Good Times: The Complete Fifth Season DVD: Review By Evan "Mushy" Jacobs

  • OVERALL
    2.5
    WORTHY
  • Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE FEATURE
Good Times - The Complete Fifth Season seemed to be the signal that this show was going to be going off the air soon. Now, this is a show that I love. However, once John Amos was killed off (because he didn't like where the show was going in it's focus of the J.J. Evans character), and then Esther Rolle (the mother) was on an "extended" honeymoon, Good Times just seemed to devolve. It became the show that it was trying to not to be. How this happened I have no idea because Norman Lear was still a part of things, but according to Mr. Amos, things had gotten so big and so diluted that Lear may have just been a figurehead on the set.

This isn't to say that Good Times - The Complete Fifth Season isn't funny and entertaining. I love the apartment that these characters inhabit and there are some pretty good situations, but for the most part this really was an ensemble show. Every character added something unique and as long as they the balance was equal, that was when this show really seemed to thrive. Yet, with the focus on J.J., Michael,Thelma and family friend Willona..., the subject matter really left me wanting. What made this show work was that it was social satire. Take that out in favor of easy jokes and you lose the show. Plain and simple. My favorite episodes were "The Evans Get Involved Pt. 4", in which the Bookman character pretends to be Willona's husband. I also really liked "J.J.'s Condition" in which he has to deal with an ulcer. In fact, all the parts of the "The Evans Get Involved" were good as they dealt with the issue of child abuse.

Truthfully, if I was collecting Good Times on DVD, I would probably stop when the John Amos character was no longer around.
THE EXTRAS
No extras came with this DVD. In fact, as far as I know, there aren't any extras on any of the Good Times DVDs. I might be wrong about that.
THE VIDEO
1.33:1 Full Screen. You know, I watch this show almost everyday on TV LAND, and it's weird that the DVD transfers here don't look too much better then when they air on that station. It's not that they look bad it's just that I guess when I screen things on DVD, I just expect them to look better. The colors on the discs are very muted and not as bright as they usually seem when these shows are transferred. There were a few times where it seemed like the lighting and the clothing of the show clashed a bit, but these moments were very minimal. Overall, these discs look really good.
THE AUDIO
Dolby Digital. While there isn't anything really special happening in the sound department, I found that I had to turn these DVDs up a bit louder then I thought I would. Again, this probably says more about my set up then it does about the actual sound on the DVDs. They were not inaudible by any means. One thing I have noticed with these shows that are done like plays, is that they don't seem to have done retakes if a line was flubbed or delivered badly. I actually like this as there is a naturalness to the rhythms of the language and the comedy that really comes through.
THE PACKAGE
This 3 disc set is housed in a loud, yellow vinyl box. The three disks inside are each in an individual plastic tray that folds out. There is also a separate piece of paper that lists all the episodes and gives descriptions for these as well. There are pictures from some of the episodes inside the disc lay out also. The front cover features the new cast of Willona, J.J., Thelma, Michael, Bookman and Janet Jackson. The minute I saw this cover and didn't even see Esther Rolle, I knew that I was in trouble. Overall, this packaging is very economical and easy to wade through. As there are no extras, all you have is the episodes which you can easily navigate (with the help of the aforementioned listing's guide) to find whichever ones you want to watch.
THE FINAL WORD
As this is a show that I really like, I feel bad not liking this DVD box set as much as I thought I would. I guess I just expected more. It seemed like Good Times was a show that started off strongly, yet only completed half it's job. Had John Amos stuck around and had they really worked at making this show what it could have been, I don't think it would be looked at the same way today. Sure, I think people would still consider it funny, but I think that it might be more respected like say, "The Cosby Show." Overall, Good Times - The Complete Fifth Season is very entertaining. However, it just seems to be missing a lot with this box set.

As an aside, if you are interested in seeing a really good movie about Black culture, race and social issues then I highly recommend Shadows by John Cassavetes.

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