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'What's Happening!!' (ABC)
Premiere date: August 6, 1976
Every few years there is a TV series that is a snapshot into current pop culture. Many times these shows become dated quickly and are often more important historically than when they aired. In the summer of 1976 that show was the minor hit "What's Happening." The ABC comedy, which began as a TV adaptation of the movie "Cooley High," followed the day to day exploits of friends Raj and Rerun as they juggled working life in 1970s Los Angeles (Watts). Along with feisty neighbor (and eventual boarder) Shirley and Raj's little sister Dee (deadpan to a fault) the emphasis was more on comedy than on the political issues that Norman Lear's "The Jeffersons" or "Good Times" explored now and then (an understatement). Still, it provided a window of contemporary Watts that would be seemingly idyllic by the rough and tumble early '90s. It also was more kid-friendly than many '70s sitcoms which made it a surprise player in afternoon syndication and extending Rerun's trademark dancing moves into the 1980's.
- Gregory Ellwood