What's Happening!!

Common Sense Media says

1970s slapstick comedy hasn't aged all that well.

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
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17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The show features working-class African-American characters who exhibit some stereotypical characteristics. While the main characters aren't necessarily negative role models, they're not empowering figures, either. The messages behind the show aren't really about social commentary, but rather about humor. Raj is a good student, goes to college, and is pursuing a writing career. Dee is often sarcastic to the point of being rude and often tries to blackmail the boys. Bill Spencer isn't an ideal father figure, but he does try to maintain a relationship with his kids.

Violence
Not applicable
Sex

Some dating and discussion of teen boy/girl relationships.

Language
Not applicable
Consumerism

Occasional references to items by product name, such as "Airwick."

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this iconic '70s sitcom focuses on three high schoolers growing up in urban Los Angeles. It hasn't aged as well as some of its sitcom peers: Some of the characters behave in stereotypical ways, and while they're not necessarily bad role models, they aren't exactly the most empowering African-American characters, either, particularly not in a modern context. Sarcastic exchanges between characters (particularly Dee) are frequent and may not set an ideal example for kids. Parents should also know that Raj and Dee's dad isn't an ideal father figure, and his relationship with the family isn't always positive.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

WHAT'S HAPPENING!! is an iconic sitcom about three urban African-American teens living in L.A.'s working-class Watts community in the late 1970s. The show centers on Roger "Raj" Thomas (Ernest Thomas), who lives with his obnoxious younger sister, Dee (Danielle Spencer), and his mother, Mabel (Mabel King). A good student and aspiring writer, Raj spends his free time hanging out with jovial, beret-sporting Dwayne Nelson (Haywood Nelson) and the pleasant but rather shy Freddy "Rerun" Stubbs (Fred Berry). The three young men are mostly occupied with typical high school problems -- from dealing with teachers to finding dates -- and often wind up getting into mishaps while finding ways to figure things out. Meanwhile, Raj and Dee are also trying to build a positive relationship with their father, Bill Thomas (Thalmus Rasulala), who ran out on them when they were younger.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Unlike its contemporary Good Times, What's Happening!! isn't committed to presenting enlightening social commentary or providing empowering African-American role models. Most of the problems the gang faces here are typical of what kids from any community have to deal with. While the show has its funny moments (especially when Dee offers her strong, often sarcastic opinions), much of the show's humor stems from a slapstick-like comedy style that's reminiscent of the minstrel show stereotypes of the 1930s

But despite their jive-talking (and often silly) banter and somewhat-stereotypical personas, Raj, Dwayne, and Rerun are generally good kids who have supportive, loving families. More importantly, the show highlights the importance of family, friendship, and community. What's Happening!! may not have aged as well as some of its contemporaries, but it could definitely be worse.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the kinds of social messages that TV shows offer their viewers. What are producers trying to achieve by providing social commentaries? Why do some shows seem to offer no social messages at all? Do you think audiences are more likely to notice that kind of message further down the line, when times have changed? Families can also talk about using stereotypes as a form of humor. Is stereotyping ever appropriate?

TV details

Cast:Ernest Thomas, Fred Berry, Haywood Nelson
Networks:Syndicated, TV Land
Genre:Comedy
TV rating:NR
Available on:DVD

This review of What's Happening!! was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

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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Written byAnonymous March 25, 2014
AGE
8
QUALITY
 

I LOVE THIS SHOW!

Anyone who is viewing this, book in mind that the Common Sense Media professional reviewers don't always have the best taste, or taste at all. CSM in that review displays an example of someone who can't handle reality. The show revolves around three inner-city kids, but it is hilarious. It's not violent or sexual, and has some decent messages. In my opinion, this show still portrays coming of age very well!
What other families should know
Great messages
Written byAnonymous March 27, 2014
AGE
7
QUALITY
 

Simple but Satisfying

GENERAL OPINION: This sitcom is, er, very simple. After watching half an episode of this show, I figured out the entire storyline. Storyline? What's Happening doesn't have much of a storyline, it's just a story of three black teenagers growing up. A comedic coming of age. The show is funny, and often makes you smile at the end. It is very simple: but I don't mind that. This sitcom has aged moderately well; but not horribly. There are a few things in it that some people aren't comfortable with. Most notably spanking, with Mama threatens to do and acts like she is going to do to her child Roger. She is never shown in the act of spanking him, however. Spanking is less widely accepted now; but people still do it. ABOUT THE RATING: This series is overall well done. The simplicity is great and I like that: I do experience a tad of boredom sometimes watching it. ABOUT THE AGE: There is really nothing inappropriate about this show, kids get into trouble sometimes. But the problems are solved, and they are not traumatic or emotional; rather slapstick and comedic.
What other families should know
Great messages
Kid, 12 years old January 3, 2011
AGE
9
QUALITY
 

What's Happening should be on everyone's television

I'm suprised nobody has yet to review this classic sitcom. No slapstick is present in here, just funny comedic jokes is all. Some are judged on body types, but nothing to de-meaning. The cast is mainly kids so anybody will be entertained for the entire show. No cursing is present except for Shut Up. Another thing about this show is the theme song. LOL!!!!
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models

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