Brother From A Diff'rent World

Best Black TV Moments #07

“Damn. Damn! Damn!!” – Florida breaks down after James dies on Good Times

September 29, 1976 (Season 4, Episode 2)

Anyone worth their salt knows that because a phrase is heard on primetime television doesn’t mean that it came out of thin air or strictly from the minds of their creators.  So when longtime television viewers, most notably those with a penchant for classic Black television, first heard Marlon Wayans on The Wayans Brothers television show from the 1990’s utter the famous, “Damn. Damn! Damn!!” phrase coined dramatically by Esther Rolle’s character Florida Evans on the 1970’s sitcom Good Times, they heard something on nationwide TV that’s been said in Black households – in both joking and non-joking fashions – for decades, and most likely in the Wayans household itself over the years.

Still, “Damn. Damn! Damn!!” being a famous phrase is both a good and bad thing.  Starting with the bad, Florida utters the phrase after the wake for her husband James (played confidently by John Amos) who was killed in a car accident in Mississippi after landing a dream job that would allow the family to move down there for a better life and opportunity.  In reality, show producers killed Amos’ character after he refused to come back to the show for creative differences as Amos wanted less ghetto themed episodes and more positivity in the characters lives.   The phrase was striking because during the majority of the episode everyone marvels at how well Florida is holding up after the love of her life and father of her children has been taken away from her.  But in the last two minutes of the show (see above), when all the grievers are gone and the children are in another room, Florida finally breaks her cool, smashes a big punch bowl on the floor and utters the phrase right before physically breaking down.

Whether it was ad-libbed or she just put a stronger spin on it is unknown, but it was without a doubt one of the most, if not the most, wrenchingly emotional and pure moments ever seen on a Black sitcom, which is why it makes this list.  Without the phrase Esther Rolle would already have a solid place among Black sitcom leading ladies, but with it she’s undisputedly one of the queens of Black television. 

In the clips look for a special appearance from Matthew ‘Stymie’ Beard, THE Stymie from The Little Rascals, as James’ bald co-worker as well as for Helen Martin, that 70’s TV mainstay actually best known for playing Pearl - the neighbor who always sits in her window - on 1980’s sticom 227.

Pt. 4 – Back From the funeral —

Pt. 5- the repast —

 Esther Rolle … Florida Evans
 Ja’net DuBois … Willona Woods
 Ralph Carter … Michael Evans
 Bern Nadette Stanis … Thelma Evans
 Jimmie Walker … James ‘J.J.’ Evans, Jr

 Johnny Brown … Nathan Bookman

 Helen Martin … Wanda
 Raymond G. Allen … Ned the Wino
 Stymie Beard … Monty
 Henry Harris … James’ co-worker #1
 Lee Weaver … James’ co-worker #2