The Jeffersons

Common Sense Media says

Barrier-breaking sitcom mixes humor, stereotypes.

Age(i)

2
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9
10
11
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17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The show breaks social barriers, but it also features some strong negative ethnic stereotypes. George is stubborn, mean-spirited, and bigoted. There are clear class distinctions between the Jeffersons and their friends and family from the "old neighborhood" in Queens. Most of the cast is African-American; Tom and Harry are Caucasian. Harry is British.

Violence

George likes to yell at people (especially Louise), but he isn't violent.

Sex

Occasional adult hugging and kissing.

Language

Language includes words like "damn" and racial epithets like "honky" (generally played for laughs).

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Occasional drinking and pipe and cigar smoking. References to getting drunk. George and his friends like going to local bars.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this classic '70s/'80s sitcom -- which follows an African-American couple who move to an upper-class Manhattan apartment in a primarily Caucasian neighborhood -- combines strong racial stereotypes with some positive representations of African Americans and interracial relationships. George Jefferson is stubborn, mean-spirited, and bigoted, and the show uses strong words like "damn" and racial epithets like "honky." The show is generally mild by today's standards, but George's inappropriate behavior and language may send iffy messages to younger viewers.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Classic sitcom THE JEFFERSONS -- which originally aired from 1975 to 1985 -- stars Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford as George and Louise "Weezy" Jefferson, an African-American couple who move from a working-class neighborhood in Queens, New York, to a luxury high-rise apartment on Manhattan's East Side after his dry cleaning business takes off. Hired to help the middle-aged couple in their swanky new digs is Florence Johnston (Marla Gibbs), a sharp-tongued maid who's never afraid to speak her mind. And what new home would be complete without new friends, including neighbors Helen and Tom Willis (Roxie Rocker and Franklin Cover) and eccentric Brit Harry Bentley (Paul Benedict). Ralph the doorman (Ned Wertimer) sometimes stops by, too, usually looking for ways to collect a tip.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

This popular, controversial sitcom was spun off from 1970s classic All in the Family -- and features the same kind of bigoted humor that made Archie Bunker famous. Mean-spirited George freely offers stinging remarks about "white folks" and Helen and Tom's interracial marriage. Also bearing the brunt of his jokes is his adult son Lionel (Mike Evans), who later in the series marries the Willis' fair-skinned daughter Jenny (Berlinda Tolbert). Throughout it all, Louise finds herself apologizing for her husband's actions.

The Jeffersons' confrontational brand of humor includes some prominent negative ethnic stereotypes, which are most notable when George's Amos and Andy-like antics result in conflict. But the show also broke barriers by being the first TV show to feature an interracial couple, and it shows African Americans living somewhere besides the lower-class neighborhoods usually featured in African-American-centered sitcoms of the time. And despite his many shortcomings, viewers are always reminded that George is a hardworking, self-made businessman whose efforts moved his family up in the world.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about confrontational humor. How is it different from other kinds of humor? Does it rely on negative behavior to be funny? Families can also talk about how different racial/ethnic groups are represented on television now. How have things changed since this show first aired? Can you think of any groundbreaking TV moments from recent years that have challenged stereotypes? Why are some stereotypes from the past now considered unacceptable while others are still seen in today's media?

TV details

Cast:Isabel Sanford, Marla Gibbs, Sherman Hemsley
Networks:Syndicated, TV Land
Genre:Comedy
TV rating:TV-PG
Available on:DVD

This review of The Jeffersons was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Kid, 10 years old May 2, 2011
AGE
10
QUALITY
 

classic show

very funny and lots of laughs
What other families should know
Great messages
Written byAnonymous March 23, 2014
AGE
9
QUALITY
 

Rated PAUSE

Rated PAUSE for some sexual dialouge and implications, some mild obscenities, and mild violence.
Teen, 16 years old Written byUSCTrojan May 11, 2012
AGE
10
QUALITY
 

Preteenagers and older.

This is Iffy for 10+ Fun for Pre-Teens +.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

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