July 24, 2012, - 6:28 pm

Sherman Hemsley, RIP: “George Jefferson” Dead at 74; Master of Ghetto Political Incorrectness

By Debbie Schlussel

I don’t know much about Sherman Hemsley’s politics, but I will miss the real life actor behind George Jefferson of TV’s “The Jeffersons,” who died today at age 74. My dad introduced me to the show, and it was must viewing in our house when I was a kid in the mid-70s to early ’80s. George Jefferson was one of my favorite TV characters of all time. I loved Hemsley’s politically incorrect upscale Black businessman character on the show. As Mr. Jefferson, he was funny, he was strident, and he had strong views. I particularly enjoyed watching him fight with Florence, the maid (played by Marla Gibbs). And I liked that, despite the fact that he’d “moved on up to the East Side” of New York “to a deluxe apartment in the sky,” he wasn’t pretentious and mocked the BS of the trappings of the upper class. Even outside of his successful dry cleaning biz, he knew that there was an advantage in maintaining his streetwise ethos from the ghetto. And at the dawn of feminism, George Jefferson didn’t buy into that BS either.

Today, I was searching for a particular episode on YouTube, in which Louise Jefferson has amnesia. George says, “Oh my G-d, a lifetime with a woman who can’t remember and another one I’d like to forget [referencing the maid].” I couldn’t find it, but I found several videos, like the ones below (the best is the very last video from Archie Bunker with the Jeffersons), in which Hemsley regularly used the N-word as Mr. Jefferson (so did Isabel Sanford as Louise Jefferson) and referred to White people as “Honkies.” Today, that would never fly on regular broadcast TV. I also noted a lot of other things that would never fly, such as George Jefferson’s attacks on the interracial marriage of his neighbors, Tom and Helen Willis, and the impending marriage of his son Lionel to their mixed-race daughter, Jenny. He referred to them as “Zebras,” a term completely unacceptable today. While liberal creator Norman Lear meant to mock racism of all kinds (“The Jeffersons” was a spin-off show, as they were originally the neighbors of White racist Archie Bunker of “All in the Family”), “The Jeffersons” actually portrayed the real life racism we never talk about that is inherent in Black America–both against Whites and fellow Blacks. I doubt Lear would have the courage to make this film today, as his left-wing politics went further left along with the rest of Tinseltown.

Would this show stand the test of time? To me, the answer is yes and no. I would rather watch a “The Jeffersons” rerun marathon than any of the crap that’s on TV, today. But could it be shown on TV today? Aside from the fact that comedies like this with laugh tracks are long past on the way out, the liberals who made them back then are conservative compared to the liberals who run Hollywood and television today, even with the ever-expanding TV choices. They would never show an N-word show like this, unless it was on BET. And they certainly wouldn’t show us the sub rosa racism in Black America, even in the middle and upper middle classes, as the Jeffersons were. It’s simply too far from the Treyvon Martin narrative they’ve been cowed into.

And so, for that alone, I respect Sherman Hemsley. I always like a politically incorrect actor. Especially one with the moxie he had. And that’s aside from the fact that he was a respected Broadway actor and served our country for four years in the U.S. Air Force before he was George.

I liked Hemsley and his Mr. Jefferson because of the spunk and guts he had. Not only did his character have chutzpah, but I suspect he did, too. Ditto for the disarming charm. I have a feeling they had more in common than not.

Archie Bunker’s Anti-Black Racism Trumped by George Jefferson’s Anti-White Racism . . .

Sherman Hemsley a/k/a “George Jefferson,” Rest In Peace.

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27 Responses

I saw it as a child… it was one of the funniest skits on upper class mores I’ve ever seen. No one would make any thing like that today.

Sherman Helmsley created a unique character. We’ll never see his like again. I always liked George Jefferson – he had strong views, was a masculine man and did things his own way.

The era of strong men has passed us as did “The Jeffersons.” With his death, sadly – its the end of an era.

Sherman Helmsley – RIP – we miss ya!

NormanF on July 24, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    I can’t add anything to improve NormanF’s comments.
    Sherman, you will be truly missed.

    Michelle on July 24, 2012 at 6:50 pm

Mr. Hemsley did a very good job in making bringing to life what could have been a very one-dimensional character. Carrol O’Connor, even though on the left, tried to play his Archie Bunker character straight in the beginning. The character was thus believable. George Jefferson and Archie Bunker were mirrored each other in a way.

Worry on July 24, 2012 at 7:20 pm

Don’t forget Debbie, George Jefferson was also a successful self made businessman, who built his own dry cleaning empire. Today he would be told “you didn’t build that.” He was self reliant and did not take government handouts. He would be a sell out by todays liberal standards.

John on July 24, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    John not only that but since George was a black man he would have been told by the racist ingrates Jackson and Sharpton that “whitey” is the devil anad he’s trying to keep you down.

    Ken b on July 24, 2012 at 9:10 pm

DS? Excellent job in saving the best for last! Especially when tilts his glass and says, “here’s to yesterday.” lol Well done!

Patrick on July 24, 2012 at 7:40 pm

Debbie I used to watch the show once in a while. I might have watched it more if Mrs. Jefferson or the maid or anyone had been cute. I don’t feel guilty about it though, as that is how G-d made me.

A1 on July 24, 2012 at 8:17 pm

I am a big fan of Sherman Hemsley! RIP SH! You’re one of the famous I will miss!

I LOVED “The Jeffersons”. Of course George was my favourite but there were so many rich characters….Mr. Bentley, Florence The Maid, his Mama and the Willis’!

And when Gary Coleman was on an episode, he was amazingly cute!!!

