Welcome Good Times fans. We bring you another episode known as The Encyclopedia Hustle. Ron Glass makes his second appearance before going on to Barney Miller fame. This time he played a sleazy blind salesman who tried to scam the Evans’s with a set of black encyclopedias. Hope you enjoy the review.
The Evans family’s phone was out of kilter, causing Willona to take their messages. Thelma started to wonder why she didn’t get any calls. J.J. joked her boyfriends were too dumb to remember more than one number. She questioned the intelligence of his girlfriends. He replied they didn’t have to call, they can just knock on the door. Florida went to answer the door and a blind salesman was standing there. He offered them a free calendar, but said he had a set of encyclopedias on black history. Michael told Mr. Anderson he was more than interested, but Florida wasn’t. When he stumbled over a chair, they came to realize he was blind. He then displayed his other senses, by claiming he knew what Michael looked like. He also described J.J. as tall by the direction of his voice and described Thelma as pretty telling by her voice. Florida treated him to coffee and a donut for failing to mention her rotund figure. He told the family the books included many great black people, from Crispus Attucks to Malcolm X. The books also covered many black moments in art and theater. When Thelma marveled it was out of sight, Florida replied the price was also out of sight. (bad choice of words) He told them about their special payment plan that sounded very easy to pay, and the price was going up in another week. Therefore, they needed to act right away.
James came home just in time to settle matters. He was out trying to come up with money to pay their phone bill (probably at the pool hall). First, he told Mr. Anderson he had no interest in what he was selling and when he suggested he come back another time, James said how about 1985 (convenient since he’d be long dead by then). When Mr. Anderson stumbled over a chair and James realized he was blind, he too took the sympathy approach and gained an interest. Mr. Anderson took out a contract for James to sign and a $5 down payment. Mr. Anderson gave them a copy of the contract but when James read it he noticed some extra payments and penalties they can suffer if they don’t keep up the payments consistently. Michael suggested they don’t miss any payments but Florida reminded him they missed a payment on the phone bill so why wouldn’t they miss payments on the books. James also read something that said Mr. Anderson’s company can take a lien on all of their possessions. This prompted Michael to inquire how can a brother rip them off like that. James said that Benedict Arnold was somebody’s brother as well.
Willona came in with their messages. She had three messages for Thelma from three different guys who wanted to take her to the basketball game. J.J. asked for his calls and Willona said his friend called and wanted him to ask Thelma to go to the game with him. Mr.. Anderson returns that evening to deliver the books. James tried to prove he’s bluffing his blindness by having J.J. lay on the floor. Mr. Anderson came in and dodged J.J., claiming he heard him breathing (I’m surprised he didn’t hear James telling him to get down on the floor and J.J. protesting). Mr. Anderson showed them a copy of his medical records stating that he lost his sight in the Korean War. James realize his troops were the ones who replaced James and his platoon. He told Mr. Anderson about the contract and how it would completely break them, Mr. Anderson denied knowing anything about that and went to call his boss to invalidate it. He went to use the phone without giving them a chance to tell him the phone was off. While speaking, he had his fingers on the hook mechanism, this proved he was hustling them. James showed him an unfriendly Braille sign. When he questioned their suspicions about him, Florida pretended to call the police and was put on hold. While doing so, she told him he had sixty seconds to rip up the contract and give James back his $5 or they’d turn him in. Then Florida said it was a false alarm. When Mr. Anderson asked them how they knew his call was fake, they said because their phone was out of order, meaning their call was also fake and they scammed him. When he questioned how they can do that to a blind man, Florida berated him that he was a liar, cheat and thief. He was a disgrace to blind people, as well as all people. Mr. Anderson replied that blind people are like sighted people. There are the good and the bad. Florida and James apologized to the kids for the books, knowing how bad they wanted them. Thelma stated that Florida was brilliant on the phone. J.J. agreed and asked everyone how she was, they said ‘Dyn-o-Mite’.
The epilogue had a letter James got from the phone company asking them to switch to a push button phone and gave them a choice of colors. Florida suggested they keep their basic black phone and find the basic green to keep up the payments for it.
Originally aired October 29, 1974
Written by Bob Shayne and Eric Cohen
Directed by Herbert Kenwith
Guest star Ron Glass
This was another good episode I liked very much. It showed up that even some people who have handicaps or disabilities can be shady people and you shouldn’t assume otherwise. It is also good that James and Florida would not allow themselves to be taken in like that. The funniest scenes are when Willona came in with the messages and with Mr. Anderson stepping past J.J. and when Florida conned him with the fake police call. Next we will have “The I.Q. Test”.