from the Banks' family. Also, in an episode of Tyler Perry's House of Payne in 2011, Sherman Hemsley and Marla Gibbs reprise their roles of George Jefferson and Florence Johnston.
In 1985, Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford made a special guest appearance as the Jeffersons in the Canale 5 comedy show Grand Hotel, starring the Italian actors Paolo Villaggio, Franco & Ciccio comic duo and Carmen Russo. They were guests in the fictional hotel, and appeared just twice during the show, for a total of five minutes. Their voices were dubbed by the Italian actors Enzo Garinei (George) and Isa di Marzio (Louise), who also dubbed their characters for the full 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 March 2, 1971, as the series eighth episode, that focused on Lionel, George (who would not appear on the show until 1973) and Louise moving to a working class section in Queens.
Originally scripted in the series, Norman Lear created the George Jefferson character for Broadway veteran Sherman Hemsley, who was starring at the time in the Broadway musical, Purlie. Lear made the decision to hold the George Jefferson character specifically for Hemsley. Lear created the character of Henry Jefferson (played by Mel Stewart), George's younger brother, and had Henry take George's place in All in the Family scripts until Purlie finished its run, making Hemsley available to join the cast.
The episode where George is introduced was the final appearance of Henry, and in the final minutes of that program, 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 (in the 1974 episode Lionel's Engagement), were recast, with veteran actor Franklin Cover as Tom, Roxie Roker as Helen, and Berlinda Tolbert playing the role of Jenny.
In 2011, Sherman Hemsley made a guest appearance on Tyler Perry's House of Payne as George Jefferson along with Marla Gibbs, one of the few living members of the cast.
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, and their son Lionel, moved from a working class section of Queens into a luxury apartment in Manhattan. The Jeffersons premiered the following week, January 18, 1975, and 253 episodes were produced and aired during its 11-year run.
George's career as a dry-cleaner began in the first season of All in the Family, in the episode "Oh, My Aching Back". After his car was rear-ended by a bus, he filed a civil action and won enough to open his first store. At the beginning of The Jeffersons he was operating seven stores throughout New York City. Louise made friends with Tom and Helen Willis, an interracial couple with two adult children of their own (whom George insultingly called "zebras"): son Allan (played by Jay Hammer), a zealous college drop-out who abandoned the family, passed as Caucasian and lived in Paris for two years; and daughter Jenny, an aspiring fashion designer. Jenny and Lionel became a couple, were married in December 1976, and later became the parents of a daughter, Jessica (played in later seasons by Ebonie Smith). Lionel and Jenny experienced marital issues, and divorced in the winter of 1985.
Five-time Emmy-nominee Marla Gibbs portrayed the role of Florence Johnston, the Jeffersons' back-talking, wisecracking, and devoutly religious housekeeper. Florence often teased George, mostly about his short stature and receding hairline.
Paul Benedict arrived as Harry Bentley, a loyal, kind, handsome, friendly British next-door neighbor, who worked as a Russian language interpreter at the United Nations. 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 stars Zara Cully as Olivia "Mother" Jefferson, who constantly disparaged Louise as not being a good wife. Cully, who had first appeared in the 1974 All in the Family episode, "Lionel's Engagement", reprised her role. She appeared regularly in the first two seasons, but made sporadic appearances over the next two years and was written out in the fifth season (Cully died in 1978, from lung cancer; no episode was centered on Mother Jefferson's death, but it was mentioned that she had died in season 5). Ned Wertimer played the doorman, Ralph Hart, throughout the series. Another character, often spoken about but rarely seen, was Mr. Whittendale, the building operator, played by Jack Fletcher.
Mike Evans ("Lionel") left the show after the first season; his replacement was Damon Evans (no relation), who took over the role until partway through the fourth season. Damon Evans's last episode was "Lionel Gets the Business".
Mike Evans and Tolbert returned in the 1979–1980 season, with Tolbert's character, Jenny, being pregnant with a daughter named Jessica. However, Mike Evans appeared for only one more season, along with Tolbert. The Jeffersons's sixth season peaked at #8 in the summer of 1980.
The characters of Lionel and Jenny were written out by stating they had marital problems, the result of which became a two-part episode storyline as the series' eighth season premiere. The series' eighth season was the first African-American sitcom in years (since Sanford and Son) to peak in the top 5 (the series' eighth season debuted at #3). Evans and Tolbert appeared in the two-part episode together; Evans also appeared in one episode during the series' ninth season in 1982, and made his final appearance in two episodes in the series' eleventh and final season. Berlinda Tolbert became a regular guest star throughout the rest of the series.
In the spring of 1981, Paul Benedict left the show for two seasons, returning in the final two seasons of the series. However, the ratings sank below the top 30, and The Jeffersons aired its last episode, "Red Robins", on June 25, 1985.
The Jeffersons had many two part episodes, either over two consecutive weeks, or aired as an hour-long episode.
"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" (which featured Hemsley as a baseball stadium public address announcer; Hemsley also performs his signature George Jefferson dance in the video) and 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).
The song was also used in the 2006 film Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties. This time, the song was sung by Bill Murray who voices Garfield who joyfully sings about his new life in the palace. This version has different lyrics relating to Garfield's new life. The song is also referenced in the 2008 comedy Tropic Thunder.
In its first season (1974–75), the show ranked at number four, surpassed by its parent series All in the Family (which landed at number one for the fifth year in a row). The show's ratings for the following two seasons placed it in the Top 30, but during the 1977–78 and 1978–79 seasons (the show's fourth and fifth seasons), it fell out of the top 30.
It returned to the Top 10 in 1979–80, and at the end of the 1981–82 season, The Jeffersons finished third overall, only surpassed by fellow CBS series Dallas and 60 Minutes. As a result, the series remained among the Top 20 for the next two seasons.
NOTE: The highest average rating for the series is in bold text.
|1977-1978||Not in the Top 30|
|1982-1983||#12||12.0 (Tied with Newhart)|
|1984-1985||Not in the Top 30|
NOTE: The most frequent time slot for the series is in bold text.
The Jeffersons received 11 Emmy Award nominations during its time on the air. Sherman Hemsley and Marla Gibbs were nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, respectively, each year from 1981 through 1985. Isabel Sanford was nominated for six consecutive Emmys, from 1979 until 1985. Her victory in 1981 made her the second African-American actress to win an Emmy Award; Gail Fisher preceded her in 1970. Sanford was also the recipient of the five Golden Globe Awards nominations the program also received.
|DVD Name||Ep #||Release Date|
|The Complete First Season||13||August 6, 2002|
|The Complete Second Season||24||May 13, 2003|
|The Complete Third Season||24||April 12, 2005|
|The Complete Fourth Season||26||October 11, 2005|
|The Complete Fifth Season||24||August 15, 2006|
|The Complete Sixth Season||24||March 27, 2007|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: The Jeffersons|