In 1985, Marla Gibbs “moved on up” to her own series. After playing Florence for nine years on The Jeffersons, Gibbs got her own apartment, her own family and friends, and her very own show. Based on a play by Christine Houston that had been presented at Marla Gibb’s Crossroads Theatre, 227 cast Gibbs as Mary Jenkins, who lived with her contractor husband Lester and their teenage daughter Brenda in a Washington, D.C. apartment numbered 227.
Most of the show took place in the building, involving Mary with her neighbor Sandra Clark, landlady Rose Lee Holloway, and Rose’s daughter Tiffany. Sandra, fast-talking and man-hungry, soon became the breakout character. Although Mary and she really didn’t get along, the writers always found some reason for them to be together. Brenda’s boyfriend Calvin Dobbs also lived in the building with his grandmother Pearl Shay.
Although the Jenkins didn’t have another baby (as many TV families did in the eighties), a precocious child named Alexandria did live with the family for a year (1988-89). Several new characters were brought on for the last season, including building owner Julian Barlow and the apartment’s first white tenant Dylan McMillan, who just happened to be Regina’s history teacher. His roommate was another new character, Travis Filmore.
The series, which lasted for five seasons, showed a less idyllic portrayal of an African-American family than The Cosby Show did. The result was a more realistic, though still positive show that was both successful and critically praised.
USA / NBC – Columbia Pictures / x25 minute episodes / Broadcast 14 September 1985 – 28 July 1990
Theme Vocal: There’s No Place Like Home sung by Marla Gibbs.
Marla Gibbs as Mary Jenkins
Hal Williams as Lester Jenkins
Regina King as Brenda Jenkins
Jackee Harry as Sandra Clark
Helen Martin as Pearl Shay
Alaina Reed Hall as Rose Holloway
Paul Winfield as Julian Barlow
Countess Vaughn as Alexandra DeWitt
Curtis Baldwin as Calvin Dobbs
Toukie A. Smith as Eva Rawley
Stoney Jackson as Travis Fillmore
Barry Sobel as Dylan McMillan