WATCH Magazine: August 2022: Summer Of Love

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1| Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford as George and Louise Jefferson in a scene from The Jeffersons . 2| Lear (standing left) talks with actors Sanford (seated) and Hemsley on the set of The Jeffersons . 3| Portrait of the cast of The Jeffersons . 4| Lear talks with the studio audience on set of The Jeffersons .

Lenny Kravitz

FACTOIDS ABOUT THE JEFFERSONS

Franklin Cover & Roxie Roker

♦ The characters of Tom and Helen Willis were television’s first Black and white interracial couple . The late Roxie Roker was the mother of singer- songwriter Lenny Kravitz. ♦ Gibbs as Florence exited The Jeffersons briefly for spinoff comedy Checking In , which aired for four episodes in April 1981. There was also talk of giving Benedict’s Harry Bentley his own series. ♦ In addition to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air , Hemsley appeared as George in the first two episodes of one-season CBS sitcom E/R in 1984. This was prior to NBC’s long-running medical drama ER (which, ironically, also featured George Clooney). ♦ Sanford was the first African American actress to win the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy (in 1981). ♦ DuBois (Willona Woods on Good Times ) wrote and performed the classic opening theme song on The Jeffersons. ♦ Sanford and Hemsley reunited for a series of TV commercials in 2001. What product were they for? A) Coca-Cola B) Denny’s restaurants

♦ As compatible as they seemed in real life, Sanford was actually 56 when the series began, versus just 37 for Hemsley. Mike Evans was only 10 years younger than his TV dad. ♦ While Sanford appeared on a recurring basis on the first five seasons of All in the Family , Hemsley did not debut as George until the Season 4 episode titled “Henry’s Farewell” (October 20, 1973). Lear created the role of George with Hemsley in mind, but he was not immediately available; Mel Stewart, as George’s brother Henry, occasionally appeared.

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Sherman Hemsley

Jeffersons was an immediate sensation, finishing that abbrevi- ated first season ranked No. 4 over- all (behind Lear’s All in the Family , Sanford and Son , and Chico and the Man ). While most series tend to start tiring by Season 5 or 6, the show actually peaked in Season 8 (1981–82), with an overall third-place finish. The Jeffersons ran for 11 seasons, mak- ing it the longest-running Lear series. While there was no official final episode, George and Louise did reunite for two

Jenny, Lionel’s future wife. Paul Benedict as Harry Bentley was the loyal but some- what dimwitted British next-door neigh- bor. Zara Cully as George’s feisty mother, Olivia Jefferson, was none too fond of her daughter-in-law, Louise. And Marla Gibbs, initially in a recurring role, was the Jeffersons’ wisecracking housekeeper, Florence Johnston, who knew how to put George in his place. “How come we overcame and nobody told me ?” noted Gibbs as Florence at the end of the first episode upon realizing the Willises also lived in the building. Debuting out of parent All in the Family into the plum Saturday 8:30 p.m. ET ( The Mary Tyler Moore Show ) time slot, The

episodes of Will Smith’s The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (including the series finale on May 20, 1996, which also featured Marla Gibbs as Florence).

C) Dunkin’ Donuts D) Folger’s coffee E) Kodak cameras

Ja’Net DuBois

ANSWER B) Denny’s restaurants. “Denny’s customers of all ages connect with the warm, familiar style of Sherman and Isabel,” said Roy Getz, Denny’s VP of marketing at the time.

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JULY/AUGUST • 2022

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