The first half of Wednesday’s Live in Front of a Studio Audience transported audiences to 921 North Gilbert Ave., in the inner-city of Chicago, where a star-studded cast – led by How to Get Away With Murder’s Viola Davis and Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Andre Braugher — recreated a classic episode of Good Times.
The aforementioned episode — Season 3’s “The Politicians,” which originally aired Nov. 4, 1975 — finds the Evans family divided when Florida (Davis) and James (Braugher) support different candidates in a local election. James and oldest son J.J. (Saturday Night Live’s Jay Pharaoh) back incumbent alderman Fred Davis (played by original series star John Amos), while Florida, their two other kids Thelma (Beat Shazam‘s Corinne Foxx) and Michael (This Is Us‘ Asante Blackk), and their next-door neighbor Willona (The Last O.G.’s Tiffany Haddish) back rising star Jimmy Pearson (When They See Us’ Jharrel Jerome).
Florida, who has just attended a Pearson rally, has invited the young politician over to help with his campaign. But before he arrives, Davis shows up to pay his “favorite family” a surprise visit. It quickly becomes clear that the political hack cares very little about the Evans clan, but wants to retain the support of a typically down-ballot household. At one point, he turns to James and says that the opposition really blew it this time by picking that “young egghead” Pearson to run against him, but he is fresh out of excuses when Willona asks why he’s been avoiding debating the up-and-coming competition. In fact, “if the poor kid were here right now, I’d tear him apart,” Davis says. And within seconds, Pearson arrives at the Evans’ front door. “Here’s your chance, Mr. Davis,” Florida says.
James proceeds to apologize on his wife’s behalf. He tells Davis that he doesn’t know what’s gotten into her lately. “What’s gotten into me is some sense,” she replies. Pearson then says how excited he is to finally discuss the issues with Davis… but Davis is only willing to debate one issue before he splits. Michael interrupts and asks Davis why he never says what his position is on a local policing issue, but he doesn’t have an answer. Then Pearson asks where the incumbent stands on night care centers for working moms. Again, no answer. Pearson refers to Davis as a relic of the past, but he refuses to engage in any further smack talk. Florida, however, is more than up to hurling insults in Davis’ direction. She takes him to task for being anything but a man of the people — and soon enough, everyone is going back and forth to defend their respective candidate. J.J. assures Davis that he’ll get all his chicks to vote for him, “because they don’t picket, and they don’t fight… One taste of these lips and they follow the lead of Kid Dyn-o-mite!” Florida and Willona try their best to egg Pearson into trash-talking Davis, but he insists that he’s only interested in the issues, and Davis heads out.
In the following scene, Pearson’s supporters are gathered at his election headquarters. Thelma runs in with the results from the family’s precinct, which reveal that the fresh-faced hopeful only got three — yes, just three — votes, compared to Davis’ 74; less than 40 percent of constituents cast their vote. Let-down supporters begin to walk out, then James and J.J. stop by to gloat about Davis’ victory and invite everyone to his celebratory bash. Pearson enters soon after and thanks the women for all of their help. Thelma and Willona proceed to head out, then Florida confronts James about Davis’ victory. She tells him that just because he voted for a winner doesn’t mean that those who voted for Pearson cast their ballots wrong. “Maybe you weren’t wrong, Florida, but Pearson here was,” James responds. He then turns to Pearson and says that he’s a good man who is better educated than Davis — but when it came time to talk to the people, he thought he was above trash talk and didn’t say enough to support why they should choose him over Davis. Florida tries to cut James off, but Pearson tells her that he’s right. He was talking at the people, not to the people — and now he’s motivated to try even harder in the next election.
Wednesday’s Live in Front of a Studio Audience also featured a classic All in the Family episode with an ensemble that included Woody Harrelson (as Archie), Marisa Tomei (as Edith), Ellie Kemper (as Gloria), Ike Barinholtz (as Mike), Jesse Eisenberg (as David Brewster), Justina Machado (as Teresa) and Kevin Bacon (as Pinky Peterson).
Grade the Good Times portion of Live in Front of a Studio Audience below, then hit the comments with your reactions.