Editor's note: As 2013 comes to an end, I'll be reposting some of our highlights published during the year. Those who've already read each one can obviously skip them, or revisit if you'd like. For those who joined us later in the year, missing many of these posts from earlier in the year, they will probably be new items. Here's the 12th of many to come, originally posted in March 2013. Happy New Year to you all!
I was watching clips from Good Times on YouTube (in light of yesterday's news that the 1970s tv comedy series will be the basis for a feature film), and stumbled upon this 2-part interview with Eric Monte, the man behind the series, who was also responsible for other notable 1970s black TV shows like What's Happening!! which was based on his screenplay for Cooley High. He also created George and Louise Jefferson for All in the Family (of course they would go on to be at the center of their own show), and, as one of the hottest young writers in Hollywood in the 1970s, contributed heavily to socially-conscious sitcoms produced by Norman Lear, like those already mentioned, and others.
Monte had a falling out with Lear, suing him, along with CBS and ABC, in 1977 for stealing his ideas - a move that he says got him blacklisted. Eventually, he says, he received a $1 million settlement and a small percentage of the residuals from Good Times, but that signaled the beginning of the end, as Hollywood, he says, didn't share his vision - in essence, he fought against script changes that he felt degraded blacks, and wanted more control over his work.
Years later, after just about losing it all, filing for bankruptcy in the early 2000s, he became a cocaine addict, and soon found himself homeless in California.
Since cleaning himself up, he's been trying to make a comeback of sorts, but aside from one episode of Moesha and an episode of The Wayans Brothers, he hasn't worked in TV and film since his falling out with Norman Lear in the late 1970s.
In the 2-part interview with Upfront TV below, shot in 2010, Monte talks about much of the above, filling in what I left out - his first meeting with Norman Lear, creating The Jeffersons, coming up with the idea for Sanford and Son, but not getting any credit for it, fighting with Norman Lear for years to get Good Times on the air, because Lear wanted a more dysfunctional black family on screen, also TV and film as powerful propaganda, black film and TV today, the Hollywood struggles he faced for not wanting to play the game, and more...
First, listen to the 8-minute NPR profile below from 2006, when Monte was homeless, and trying to re-establish himself. The Upfront TV 2-parter follows underneath.
So if you weren't already familiar with Mr Monte and his story, now you are...
By the way, he's listed an an "associate producer" on the film adaptation of Good Times that Scott Rudin is producing. That could mean almost anything; but maybe it's signals a new start for him... maybe not.