TITLE: GOOD TIMES - THE COMPLETE SERIES
DVD Release Date: October 28, 2008 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Number of Discs: 17
Number of Episodes: 133
Running Time: Approx. 3327 minutes
Runtime of Special Features: N/A
Languages, Subtitles, Closed Captioning: English; Closed-captioned; English and Spanish subtitles (seasons 1 and 2)
Special Features: None
The good times are here again in The Complete Series of the classic TV series, Good Times! This 17 disc set contains all 133 episodes from the six year run of the series about the Evans family, the family that doesn’t have much except for each other. The series was a spinoff of the series Maude, although it has become much more popular and well-known in syndication than the series it was spunoff from. The series stars Esther Rolle and John Amos as Florida and James Evans, a married couple that are trying to make it in the projects. They have three kids: JJ, Thelma, and Michael. JJ is played by Jimmie Walker and ultimately becomes the star of the show through using memorable catchphrases and sometimes reinforcing stereotypes that the show was probably intended to fight against.
As the series progressed, James Evans was killed off (actually, John Amos was fired), but the series went on for three more years without him. In this time period, neighbor Willona (played by Ja’Net DuBois) became even more prominent in the series and was even the star of the series during the fifth season (when Esther Rolle temporarily left the series). To add to the series, Willona adopted a daughter of her own, Penny, played by future music superstar Janet Jackson. In a nutshell, that is the story of Good Times!
It is difficult to pick just a handful of episodes when you have 133 to choose from, so I’ll just point out a handful of highlights from each season.
The first season begins (well, at least in production order, as is presented on this set) with “Getting Up the Rent,” where the family has to do something quick to afford the rent for the month. In “Michael Gets Suspended,” Michael calls out somebody for being a racist--George Washington. Florida finds a book about sex in “Sex and the Evans Family,” and isn’t thrilled at all when she finds out that it belongs to Thelma’s boyfriend. Florida is asked to be in a commercial in “The TV Commercial,” but does she approve of the product?
Michael could go to a better school in “Crosstown Buses Run All Day, Doodah, Doodah,” but does he want to go? J.J. turns 18 in “J.J. Becomes a Man,” but will his 18th birthday begin with a criminal record? James finds a sack of (stolen) cash in “The Windfall,” so what will he do with it? J.J.’s new girlfriend’s parents don’t approve of him in “The Debutante Ball.” J.J. decides to support the family by joining the Army in “The Enlistment.”
James buys a gun that quickly disappears in “The Family Gun.” Florida decides to protest against bad meat from the supermarket (and goes to jail) in “Florida’s Protest.” The family is torn apart when Michael is accused of being a Communist in “The Investigation.” The family has a party to help a poor woman in the building in “The Rent Party.”
The fourth season begins with one of the best known episodes of the series, the two part episode “The Big Move,” where the family has finally made it big when James gets a great new job... except he dies in a car accident before he can even begin. Michael may be part of a street gang in “Michael the Warlord.” Thelma has found love and could be getting married in the two-part episode “Thelma’s African Romance.” In the two-part episode “Love Has a Spot on Its Lung,” wedding bells may be ringing for Florida and Carl (her boyfriend), but he can’t stay in Chicago.
The fifth season begins with the four-part episode “The Evans Get Involved,” where Penny comes along and ends up staying with Willona. In “Thelma Moves Out,” Thelma decides to leave the apartment because she can’t get any privacy (something which she didn’t seem to have as much of a problem with when there were five people living in the apartment as opposed to the three living there by now). Willona becomes a security watchdog in “Willona, the Fuzz.” The family starts a petition to get rid of Bookman in “Bye, Bye, Bookman.”
The final season brings Florida back (although Carl somehow disappears, despite the fact that she married him) and brings the news of Thelma’s engagement (and marriage) in the four-part episode “Florida’s Homecoming.” Penny’s 13-year-old friend is pregnant in “Stomach Mumps.” In the two-part episode “Florida’s Favorite Passenger,” Florida is determined to find out what is wrong with a kid that rides her bus... and to convince the mother to do something before it is too late. The series ends with “The End of the Rainbow,” where somehow, everything turns out perfect for the Evans family, and they strike gold.
