S1 E1 Getting up the Rent

Hello fellow GT fans. Here is a summary of the very first episode Getting Up The Rent. ( I know according to some it was Too Old blues but the DVD set has this as 1st so I’m sticking to it.). I hope you enjoy this and it brings back great memories of the show.

Our debut episode begins with Thelma in the kitchen taking over cooking detail for Florida, who was recovering from an appendix operation.  Michael came from outside finishing an argument with his friend Eric (Monte?) over who will play the cop in their game of cops and militants. Michael takes one look at Thelma’s oatmeal and comments that black is beautiful except when it’s in oatmeal. J.J. came up with the mail and made fun of the oatmeal (which will come into play in future episodes that she’s a lousy cook.) This also marks the beginning of their ugly exchanges and J.J. questioned if they were born from acts of love or passion. Florida told J.J. she is ready to believe he was born out of madness.

J.J, sorted out the mail to Florida and uttered an ‘uh-oh’, then asked Florida if she wanted to see the bills. She said yes and to see that ‘uh-oh’. It turned out to be an eviction notice due to James being out of work most of the month and after paying off Florida’s operation bill. The kids told her that James’ friend Monty, who worked in the projects, that he’d be fine. Florida exclaimed that Monty also claimed President Nixon was black man’s best friend. When J.J. mentioned he had 101 ways to get the rent money, Florida warned to warm his butt 101 ways if he did. In spite of their living conditions, she did want the family to resort to stealing. J.J. then protested he can ‘find’ the money (another one of his famous jokes during the series). Florida said she didn’t want him ‘finding’ anything before they get lost and says ‘am I getting through to you boy?’. Michael started his ever famous protest that boy is a white racist word. Florida tells him that was no time to be black.

James came home from work with $6 in his pocket. (Like what low-paying job could possibly play that little, even by 1974 standards.) He stated he earned a lot more but after tax deductions and a charge for getting his work uniform dirty from an egg yolk. Then he said if he were there another hour, he would end up owing them money. When Florida approached the eviction notice to him, not to mention bring up the two warnings they received while she was in the hospital. He said Monty promised they would extend him since they knew he was good for it. Florida stated that Monty didn’t know shellac from Shinola.

Willona came in and talked about her date the night before and said it resulted in him mugging her. She then said she was considering joining a monastery. Thelma tried correcting her that she meant join a convent. Florida stated Willona knew what she was talking about.

Two men entered the apartment and started removing their furniture and other belongings. Willona tried telling one of them how much he resembled Billy Dee Williams. He said they only told him that when he was evicting them. She then mentioned he looked like Sidney Pottier. When he took flattery to that she said she lied to him. Michael questioned how could those men have that job of kicking other black people on the street. One of them said it may not be as classy as secretary of state but that job was already taken. When Willona and the kids offered to give him whatever cash they had, he said to keep it and let him handle the rent.  J.J. kept mentioning pulling a scam to come up with the monetary solution, despite Florida’s repeated warnings if he did. Willona suggested they go to the welfare office for emergency funds, over Florida’s objections . James then decided to get the cash at the pool hall, despite Florida’s protests. She blocked the door so he couldn’t get out then he moved her out of the way, she said ‘Damn, that man always could move me’.

Florida conceded to herself about the day she had. J.J. wanted to do something that was illegal, James went to hustle pool, which was immoral and Willona wanted her to go on welfare, which was embarrassing. While at the welfare office, Florida was turned down due to James making too much money the previous year. Meanwhile, J.J. came up with a scheme to bring Thelma and Michael to Marshall Fields and have Thelma fake starvation and faint for sympathy cash from others. The two movers returned to take their stuff, Thelma acted out her scheme and they handed her a few bucks. Florida and Willona returned right in the middle and exposed the con. Florida made the kids apologize to them and to the Lord for their misdeed. After standing up to the movers for putting the kids down for their shadiness, Florida went to the picture of the Lord and started praying for a miracle. This was when James came in with the rent. He tried tricking Florida into thinking Monty raised the money for him. Florida thanked the Lord for pulling them through, even though she admitted she knew of James’ great three cushion shot all the time. In conclusion, the good times for the Evans’ family rolled for another week.

Written by Eric Monte  Directed by Donald McKayle and Perry Rosemond

First aired February 8, 1974

Guest Stars Hal Williams, Ernie Banks, Stymie Beard and Carl M. Craig

This was a very good plot for a pilot episode. It showed just how difficult it was for a poor family to live in a high crime neighborhood and struggle financially just to survive. In spite of not having much money and James’ inability to obtain a well-paying job because of his sixth grade education, the Evans’ family were still very close and had much love for each other and many good times. Watch for my next entry on the second episode ‘Black Jesus’.

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