By Season Three, Good Times had fully hit its amazingly entertaining stride, delivering nonstop laughs week in and week out while beginning to introduce some more serious issues into the lives of the Evans family. People always say that J.J. got the most attention, and he certainly did draw in a lion's share of the audience (especially kids like me, who placed him behind only Fonzie on our list of characters to be imitated) with his obligatory Kid Dy-No-Mite pronouncements and hilariously goofy behavior, but the heart and soul of Good Times was still James Evans. Watching all these episodes again has been a real revelation to me. When I was a kid, I didn't like James - he sort of scared me because he was yelling all the time. As an adult, though, I have a much better appreciation of the remarkable job John Amos did playing such a strong and truly heroic husband and father who worked like a dog to support his family. Amos gives his best performance ever in Season Three's episode The Family Tree, in which he meets and comes to terms with his own father, a man who walked out on his family when James was still a kid. As for all that yelling - well, it's usually hilarious and, more importantly, understandable given the family's situation.
The Evans family experienced a number of fairly momentous events in Season Three. Thelma got engaged and almost moved to California; J.J. eloped, only finding out in the nick of time that his beloved was a junkie; Florida had to have gall bladder surgery, an event which put the family in bad economic straits for awhile (J.J.'s twelve cavities didn't help much, either); Michael got the family on the FBI watch list by requesting information from the government of Cuba; Florida got herself thrown in the slammer after picketing the local meat market (bad meat market, to be exact); Florida's bank-robbing nephew showed up and threw the family in turmoil; and J.J. learned he might have VD. Jay Leno and Debbie Allen put in guest appearances, J.J. sported his chicken- and ribs-delivery hats for the first time, Bookman turned up again and actually put on quite a show at the season-ending rent party episode (which also features the memorable "Supremes" performance), and - best of all - you had the first appearance of the man, the legend, the icon - Sweet Daddy Williams.
J.J.'s catch phrases can get a little old if you watch these episodes one after another, as do the constant arguments between J.J., Thelma, and Michael, but this was probably the show's funniest season. There is even comedy to be found in the worst of the family's struggles. Perhaps my favorite line from the whole show belongs to James - lamenting the money problems he faces after Florida's operation, he complains that his tombstone will say "Here lies James Evans, back in the hole again." Good Times was still a great show in its later seasons, but it was really never the same after Season Three and John Amos' exit.
I can't imagine not having grown up watching Good Times - during its original run and then, for many years, in syndication. I came home from school to shows like Good Times, What's Happening!!, Sanford and Son, and Happy Days; all kids have nowadays are, ugh, talk shows. Good Times was family entertainment at its best. If you're a parent, do your kids a favor and let them see just how funny TV used to be.