Say it with me now: black spindle of death. Exactly what is the black spindle of death, you ask? Well, it is Sony’s economical way of providing seventeen discs inside of one box. It is made out of the cheapest possible plastic that Sony could find (mine was completely busted to pieces on the edges upon arrival) and doesn’t exactly hold the discs in place unless you put in the provided piece of cardboard. So far, Sony has been using it on four of their complete series sets, and hopefully this will be the last time we see it, but it probably won’t be.
The black spindle of death is housed inside of an outer box that isn’t that great itself is made of thin cardboard that probably isn’t any thicker than a French fry box from McDonald’s (meaning that your box will already have minor creases and folds in it before you even open it). The box has a general orange color scheme and has a cast photo in the center that is exactly the same as the cast photo used on the box art for the first season. When you open the cover, you’ll find a listing of all of the episodes and which disc the episodes can be found on. There are no elaborate episode guides in this set.
For season one, Disc 1 contains six episodes and Disc 2 contains seven episodes. From that point on, every disc contains exactly eight episodes, except for Disc 2 in season four (which contains nine episodes) and Disc 3 in season four (which contains seven episodes). I have no clue why they didn’t just do eight episodes on each of those discs as well. The artwork on the discs for seasons one and two just have the series logo, but we get cast photos on each disc beginning with season three.
Menu Design and Navigation:
Although the design of the menus does tend to change for each season, they all have the same basic options: Play All, Episode Selection, and Subtitles (only for the first season). The first season has the heads of each of the cast members floating around on a background with pastel stripes. On the main menu of each disc, we hear JJ say “dy-no-mite,” which should not be a surprise to anybody. Season two has perhaps the oddest menus, with the Episode Selections menu having the pictures for each of the episodes inside of a woman’s head with an afro. You also use a hair pick to navigate through the menus. Seriously, did the DVD producers think that Good Times is a show about African American hair design? By the third season, we get pretty standard menus with just the show logo and either a cast photo or that painting that we see on the closing credits of the series. The first two seasons do not contain chapters within the episodes, but by the third season, we do get these.
Video and Audio Quality:
Simply put, the quality on each season of this series is better than the quality on most Sony DVD sets. With that being said, though, there are still a few issues with things like compression (particularly on the earlier seasons) and audio levels that are a bit low. However, I don’t find the problems to be quite so severe to truly complain about it. All of the episodes are closed-captioned, and the first season has English, Spanish, and French subtitles on all of the episodes.
The episodes are exactly the same as they were on the individual season sets, which means that they are pretty much unedited. But pretty much doesn’t mean completely unedited. Nearly all of the multipart episodes are missing recaps and previews of the next episode, and the first two parts of “Florida’s Homecoming” (which originally run as a one-hour episode) run at exactly 22:12 each, so some syndicated versions seem to have slipped in. Otherwise, though, the set is fine, with the rest running anywhere from 24 to 26 minutes. You’ll notice that the runtimes decrease as each season comes, which should be no surprise.
This is such a popular show, yet none of the season sets have any special features. Don’t think that this one has any, though, because it doesn’t either. I know all of the cast members would probably be more than willing to offer insight on the series, and it would have been nice to maybe have some kind of documentary to “recap” the series featuring the cast members. But, of course, this is intended to be a “value packaging” of all of the seasons, so it shouldn’t be surprising that no such feature is included.
Just looking out of the window and watching the asphalt grow is not a good option... you’ll want to look at the TV and watch these episodes! If you already have the season sets, the best advice is to skip this set, as you already have the exact same discs except with better packaging. But if you are like me and have a Good Times collection that is lacking (I only own one of the season sets), this is a great way to own all of the episodes at a great price. I think that Sony is onto something positive by offering these complete series sets at unbeatable prices (basically just a little more than the price of just one season of a show at the price you’d find from other companies), although they seriously need to work on improving the packaging.
In any event, this is a great series that is both out-of-sight and dy-no-mite! Although, in a way, it doesn’t feel like one continuous series, it really feels like two totally different series (since it changes so much after John Amos leaves the series). It seems as if all of the characters suddenly mature by about 15 years the second he leaves. But one does have to wonder what direction the series would have gone in if John Amos had not left the series. I have a feeling that the show probably could have gone on for more than six season if he had not been fired. But in any event, as far as the good times go, ain’t we lucky we got ‘em?
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 0/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4.5/5
-- Reviewed by skees53 on 10/20/08
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