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When What's Happening!! Happened

"What's Happening!! is an American television sitcom that aired on ABC from August 5, 1976 to April 28, 1979," according to Wikipedia.

"The show premiered as a summer series."

Here's a promo for the premiere, uploaded to YouTube this week by The Museum of Classic Chicago Television:


"With good ratings and reviews, and after the failure of several other shows on the network, What's Happening!! returned in November 1976 as a weekly series. It remained a regular show until 1979; ratings were modest. What's Happening!! was loosely based on the Eric Monte-penned film Cooley High."

Monte also wrote Good Times.

"Unlike Good Times, a contemporary show that also had an African-American cast (and was also produced by Eric Monte), What's Happening!! only rarely and mildly ventured into social commentary. Most episodes focused on the goals of teenage males: meeting girls, finding afterschool jobs, and planning for the future."


"The Doobie Brothers appeared as themselves to perform a concert at their former high school, Jefferson High, where Raj, Rerun, and Dwayne attend. Incidentally, one of the band's members (Patrick Simmons) stated he remembered Rerun from one of his old classes, saying 'Glad you came back!' Rerun responded, 'Came back? I'm still here!'"


Rerun was originally written as a skinny white kid and 30 other things you probably didn't know about What's Happening!!.


"Mabel King, in particular, believed that the show's popularity offered the perfect opportunity to set some strong examples of black television characters. She didn't like that she was a single mother working as a maid, and contended that the lack of strong family models on black sitcoms was 'one of the biggest tragedies on television.'"

This is why, sadly, The Cosby Show was such a big deal.

"As such, King departed the show after just one season . . . Similar sentiments led to the eventual absence of parental characters on other African-American sitcoms, notably Good Times."


Ebony cover story, June 1978: "On balance, What's Happening!! is the Archie comic book gang in blackface."


Fred Berry as Rerun.


Comments welcome.


Posted on September 3, 2015

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