Norman Lear’s Legacy is brought into Question After Accusations of Thievery and Racism.
Previously while working on an Obituary piece honoring the work and legacy of Television pioneer Norman Lear, I mentioned Mike Evans as the creator of Good Times, and now after doing further research, it is of due diligence that I post this retraction.
I gotta call a ball a ball, and a strike, a strike. Writer Eric Monte aspired to become a Hollywood writer whose goals were for more black representation in television. He met up with Mike Evans who wanted Monte to write scripts that would expand his role as Lionel Jefferson. Norman Lear was impressed by Monte's script. Eric with the assist of Evans, co-created George Jefferson as a successful businessman "who moved on up to the Eastside. " And his other contributions were Sanford and Son along with Good Times which led to a falling out between him and Norman Lear who the latter didn't think a strong black patriarch like James Evans would be a good fit for a sitcom.
Eric Monte out of disgust from Lear's racist remarks, left the series and wrote the screenplay for 1976's Cooley High, a black coming of age comedy drama. Who producer and former associate of Lear, Bud Yorkin used the idea to create "What's Happening " Monte did not receive any credit whatsoever for the shows he created or co created. Monte filed a lawsuit against Lear which resulted in an out of court settlement for a million dollars. Humiliated by the settlement, Lear along with his Hollywood associates, blacklisted Monte. Despite winning a million-dollar settlement, Monte’s career and life went into a downward spiral, after investing his money in a play that bombed. Monte then turned to drugs and ended up in a Salvation Army homeless shelter.
Throughout the following seasons of "Good Times”, the show was squandered by bad ideas, changes that were disrupted to the portrayal of a black family and of course, continuing the buffoonery of "JJ Walker."
So, while I still give Lear a modicum of credit for revolutionizing television, it seems that he was a very flawed individual and an opportunist who fucked over creatives be it Monte or even his former partner Bud Yorkin, and it was Yorkin who took credit and profits from Monte's concept that became the 70's hit series "What's Happening." Another tragic example of how brutal and uncaring the Hollywood scene was and still is.
Writer and actor Mike Evans died from Cancer at his mother's home, penniless.