Why '227' paved the way for the best family sitcoms that came after

The cast of the iconic 1980s NBC sitcom, '227' reunited to celebrate 35 years since the show's premiere.

10/18/2020 9:12:00 PM

How 1980s sitcom ’227' paved the way for the best family sitcoms that came after: “The husband and wife were real and had real problems and faced difficulties,” star Marla Gibbs said. - NBCBLK

The cast of the iconic 1980s NBC sitcom, '227' reunited to celebrate 35 years since the show's premiere.

More than three decades later, there’s still no place like home.The sitcom “227” premiered 35 years ago this past September. The NBC comedy, which aired for five seasons, starred Marla Gibbs, fresh off her run as the feisty maid Florence on “The Jeffersons,” as Mary Jenkins, a gossipy housewife living in a Washington, D.C., apartment building filled with all sorts of zany characters.

BTS Has Now Spent 11 Weeks at No. 1 on the Artist 100 Melania Trump cancels plans to attend Tuesday rally citing Covid recovery New York City reports 0.17% positivity rate in open schools

Oct. 9, 202010:36The sitcom revolved around the Black tenants in the building, and while it may be easy to label “227” a Black comedy, its appeal transcended skin color.“The husband and wife were real and had real problems and faced difficulties,” Gibbs told TODAY.

The Jenkins clan in “227” was a solidly nuclear, middle-class Black family that showed people can have some of the same issues, regardless of race.“I had a big influence on how the show went and that’s the way I wanted it to go,” Gibbs said.The comedy was the kind of fare parents could watch with their children, while not being too bland.

“‘227’ kind of set the bar a little higher because it was a totally intact family,” Hal Williams, who played Mary’s contractor husband, Lester, told TODAY.“It was a mother, father, daughter and they were very positive. There were very few negatives. It addressed all kinds of social issues and it gave oncoming shows the opportunity to explore new avenues and new issues comfortably because the networks and production companies were open to that kind of a pitch idea.”

“We had a family show that dealt with family issues,” he added.From left, Alaina Reed and Marla Gibbs,- on set of 227 circa 1985.Columbia Pictures / Everett Collection fileGibbs said the show excelled in its ability to cross over and not reach any one particular demographic.

“It was somebody they could relate to, even in their own family or their own neighborhood,” she said.There’s also the matter of casting. Gibbs and Williams were TV veterans joined by Helen Martin, who played sassy Pearl, grandmother to Calvin, portrayed by Curtis Baldwin. Alaina Reed Hall played Mary’s friend and building landlord Rose.

The real star, though, may have been Jackée Harry as man-hungry Sandra Clark, whopurred “Maaary”when addressing Gibbs’ character and stole scenes with her comedic edge. She was so good that she won an Emmy Award for best supporting actress in a comedy for the role.

Trump didn't order declassification of Russia docs despite tweets, Meadows says ‘Call off the dogs…it’s absolutely outrageous’: Fmr. DHS Secy. to Trump on ‘poll watchers’ Abigail Disney: Elizabeth Warren is right to call out Disney's bad behavior

“I credit her with the success of the show because she was somebody that was easy to write for,” Gibbs said."I just came in and I wanted to be something different, so I had my girlfriend's voice, Valjean Dean, from high school and Mae West and Lucille Ball. I just put them all together," Harry said about her audition during a 2010"227" reunion on TODAY.

Long before she won an Academy Award or any of her four Emmy Awards, Regina King was a child actor whose first TV or film role was as Mary and Lester’s daughter, Brenda Jenkins. Williams, whose résumé before “227” included “Sanford and Son” and “The Waltons,” made a point to pass along his wisdom to King and Baldwin.

“I tried to instruct them to always be professional, be on time, know your lines and Regina just ate it up,” he said.“I’m not surprised,” he said about her success."The foundation started on this show. I learned the importance of being a professional," King said during the cast reunion on TODAY.

Top, from left, Curtis Baldwin, Marla Gibbs, Hal Williams, Regina King, Kia Goodwin; Front, Jackee Harry, Helen Martin, Alaina Reed, cast of 227 circa 1987.Columbia Pictures / Everett Collection file“227” came at a time when Black family comedies were changing. “The Jeffersons” had set the stage for an affluent Black family on the small screen during its 11-season run. “The Cosby Show,” which premiered a year before"227," focused on an affluent family and became the top-rated show in America for five consecutive seasons. Black TV families had previously been poor, such as those depicted on “Good Times” and “Sanford and Son,” or didn’t have two parents in the house, like those on “What’s Happening!!” and “Julia.”

“227” was part of a new era that has continued to evolve in the decades since on programs like “My Wife and Kids,” “Family Matters,” “Living Single,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “black-ish.”Gibbs has certainly witnessed the growth of Black representation on TV.

