The Jeffersons: They Moved On Up

The Jeffersons is an absolutely iconic American television sitcom that aired from 1975 to 1985. Created by Norman Lear, the show was a spin-off of another hugely popular sitcom, All in the Family. The Jeffersons was one of the first shows to feature a predominantly black cast and was a huge success, running for 11 seasons and 253 episodes.

the jeffersons apartment building

The show focused on George and Louise Jefferson, an African-American couple who had become wealthy through their dry-cleaning business and moved from Queens to Manhattan. The Jeffersons was known for its witty writing, memorable characters, and its ability to tackle important social issues such as race and class. The show was groundbreaking in its representation of black actors and its portrayal of African-American life in the United States during the 1970s.

Throughout its run, The Jeffersons remained a popular and influential show, paving the way for other sitcoms featuring black actors and addressing issues of race and class in American television. The show’s legacy continues to be felt today, as it remains a beloved classic and an important piece of television history.


All in the Family

All in the Family was a groundbreaking sitcom aired on CBS from 1971 to 1979. The show was known for its controversial subject matter and portrayal of a working-class family in Queens, New York. The main character, Archie Bunker, was a “lovable” bigot who often clashed with his liberal son-in-law, Mike Stivic. All in the Family was a critical and commercial success, winning multiple Emmy Awards and becoming one of the highest-rated television shows. Much of the show’s writing definitely has not aged well.


The Jeffersons was just one of several All in the Family spin-offs, including Maude and Good Times. The show was created to capitalize on the popularity of the character George Jefferson, who Sherman Hemsley played. George was the neighbor of Archie Bunker and was known for his abrasive personality and catchphrase, “Weezy, I’m home!” The Jeffersons premiered on January 18, 1975, quickly becoming a hit with audiences.

George’s long-suffering wife Louise was played by Isabel Sanford. The show also featured their son Lionel, played by Mike Evans, and their neighbors, including the interracial couple Tom and Helen Willis.

The Jeffersons was praised for its humor, portrayal of African American characters, and willingness to tackle controversial subjects. The show was also known for its catchy theme song, “Movin’ On Up,” which was a hit in its own right.

sherman helmsley and isabel sanford as the jeffersons

The Jeffersons ran for 11 seasons and 253 episodes, making it one of the longest-running sitcoms in American television history. The show was a cultural touchstone of the 1970s and 1980s and remains popular in syndication today.

The Jeffersons Cast

George Jefferson

George Jefferson, played by Sherman Hemsley, was the main character of the show. He was a successful businessman who owned a chain of dry cleaning stores. George was known for his abrasive personality and quick temper, but he also had a heart of gold. He was fiercely protective of his family and would do anything to help them.

George had some memorable quotes that are still funny. One of his classic lines is: “Rich people never even see money. All they know is, “Charge it”, “I’ll sign for it”, and “Sue me.”

the cast of the jeffersons

Louise Jefferson

Louise Jefferson, played by Isabel Sanford, was George’s wife. She was the calm and level-headed one in the family, often mediating between George and their son Lionel. Louise was a loving wife and mother who always put her family first.

Lionel Jefferson

Lionel Jefferson, played by Mike Evans and later Damon Evans, was George and Louise’s son. He was a college student who often clashed with his father over their different views on life. Lionel was a caring and intelligent young man who wanted to make a difference in the world.

Florence Johnston

Florence Johnston, played by the wonderful Marla Gibbs, was the Jeffersons’ sassy and outspoken maid. She was a fan favorite and often stole the show with her witty one-liners. Florence was a loyal employee who cared deeply for the Jefferson family. Florence would show up later in a sitcom of her own, 227.

Florence had some great lines of her own. Flash back to this clever exchange between Florence and Louise.

Florence: I’m not playing, I’m cleaning, a good maid always cleans behind the refrigerator. 

Louise: You never did before.

Florence: Oh I’m not talking about me, I said a GOOD maid.

Tom and Helen Willis

Tom and Helen Willis, played by Franklin Cover and Roxie Roker, were the Jeffersons’ neighbors. They were an interracial couple, which was a groundbreaking concept for television at the time. Tom was a successful businessman like George, while Helen was a stay-at-home mom. The Willis’ often provided a different perspective on the issues facing the Jeffersons.

tom and helen willis from the jeffersons

Harry Bentley

Harry Bentley, played by Paul Benedict, was the Jeffersons’ quirky British neighbor. He often popped in unannounced to borrow something or chat with George. Harry was a lovable character who added a touch of humor to the show.

Mother Jefferson

The Jeffersons did not lack for great actors. One of those greats was the venerable Zara Cully, who played George’s mother Olivia, or “Mother Jefferson” as she was called. Mother J was somewhat grouchy and never failed to make her opinions known. Zara Cully died during The Jeffersons run and the decision was made to write her character out of the show rather than replacing her with another actor.

mother jefferson bentley tom and helen willis dancing in the jeffersons apartment

Production and Success


The show aired 253 episodes over the course of its 11 seasons. The first season consisted of 13 episodes, and the subsequent seasons had 24 episodes each. The show’s final episode aired on July 2, 1985. 

Theme Song

The show’s theme song, “Movin’ On Up,” was performed by Ja’net Dubois and was written by Jeff Barry and Ja’net Dubois. The song became a hit and was one of the most recognizable theme songs of the 1970s. Our staff can sing the entire song, word for word, at the drop of a hat–we bet you can, too!

the jeffersons with marla gibbs as florence


The Jeffersons was a critically acclaimed show and won several awards during its run. The show was nominated for 13 Emmy Awards and won two, both for Isabel Sanford for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. The show was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy in 1981.

The Jeffersons: Controversies and Impact


The Jeffersons was canceled in 1985 after 11 seasons. The cancellation surprised many, as the show was still popular and had consistently high ratings. However, CBS executives canceled the show due to a shift in programming priorities.


The Jeffersons was not without its controversies. Some criticized the show for perpetuating negative stereotypes of African Americans. The use of the n-word ” and other racial epithets was controversial and offensive.

Additionally, the show was criticized for its portrayal of the KKK in an episode where George and Louise mistakenly join the organization. While the episode was meant to be satirical, viewers felt that it made light of a serious issue.


The Jeffersons was a groundbreaking television series that captured the hearts of millions of viewers during its 11-year run. The show was notable for its portrayal of an African-American family living in a luxury apartment building on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, a setting that was rarely seen on television at the time.

Despite some controversy and criticism, the show was a hit with audiences and helped to pave the way for more diverse representation in Hollywood. The series finale was a proper send-off for the beloved characters, and the show will always be remembered for its heartwarming moments and its portrayal of good times and love.

One of the standout characters of the show was George Jefferson’s kind and loyal doorman Ralph, who was played by actor Ned Wertimer. Wertimer’s death in 2013 was a loss for the entertainment industry, but his legacy lives on through his memorable performance on The Jeffersons.

Finally, the show’s housekeeper, Florence, played by actress Marla Gibbs, was a beloved character who provided many memorable moments throughout the series. Gibbs’ performance was a testament to her talent as an actress, with her dry wit and her perfect comedic timing.