What’s Happening!! (that’s right, 2 exclamation marks) had a three year run on ABC in the mid 70’s. The second season is now on DVD, all 22 episodes. The sitcom revolves around a “family” of sorts. The main characters are three best friends, Raj (the nerdy one), Dwayne (the cool one), and Rerun (the goofy one). There’s also Shirley, the waitress at the local soda shop. But Dee (Raj’s little sister) is a distraction. And I’m not talking about the character. The actor’s line readings are terrible and watc… her when she reads those cue cards!
However, comparisons can be made to Good Times (both were created by the same guy), but the comparisons end with an African-American main cast. While Good Times deals with more “in your face” social issues, What’s Happening!! is lighter in tone and its comedy is much broader. The only “messages” in this show are ones that deal with the importance of friendship, family, and not bootlegging the Doobie Brothers.
Is the show any good? Well, the chemistry between the 3 main characters really make the show. Some of the comedy seems a bit dated (too many fat jokes). The costumes and 70’s kitsch are always a hoot. But if one HAD to own a season of What’s Happening!!, this would be the one. This DVD has their most famous episodes: the Gong Show and the Doobie Brothers two parter (which has to be seen to believed).
The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track is appropriate for a show this dated. But the dialogue is quite clean and bright. There are some musical numbers in these episodes. And they all sound quite strong. The only hisses in the audio department are the ones the viewer might make when watching this show. There is overall harshness, however, to the overall mix.
The problem with the look is the source material. The picture seems compressed in its 1:33:1 ratio. However, the transfer is clean. There are no specks and flecks. The colors are subdued and natural, but Rerun’s red beret is a little too bright. His patented rainbow suspenders aren’t too eye popping though. Overall, a good job, dealing with the source material available.
There is a brief episode booklet, which is appreciated. And there some previews of other TV DVD releases. Some old, some new. No retrospectives? “What’s Happening….now….”? Maybe with the 3rd and final season this gem will finally be unearthed.
If you’re a big What’s Happening!! fan, or a mid 70’s sitcoms aficionado, this is a must buy. But if you’re mildly curious about mildly entertaining 30 year old sitcom….a must rent. The Doobie Brothers episodes will blow your mind.
Special Features List
- Previews of other TV DVD releases