The Jeffersons: Wikis


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The Jeffersons
The Jeffersons title card, used from Season 3 on
Genre Sitcom
Created by Don Nicholl
Michael Ross
Bernie West
Developed by Norman Lear
Directed by Bob Lally
Oz Scott
Jack Shea
Tony Singletary
Arlando Smith
Starring Isabel Sanford
Sherman Hemsley
Mike Evans
(seasons 1, 6-8, 11)
Roxie Roker
Franklin Cover
Marla Gibbs
Zara Cully
(seasons 1-3)
Berlinda Tolbert
Paul Benedict
(seasons 1-8, 10-11)
Damon Evans
(seasons 2-4)
Jay Hammer
Theme music composer Jeff Barry
Ja'net Du Bois
Opening theme "Movin' On Up" performed by Ja'net Du Bois
Composer(s) Don Great
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 11
No. of episodes 253 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) David Duclon
Ron Leavitt
Jay Moriarity
Mike Mulligan
Don Nicholl
Michael Ross
George Sunga
Bernie West
Producer(s) David Duclon
Ron Leavitt
Michael G. Moye
Jerry Perzigian
Donald L. Seigel
Jack Shea
Camera setup Multi-camera setup
Running time 22–24 minutes
Production company(s) TAT Communications Company in association with NRW Productions
Distributor Sony Pictures Television (2007-2008, previous sames Columbia Pictures Television, Embassy Television, Embassy Telecommunications and *P *I *T *S Films)
Original channel CBS
Audio format Monaural
Original run January 18, 1975 (1975-01-18) – June 25, 1985 (1985-06-25)
Status Ended
Preceded by All in the Family
Followed by Checking In
Related shows Maude
Archie Bunker's Place
704 Hauser

The Jeffersons is a American sitcom that was broadcast on CBS from January 19, 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. The Jeffersons is the longest-running comedy (or series of any genre) with a predominantly African American cast in the history of American television.[1]

The show focused on George and Louise Jefferson, an upper middle-class African American couple. 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 story-lines. It did, however, tackle a few serious topics including racism, suicide, gun control and adult illiteracy. Also, the words "nigger" and "honkey" were used occasionally, especially during the earlier seasons.[citation needed]

The show 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 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.[2] The cast later reunited in a stage-play based on the sitcom.


Series development

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, were recast, with veteran actor Franklin Cover as Tom, Roxie Roker as Helen and Berlinda Tolbert playing the role of Jenny.


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 had long ago begun his career as a dry-cleaner and now was operating seven stores in urban sections of 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), an overzealous 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).[3] 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, 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. 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 regularly appeared in the first season, but made sporadic appearances over the next two years and 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.) 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.

Cast changes

Mike Evans left the show at the end of the first season to work on Good Times; 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, written back on the series saying she was pregnant with a daughter named Jessica. However, Evans only appeared for one more season, as did Tolbert. The Jeffersons's sixth season peaked at #8 in the summer of 1980.

The characters of Lionel and Jenny were written out stating they had marital problems, the result of which became a two-part episode storyline as the series' eighth season premiere, and the series' eighth season was the first African-American sitcom in years (since Sanford and Son) to peak at the top 5 (the series eighth season debuted at #3). Evans and Tolbert appeared in the two-part episode together, and Evans 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, and returned 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.

Main cast

Supporting cast

Notable Appearances


The Jeffersons had many two part episodes, either over two consecutive weeks, or aired as an hour-long episode.

Production notes

Set design

  • 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.
  • 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.

Theme song

Ja'net Du Bois (from Good Times) and Jeff Barry co-wrote The Jeffersons's 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".

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 due to the song talking about Garfield's new life.

Studio tapings


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 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.

Nielsen Ratings

Year Rating
1974–1975 #3[4]
1975–1976 #21[5]
1976–1977 #24[6]
1977–1978 Not in top 30[7]
1978–1979 Not in top 30[8]
1979–1980 #8[9]
1980–1981 #6[10]
1981–1982 #3[11]
1982–1983 #11[12]
1983–1984 #19[13]
1984–1985 #19[14]

Broadcast history

  • 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 – June 1985, CBS, Tuesday 8:30–9:00pm

Awards and nomination

The Jeffersons received eleven 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 releases

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has released the first six Seasons of The Jeffersons on DVD in Region 1.

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



  • Newcomb, Horace (Ed.). (1997). Encyclopedia of Television. Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers: Chicago. ISBN 1-884964-26-5.
  • Mitchell, Gordon Whitey. (2008). Hackensack to Hollywood-My Two Show Business Careers. BearManor Media: Albany. ISBN 1-59393121-2.

External links

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