The Breakdown: The George Jefferson Dance

by James Hill

May 19, 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.

It’s the move that defined the man and the show. The George Jefferson dance became iconic and we’re here to figure exactly why as we breakdown “The Jeffersons” episode 201. Want to see the full episode, be sure to catch the Jefferson marathons — Wednesdays starting at 8am/7c.

1. We think it’s important to point out that in the 1970’s, TV’s idea of what makes for a fancy party is literally bananas. Imagine, your homegirl says “hey, do you want to come to my fancy soiree at my crib?” You’re probably thinking, simple black dress with some killer (but elegant) jewelry to top it off, hors d’oeuvres and some EWF in the background. Instead everyone’s wearing ballroom gowns and tuxes in a cramped living room while someone has found the only electronic accordion player in the world. WTH 1970s?

2. One last thing about the 70’s — Is it us or do you feel like a little kid when you see that tacky velvet painting of the ocean right behind George’s head? All we need now would be that giant wooden spoon and fork on the kitchen wall and we’d be home.

3. “Well I guess that just leaves you and me” “Yeah, it’s been a bad night all around ain’t it?”

You see it, right? The fact that George and Helen are the original Martin and Pam. These are two people forced to be around each other and love to share just how miserable that makes them. From the way Helen cuts George the side-eye and calls him shorty to the way George gives her the gas face — it’s classic Martin BEFORE Martin and we’re shocked that we’re just noticing it.

4. Sherman Hemsley was one funny m f’er! Usually, when we count the greats in TV history, names like Cosby (we KNOW), Foxx and Seinfeld always top the list, but somehow Sherman Hemsley never seems to get the respect he deserves. And if you need any evidence, check his masterful use of the comedic pause. Helen invites him to dance and instead of immediately taking the bait, he pauses — letting the moment sink in as we wait to see what exactly he does next.

5. And what he does next becomes a defining moment for the entire series. It’s the George Jefferson dance. Ad whether you call it “The Slop” or “The Funky Chicken,” it’s clear that it’s something much bigger. It’s black soul in motion — a pure expression of freedom and anger exploding on mainstream TV. It’s hard to remember now, but seeing a Black man freely expressing himself without regard for white fear or admonishment was nothing short of prime-time revolution.

Got a TV moment you’d love to see us break down? Leave a comment below or hit us up @tvonetv

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”

4. The opening to “What’s Happening!!”

5. Penny Gets Burned on “Good Times”

6. Dwayne Puts Whitley in Check on “A Different World”