George Jefferson and Movin' on Up

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sherman Hemsley died yesterday. He was the actor who played George Jefferson on the TV shows "All in the Family" and "The Jeffersons"—which ran from 1975 to 1985. Michael Eric Dyson, sociology professor at Georgetown University and the author of many books, puts the character George Jefferson into context and takes your calls.

Listeners: Call us if you saw yourself or your family reflected in George Jefferson or the story of the Jeffersons. Did you define yourself against the Jeffersons? Call us at 212-433-9692 or comment here. 


Michael Eric Dyson

Comments [14]

Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

I never liked All In The Family.
I never liked M*A*S*H.
I never cared for The Jeffersons.

As soon as I hear the theme songs for the first two, I viewed that as a signal to change channels.

I did like Good Times.

God Bless Jimmy J.J. Walker!

Jul. 25 2012 01:30 PM
clive betters

i agree, that it wasn't "funny". but, was it obligated to be ? the show dealt with issues [exagerated laugh track and all],that needed to have light shined on them. "mary hartman,mary hartman", wasn't really funny either;but, it tickled an inner understated funny-bone. there are many different ways of processing humor. too much of what people think of as funny,tends to operate in one-speeed.

Jul. 25 2012 01:21 PM

As a white kid in the 'burbs, I loved the humor and family values in The Jeffersons. And it wasn't because it was a spinoff from All In The Family--I didn't even know it was. I didn't like All In The Family, maybe because I lived with Archie Bunker and had to deal with him in my own life every day, in the form of my dad and grandfathers. Perspectives like that of The Jeffersons were so refreshing.

Jul. 25 2012 12:05 PM
gail bate from Warwick New York

Just to follow up on the recollection about the Doorman who gaddressed the tennants of color as The Jessersons.I friend of mine who lived in a 99% white town in New Jersey was out shopping with her two year old when a black cople came into the store..and the little one caled oout Look Mom its the Jeffersons!!!.
My friend decided it was time to make opportunities to widen the cultural circle...
Thanks for a great show.

Jul. 25 2012 12:00 PM
meredith from brooklyn

my brother and i watched the jeffersons as children while growing up in upper middle class suburbs, in a liberal jewish family. we loved the show, the characters, and i dare say we were oblivious to the nuances of the issues of race. we just loved it for what it was, a great sitcom. maybe it was a good way to become a person who is not racist?

Jul. 25 2012 11:58 AM

My middle class white family watched every week for 10 years. this was never a “black show" like good times or whats happening (both also good shows)

Jul. 25 2012 11:57 AM
The Truth from Becky

RIP Mr. Hensley! An amazing actor, never in the media in a negative fashion in all of his time in hollywood.

Jul. 25 2012 11:53 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

I don't think I got a single chuckle out of that show. The "humor" always seemed forced or artificial... it never rang true, nor did the story line evolve in logical ways or unpredictable (misdirected) ways. Too obvious and the laugh track is soooo obvious.

And no, it wasn't because of the obvious caricatures -- exaggeration is a legitimate method of comedy.

Sorry Prof Dyson, the intentions might have been noble, and the "situation" one that ought to be presented, the but the execution was sorely lacking. The show seemed a self-parody of itself.

Just not funny. At least not to me anyway.


Jul. 25 2012 11:51 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

The Jeffersons, as a counter to shows like "Good Times" and "Sanford & Son" certainly pioneered the pre-Cosby show narrative of African-American upward mobility that started in the 80's.

Jul. 25 2012 11:50 AM
Tony from Canarsie

Let's not forget Mr. Hemsley's terrific performance on Broadway in "Purlie."

Jul. 25 2012 11:49 AM
Elle from Brooklyn

The writing on The Jeffersons was never as good as that on All in the Family, but all of the Jeffersons were great characters.

Jul. 25 2012 11:49 AM
fuva from harlemworld

(No, that is NOT the theme song. Don't know what version you're using, but it's not the original, written and masterfully sung by Ja'net Dubois ("Wilona" from Good Times)...)

Jul. 25 2012 11:48 AM
Tom from UWS

A bit off topic -
I was surprised to learn yeasterday that Sherman Hemsley was 20 years younger than his TV wife, isobel Sanford. They were one of my favorite TV couples of the Norman Lear era - perfect foils for Archie and Edith Bunker, she was smart in both the IQ and fashion sense, he was irascible.

Jul. 25 2012 11:47 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Oh, God bless you Mr. Hensley! RIP.

Never did like how they moved out of the hood when they got money...But The Jeffersons always kept it real. Good, funny social commentary. Classic.

Jul. 25 2012 11:05 AM

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