Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Jeffersons (1977)


I enjoy honoring Black History Month (BHM) on my blog because there are so many excellent Christmas episodes, specials and TV movies with exceptional African-American cast members.  There are also many outstanding and touching Christmas TV story lines aimed at black audiences.  This month I'm highlighting just a few of my favorites.

"Well, we're movin' on up, to the east side.  To a deluxe apartment, in the sky..."

The 1970s sitcom The Jeffersons began as a spin-off of the groundbreaking and controversial series All in the Family.  Though The Jeffersons created five Christmas episodes, the 1977 episode entitled "984 W. 124th Street, Apt. 5C" isn't just my favorite of the series, it is also one of my personal all-time favorite Christmas episodes.


On Christmas Eve, George, Louise, their son Lionel and his wife Jenny, and neighbors Tom and Helen Willis gather together for the holiday.  They are also celebrating Lionel and Jenny's wedding anniversary (they married in the previous year's 1976 holiday episode entitled "The Christmas Wedding").

With slurred speech, the maid Florence explains that the egg nog is "evaporating" and she needs to make more.
On this evening, Louise accidentally discovers that her husband has been secretly delivering monthly cash payments to an address on W. 124th Street in Harlem.  He’s recently sent a Christmas tree and gifts there as well.

George refuses to provide a reasonable explanation for the gifts sent to the Harlem apartment
When Louise questions him about the money and gifts, George provides the most flimsy explanation which sounds like he's lying to cover something up.

Why else would George be sending cash to an address in Harlem?  Is he supporting someone else?
Louise fears the worst: George is keeping a mistress--perhaps even a love child!  Later that night when George slips out of their home to deliver yet another gift to the Harlem address, Louise follows him.

Louise follows George to a dilapidated tenement house.
When Louise follows George to a broken down apartment house, she is shocked to discover George’s actual secret.  George explains he is fulfilling his own childhood promise to help the residents of the apartment where he grew up to not suffer from extreme poverty as he did.  It turns out George has been anonymously giving the residents of the apartment 5C money and support to help them improve their lives.

The family living at the Harlem address explains about their anonymous benefactor
I love this emotional episode because it shows a compassionate side of George Jefferson that we don't usually see.  Poverty so shaped his life that now as a wealthy man he feels obligated to give back and to help others escape the desperation that he knows all too well.  What a wonderful sense of charity--one that exceeds the holiday time, as it's explained George gives monthly support to the occupants of the apartment.  Without realizing they are talking to their benefactor, the family receiving the anonymous support explains that they are using the money to help cover their bills and to pay for the husband's additional education classes so he can earn more money and the family can eventually move to a better place.  It's a feel-good episode that emphasizes helping others--does it get any more Christmasy than that?

Childress steals the scene as the funny wino in the apartment's hallway.
Another interesting surprise in this episode is the casting of the wino in the hallway outside the tenement apartment.  The wino is played by Alvin Childress--the same actor who played Amos on The Amos 'n Andy Show in the 1950s TV series.  Childress has significant screen time, approaching George as he enters the hallway outside the apartment and then continuing the discussion as Louise catches up with George before she confronts him about what he's doing there.

Learning his secret, Louise approves and says "Merry Christmas, George."
This episode of The Jeffersons appears on the Fourth season DVD set on the 2nd disc.  It is also available for viewing on my TistheSeasonTV youtube channel, in the 1970s Christmas playlist.

What's your favorite Jeffersons Christmas episode?  What's your favorite Christmas episode about charity?  Please feel free to share your comment below.

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