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STUDIO: Sony Pictures
RATED: Not rated
RUNNING TIME: 531 minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES: None happening now.
What was happening then wasn’t so good.
Ernest Thomas, Fred Berry, Haywood Nelson, Shirley Hemphill, Anne-Marie Johnson, Danielle Spencer.
Though actually not that great a sitcom, What’s Happening Now did manage to break down barriers by showing a brother with a basketball on TV…
In a sequel to the ‘70s sitcom, What’s Happening, most of the cast returns to pick up where they left off, with writer Raj (Thomas) having gotten married, Rerun (Berry) selling cars, Dwayne (Nelson) working with computers, and Shirley having bought Rob’s Diner to run it with Raj. Anne-Marie Johnson Also joined the cast as Raj’s wife, Nadine.
"What’s happening now? Some chicken wings…yeah. And what’s happening later? Some cheesecake, pizza, and a dozen Double Whoppers…mmm…unless of course I go for some Chinese…"
To be perfectly honest, I’d never really watched What’s Happening, because even as a kid I didn’t find it that interesting. I was much more into Good Times and The Jeffersons as far as black sitcoms were concerned. If that show was any good at all, and I kind of doubt it, then What’s Happening Now doesn’t reflect it at all. A rarity in TV, this was billed as a sequel rather than a spin-off, because it had most of the principal cast returning to their original roles some six years after the end of the first series. Of course in this case, that wasn’t necessarily a good thing, because What’s Happening Now pretty much sucks, or to be more diplomatic, it was shit. Everything that I’ve come to hate about sitcoms is pretty much embodied right here: bad writing, lame situations, clichéd or uninteresting characters, and the menace of the laugh track.
Is it me or did King of Cars rip off this episode?
It only took me two episodes to realize that it’s a miracle that this show made it back to the air in any form, considering how bad the production was. The original show ran from 1976 to 1979 and looked like many of the modestly budgeted sitcoms that made use of their primary sets and not much else back in the day. WHN was produced some six years later and didn’t improve on the original in any way whatsoever. The show still looked like it was produced on a shoestring in the middle of the ‘70s. And that’s one of the better things it had going for it. What particularly stands out here is the inanity of the writing. For example, in the pilot, Raj returns home after seven years to live in his childhood home and reunite with his friends, only when Rerun finds out that Raj has returned, he completely cold shoulders him and the only explanation we get is that he “doesn’t want to talk about it.” He and Raj make up later in the episode and the primary conflict that drove the episode is never even explained. What up wit dat?
"We about to show that punk ass Rerun what’s happening now, right?"
"Oh fo’ sho…"
Then in the second episode, “A Horse is Not a Home,” this is the set up, and I’m not kidding: Rerun gets a horse as a commission for selling a car and convinces Raj to hold onto it for a day while he puts an ad in the paper to sell it. Only the paper misprinted “horse for sale” for “house for sale”, Then a white couple (one of them being L.A. Law’s Susan Ruttan) show up to buy the house (keep in mind that Raj lives in Watts, yeah that Watts), and sitcom logic is applied so that Raj thinks they’re there for the horse and he takes their money. When the misunderstanding is hashed out, the guy plays hardball and Raj is left without a dwelling. So then the gang hatches a plot to make the guy think that the house is haunted and Shirley and Dwayne show up as fake Ghostbusters – complete with slime – to try to scare the guy into giving the money back. That was pretty much the quality of the episodes for this show. If you’re feeling nostalgic for black sitcoms (I mean honestly, aren’t we all at one time or another?), then go pick up the far superior Jeffersons, Sanford and Son, Good Times, or even Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. What’s Happening Now is a waste of your time. Certainly was of mine.
"Yo young blood, why don’t you slap me some skin on the down low and that ain’t no jive!"
"Uh, Raj, you do realize this is the ’80s, right?"
Thankfully there were no extras I had to sit through. The show was shot on tape on a boilerplate sitcom stage 20 years ago, so you can imagine the quality. Nothing wrong with the sound, other than I had to listen to the stupid dialogue.