I Saw That!

One woman's opinions about popular entertainment.

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Amateur boxing coach, Christian (but not so heavenly-minded that I'm no earthly good) singer, writer, self-defense advocate, childfree. feminist www.smartwomenboxingtraining.org

Friday, September 07, 2007

"J.J.'s Fiancee" (1976) from "Good Times"

This two-part episode is one of the most well known of this sitcom, one of several in the 1970's that was produced by Norman Lear ("All In The Family").

It's prom night, and JJ and Thelma are getting ready for the party in Part I. JJ can't wait to see his date, Diana (Debbie Allen). Thelma comments that Diana is a nice girl, but she acts strange sometimes. One minute she appears to be on top of the world, and the next minute, her mood has darkened. JJ waits until his family and Diana's parents come by to drop the news: he and Diana are engaged to be married.

Both sets of parents are against it. They cite the usual reasons, including the fact that neither JJ or Diana are ready for such a responsibility. Upset by all the arguing, Diana runs off to Thelma's bedroom and locks the door. She opens her purse to reveal that she has a needle and drugs. Diana prepares to shoot up.

Diana reappears a little while later in an ebullient mood. She tells JJ that their parents are right and that they should put off thinking about marriage for awhile. Their parents, thinking the couple have come to their senses, breathe a sigh of relief. However, once JJ and Diana are on their way to the prom, she tells JJ they are going to elope.

Part II begins with Thelma returning from the prom early. She informs everyone that JJ and Diana never showed up to the prom. Diana has also taken Thelma's purse by accident, and Thelma shows the adults the needle and drugs she found. Diana's parents don't want to believe their child is an addict.

Diana and JJ check into a hotel not over the border from Illinois. The hotel manager agrees to set up the wedding for them. He explains he gets kids in every year around prom time who want to get hitched. It seems the wedding is going to cost JJ a little more than he has in his pocket, but the manager is willing to cut him a deal. JJ's excitement about the wedding blinds him to Diana's distress. She has now discovered that she took Thelma's purse by mistake, and she needs her fix. Diana is nervous, jumpy and upset. It is clear that JJ doesn't know that his love has a drug problem.

Diana runs to the bathroom and locks herself in. JJ takes this as pre-wedding jitters. He calls home to let the family know that he and Diana are ok. Florida tries to tell him about Diana's addiction, but JJ believes she's just saying that to keep them from getting married. James gets on the phone and explains the situation, but JJ still doesn't buy it. He calls Diana to the phone to clear things up, but she does not answer.

JJ opens the bathroom door to find the window open and Diana gone. Stunned, JJ goes back to the phone, but doesn't pick it up. James can be heard over the receiver asking his son what's wrong.

I'm still not sure what happened to Diana there. Was their room on a high floor? Did she jump to her death? Or were they on the ground floor? Did Diana just run off into the night? Whatever happened, JJ finally believed the truth about his fiancee.

Debbie Allen did a good job in this episode, playing a very unstable and tragic figure.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

"I Dream of Jeannie" (1965-1970)

Major Tony Nelson (Larry Hagman) is a military man who works in the space program in Florida. One day, he's sent on an exercise, which is part of his training as an astronaut. He comes across a bottle, and is surprised when a 2,000 year old genie named Jeannie (Barbara Eden) pops out. Tony thinks he's hallucinating. When he returns home, he's surprised to find that Jeannie has folllowed him, and life is not the same for Tony after that.

Tony hides Jeannie for awhile, but eventually his best friend, Major Roger Healey (Bill Daily) is let in on the secret. The both of them find themselves helped and hindered by Jeannie during various adventures. Roger sometimes caused problems because he thought it wouldn't be a problem to use Jeannie's powers in various situations. They also have to explain some of the more unusual occurences to their superiors, Dr. Bellows (Hayden Rorke), General Peterson (Barton MacLane) and General Schaeffer (Vinton Hayworth). Bellows was particularly suspicious of Tony, and always kept his eye on him.

Jeannie grew on Tony after awhile, and a mutual attraction grew. During the last season of the show, the genie and the military man were married.

Jeannie was from the Middle East, but was played by a perky, blond-haired actress, who today still looks like she did when she appeared on this show. The censors kept Ms. Eden's belly button covered because even though her costume would normally show it, they felt it was not proper for network TV -- remember, this was the 1960s.

When I see the reruns, and Larry Hagman's character makes up some lie to throw Dr. Bellows off the track, I can't help but think of the tricks and cons the character he portrayed on "Dallas" (1978-1991), the nefarious J.R. Ewing, used to pull.

Bill Daily appeared as Howard Borden, a neighbor of Bob and Emily's on "The Bob Newhart Show" (1972-1978).

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