Cast of Good Times

Source: Bettmann / Getty

Good Times. The Jeffersons. What’s Happening!! When you hear the names of these shows, you immediately think about the pantheon of black television. In the 1970s, these sitcoms provided audiences with countless memorable moments and paved the way for a lot of the shows that we currently watch.

We all know how important these shows were and still are to our culture. We all know that seeing black people’s everyday lives being depicted on screen was something that we had never seen up until that point. What most people don’t know though, is the history of these shows and the controversy that surrounds them.

For the longest, television screenwriter, film and television producer Norman Lear was credited with creating these groundbreaking shows. The reality is that a Black man named Eric Monte is the genius behind the renaissance of Black television. In a tweet posted by @hwd_sports we learn more.

Eric Monte was born Kenneth Williams in Chicago, Illinois. After dropping out of Cooley Vocational High School his junior year, he enlisted in the United States Army. Upon returning from his stint in the Army, Monte made his move to Los Angeles, California. He got his first break with a script written for and accepted by All in the Family, which eventually contributed to the spawning of The Jeffersons. After that, he produced Good Times (which he co-created with The Jeffersons star Mike Evans) and What’s Happening!! (which was based on his screenplay for the motion picture Cooley High).

The conundrum came when Monte accused Norman Lear of stealing his ideas for his shows and claimed them as his own. He claims that he was cheated out of creative credits and of millions of dollars. The claims obviously had some validity to them because Monte filed a lawsuit against Norman Lear, CBS, Tandem Productions and Harry Perenchio and received a $1-million settlement and a small percentage of the residuals from Good Times. 

Scene From 'Good Times'

Source: CBS Photo Archive / Getty

Good Times

Source: CBS Photo Archive / Getty

After the settlement, Monte’s opportunities dried up drastically. He went on to suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction and homelessness before turning things around and maintaining sobriety. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon. Although his story didn’t have the story book ending that most might have hoped, his legacy will forever live on. Without him, his characters and stories he told through his shows, we might not have ever seen a complete Black family on television. He is now commonly recognized for depicting African American culture on TV screens across America. Regardless if he gets his proper recognition or not, we would like to give him his flowers and thank him for his contributions.