The Breakdown: “What’s Happening” Show Open

by James Hill

April 21, 2016

This is “The Breakdown” where we look at some of the biggest moments in our lives (and by “our lives,” we mean stuff that was happening on TV) and get at the heart of what makes these scenes and characters so unforgettable with five thoughts.

This week, we’re diving deep into the opening (and theme song) to one of the most beloved TV shows of all time — “What’s Happening!!” (Fridays Noon). Why? What’s in the one-minute opening that could possibly be worth talking about? You’d be surprised.

The Sound — That opening rubber band twang takes us back to after-school snacks (Hostess Twinkies anyone?) and delayed homework. Combined with the upbeat, almost laughing horns, we never noticed how much the theme sounds like a cartoon. Actually, considering that the show was based on “Cooley High,” we should be thankful for such an upbeat opener. Listening to “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye” every afternoon would have bummed us out.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy — Maybe our memories of South Los Angeles are fuzzy, but these are some of the smiling-est poor, black kids we’ve ever seen. Raj steps out of his house beaming like he just won the lottery. Dwayne literally busts his ass on the concrete which, apparently, is hilarious. Meanwhile, not ONE of the female cast is smiling. Shirley, Dee and Mabel all look absolutely pissed and we can only guess it was the tanking economy and raging racism. Thanks Obama.

Skateboard D — Though best known for his signature phrase (“Hey, hey, hey!”) and well-patted afro, can we give respect to the fact that Dwayne was a pioneer of black skate culture? Sure, he was clearly no good and had crappy form, but where would these Millennial hipsters be without him?

Fat Shame Much? — We get it, re-run is a bit overweight (he was also 26-years-old playing a teenager), but must we see him eating during his introduction? Here come slim and trim Raj and Dwayne both skating and running into frame and we pan up to see what? — jolly, chubby Rerun with a soda in one hand and a sandwich/donut in the other. Not to mention, who dressed this child/man? Are we to believe that he really wears his suspenders like that or was it simply to make his belly look bigger? We think you know the answer.

Stranger Danger — Here’s a short list of things that used to be cool for kids to do in the 70’s: A. Leave the house for hours without any phone calls; B. Buy cigarettes from vending machines for your parents; C. Ride around without seat belts. You know what was NEVER cool? Hitchhiking. Shirley obviously doesn’t approve as she shakes her head, but you can’t stop three kids with a deathwish youthful desire to have fun.

That’s our take but maybe we missed something. Leave a comment below or hit us up @tvonetv and tell us why YOU love this scene or give us your suggestion for the next breakdown.

Want more Breakdowns?

1. “A Different World’s” Wedding Scene

2. “Good Times” Damn, Damn, Damn Moment

3. Max and Kyle Sleep Together on “Living Single”

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