On this day in comedy on September 14, 1985 the sitcom 227 premiered on NBC!
This Marla Gibbs sitcom was based on a play written by Christine Houston. Gibbs had starred in that play in Los Angeles. On the stage the setting was Chicago in the 1950s. By the time it arrived on television the setting was Washington, DC in the 1980s. The character was the same though. Mary Jenkins was a gossipy housewife with a quick wit and talent for trouble. Her husband, Lester (Hal Williams) was a hard-working man with more things to do than keep her out of it.
Mary and Lester lived in an apartment building with their boy crazy daughter, Brenda (Regina King). They had a man crazy neighbor, Sandra (Jackee Harry) and a nosy neighbor, Pearl (Helen Martin). Pearl has a grandson (Curtis Baldwin) and he brings out the cougar in Sandra, who dates him at one point. Another friend is Rose (Alaina Reed Hall) who becomes the landlord of the building after the old and I mean old landlord dies. They all also had a mailman named Ray (Reynaldo Rey) who knew what everybody was doing.
Everybody gossips and bickers and then end up laughing at what it was they were bickering about. That was on the show. Behind the scenes egos were clashing as Jackee’s character was getting more play than Gibbs’ based on increased popularity. The only solution was to give Harry her own show. The pilot was shot. It was named Jackee and it was rejected. Harry did not return to 227 as her full time character, but made cameos until the show aired its last episode on May 6, 1990.
Other cast members on 227 included Kia Goodwin, Countess Vaughn, Paul Winfield, Toukie Smith, Barry Sobel, Kevin Peter Hall and Stoney Jackson. Many of them were brought in to increase ratings. That failed and the show that once enjoyed the 2nd best ratings (behind The Cosby Show) of any African-American sitcom during that decade was eventually canceled. However, during its run 227 received numerous award nominations and won the BMI TV Music Award and an Emmy Award in 1987 for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (Jackee Harry).
By Darryl “D’Militant” Littleton
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