“I’ve seen some very encouraging things and I see a lot of Black people working,” she said. “I think we have to count what we see when it’s not their show, also, because almost every commercial and every show has one Black person in it.”Gibbs also believes “227” offered something different, pointing to a story about her and Martin when they were promoting the show.

Berkshire Hathaway fined for alleged Iran sanctions violations The Latest: Cough keeps Melania Trump off campaign trail Gwen Stefani Gives Her Hits a Country Makeover, Talks 'Intimidating' Vibe on 'The Voice'

“When we did one of the appearances for ‘227,’ we were at the airport and a white couple ran up to Helen and they said, ‘You’re doing us! You’re doing us!’ So, they really connected and they weren’t even Black,” she said. “I wanted the show to be authentic about a loving family who were in the neighborhood and who went to public school and did all those things.”

From left, Marla Gibbs, Hal Williams, Jackee Harry on set of 227 circa 1986.Columbia Pictures / Everett Collection fileThe show holds a special place in fans’ hearts and has cemented its place in pop culture. In 2019, Williams, Gibbs and Harry reunited for a

“227” spoofon HBO’s “A Black Lady Sketch Show,” and Williams has tossed around the idea of a “227” reboot, although he has not formally pitched the idea anywhere.“We’re just kicking it around. I figure if you throw enough stuff on the wall, something's going to stick up there,” he said.

Did"227" help pave the way for other Black shows that came later?“Probably, because the more the industry opens up to creators, of every kind, of every ethnicity, the more the industry opens up and accepts people with creative ideas,” Williams said.

"227" signed off for good on May 6, 1990, but all these years later, the comedy endures. While times change, the need to connect with viewers remains the same, and Williams believes “227” still holds up today due to its message that transcends the decade in which it aired.

“We addressed things that are still timely today. And the show is a family show,” he said. Read more: NBC News »

'Wildland Mike' Clark Reacts to Trump's Statements on Wildfires

“To me, it doesn’t make any sense to not at least try to do something good for the world,” TikTok-famous firefighter tells Rolling Stone

NBCBLK JOE BIDEN AND HIS SON ARE CRIMINALS NBCBLK What a cast TV tvtime NBCBLK How true how true I watched it back then. NBCBLK Can anyone imagine 'NBCWHITE?' NBCBLK 227 was the best! NBCBLK More racist propaganda from NBC.... NBCBLK One of the best ones yet NBCBLK I’ve seen each episode 227 times. Great show

NBCBLK Loved this show - wish Pearl who was always im the window were still alive NBCBLK Yes, yes it did. NBCBLK Marla Gibbs must have made the successful transition from The Jefferson's to 227! NBCBLK

Why California’s unemployment system devolved into chaos during pandemicWhy California's unemployment system devolved into chaos during pandemic A new report examines the failures of California’s Employment Development Department to help residents obtain their unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic GavinNewsom realDonaldTrump foxnews cnn msnbc TuckerCarlson CNBC illiterates are working in those government departments. Hiring based on inclusivity instead of merit gets you incompetence. And so suffering for people who needed help but didn't get it.

Leslie Jones on 'Supermarket Sweep' and Why She Doesn't Miss 'SNL'The breakout, Emmy-nominated 'SNL' star talks to ET about landing her dream job as host of the ABC game show reboot. Good for her! She was the worst, she’s not funny at all

Why The Founder Of TOMS Shoes Wants You To Learn Ten New HabitsAfter experiencing his own burnout after TOMS Shoes, Blake Mycoskie was inspired to start Madefor, a 10-month program where people learn a new habit or practice each month. We sat down to talk about the inspiration for Madefor and why this focus on well-being is more important than ever. Good shoes are a must.

Sweden: Why the ‘moral superpower’ dissented over COVID-19As it did over the migration crisis in 2015, the Scandinavian country took a COVID-19 position distinct from its European neighbors. Let's get the death count for what lockdowns have done for us! (Suicides, sick family members denied from seeing loved ones, and homicides since this lockdown started) A POSITIVE TEST ISN'T A CASE❗️ NoMoreCovidFundingForLACounty DemocratsAreDestroyingAmerica Scamdemic Plandemic HOAX DemocratsAreCorrupt FakeScience MasksDontWork MasksOffAmerica DemocratsRuinedTheEconomy OpenSchoolsNow TRUMP2020ToSaveAmerica🇺🇸

‘Game of Thrones’ Showrunner David Benioff Explains Why Pedro Pascal Was the Perfect Red ViperIf you’re a fan of Pedro Pascal — the star of the Disney Plus series “The Mandalorian,” and the cover subject of the Oct. 14 issue of Variety — odds are high the first time you le… He was a thoroughly convincing character! that conversation he had with tyrion when he decided to be his champion deserved an emmy nod His time was short, but the impact was immense. Talented actor who deserves praise. GoT

Sharon Stone Reveals Why She Posed Nude For PlayboyActress Sharon Stone had a very specific reason to bare it all for Playboy.