Skunky on July 24, 2012 at 8:18 pm

I remember watching program when I was a little toddler in the early-to-mid 1980s, George Jefferson’s character on Good Times was pretty funny, and I also remember watching re-runs of All In The Family with Archie Bunker as well.

When I was a little child in 1980s, I didn’t get the quasi racisim in George Jefferson’s character, but as I got a little older in life, I realized it, but it was still kinda funny.

He’ll be missed and I heard that he was a successful business person away from the cameras, so I agree with John that the left wing establishment would consider the guy a “sell-out”, because he never demanded handouts (when I was unemployed the few times in my life, I NEVER collected handouts from the government, because it’ll be embarrassing by my standards)!

“A nation is defined by its borders, language & culture!”

Sean R. on July 24, 2012 at 8:49 pm

Very funny man. RIP.

Brian R. on July 24, 2012 at 9:35 pm

Show like The Jeffersons, All In the Family, Good Times and Sanford and Son were part of my childhood. Sherman Hemsley’s portrayal of George was one of the funniest on TV. His long suffering wife Lousie and his fights with Florence also made the show fun to watch. He was also good on that show Amen with Clifton Davis. He will be missed and shows like The Jeffersons will never be on TV due to political correctness. Don’t worry though because we will have good Black comedy like that dummy Chris Rock’s new show on the FX channel to watch.

Ken b on July 24, 2012 at 9:52 pm

Thanks for the post and video clips, Debbie.

I also watched “The Jefferson’s” as well as “All in the Family” when I was a kid. They were very funny shows and I loved them. These clips alone help to bring back memories. Sherman Hemsley was great as well as his character “George Jefferson”.

Sherman Hemsley, RIP.

JeffE on July 24, 2012 at 10:04 pm

He actually referred to biracial people as “zebras”

M: You’re right! Spot on. You have a great memory. DS

Matthew on July 24, 2012 at 10:49 pm

I also loved watching “The Jeffersons” as a child. Mr. Hemsley did such a wonderful job playing George Jefferson & I thought that he wad so funny on the show! I miss the days when people were not so PC & you could just laugh. By the way…George would always call the Willis couple “zebra”. Can you imagine somebody using that line on TV today? Thank you for entertaining us & RIP.

Angela71 on July 24, 2012 at 10:52 pm

Rest in peace, Sherman Hemsley. Eleven years run for a politically incorrect TV comedy show is an impressive feat. Thanks for the laughs, Mr. Jefferson.

Bob on July 24, 2012 at 10:55 pm

You beat me to it Matthew!

Angela71 on July 24, 2012 at 10:55 pm

Sherman Hemsley also had class and didn’t flaunt his sexual orientation or push an agenda, like so many do these days.

JM on July 24, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    He never even came out as Gay.He was believed to be gay since he wasn’t married or seen with a woman. Alot of black men keep it on the “down-low” since homosexuality is looked down upon in the black community. After Luther Vandross’ death, his friend announced that Luther Vandross was gay though he never admitted it himself. So we’ll never know.

    Matthew on July 24, 2012 at 11:01 pm

i don’t watch any programs on abc,nbc or cbs because they are not funny.i can’t find any lefties who are funny and that includes cris rock,the racist punk.i don’t watch their news because they lie about every thing.the only thing i can tell you is to always prepare for the worst so that you do not have to depend on any one for your survival.

BRUCE on July 24, 2012 at 11:16 pm

George Jefferson. Archie Bunker. My Dad (z”l).

Three opinionated fathers who are in heaven as we speak.

We’ll see them soon on the Other Side.

The Reverend Jacques on July 25, 2012 at 12:10 am

The funny thing about Lear’s programs is that “Meathead” was and remains to this day a true liberal meathead.

DS_ROCKS! on July 25, 2012 at 12:33 am

And woe to any entertainer who, on or off screen, expressed opposition to gay marriage.

Little Al on July 25, 2012 at 8:25 am

Shame on you for adopting the leftist playbook propaganda phrase ‘racist archie bunker’ … just google that phrase and see how often it appears. back in the day when the show was primetime even then archie was labeled a bigot but not racist. so why are you adding fuel to the already raging race fire and making a fictional character into something worse than what he was?

BTW adios amigo Hemsley. he was one awesome dude who gave the BIGOT archie bunker his comeuppance.


ImNotaWitch on July 25, 2012 at 9:22 am

“The Jefferson’s” although funny at times, was never as good as “All In the Family”. Carroll O’Connor played Archie Bunker perfectly.

Repeat on July 25, 2012 at 10:52 am

Wow! Talk about memories! “All in the Family” and the “The Jeffersons” were very unique shows and could never be made in today’s politically correct times. They dealt with the issue of race and racism in a direct and very humorous way. Sherman Hemsley’s portrayal of the self-made, confident, loud, (and bigoted!) businessman George Jefferson will forever place him as an icon of American pop culture.

Those were great clips you selected Debbie, great clips! You have my whole office laughing!

D. O'Nay on July 25, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Almost wet my pants laughing the night Archie and George were having a fit over a Portorican moving into the building !!!!

Don Soltman on July 26, 2012 at 10:04 am

I remember the All in the Family episode where Archie and Edith go to a party and meet the Jeffersons, their son Lionel, and Lionel’s fiance who George finds out has a white father. At the end of the episode, George and Archie are toasting the good old days when both races stayed apart. Today, only Archie could be portrayed as bigoted and the use of the N-word would not be allowed. Political correctness has killed true comedy and social commentary.

Concerned Citizen on July 27, 2012 at 12:51 pm

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