Synopsis by Hal Erickson
The weekly, half-hour ABC sitcom What's Happening!! was based, albeit loosely, on the theatrical feature Cooley High, and created by the author of that film, Eric Monte. Set in Los Angeles, the series detailed the various misadventures of three fun-loving black teenagers. Level-headed Roger "Raj" Thomas (Ernest Thomas) aspired to be a professional writer; chubby Freddie "Rerun" Stubbs (Fred Berry) merely wanted to joke around and have fun; and shy Dwayne Clemens (Haywood Nelson) had visions of achieving "coolness." Raj lived with his divorced "Mama," Mrs. Mabel Thomas (Mabel King), who worked as a maid, and his sarcastic kid sister Dee (Danielle Spencer). Occasionally, Raj's no-good father Bill (Thalmus Rasulala) showed up with another of his pie-in-the-sky schemes, but was never seen again after remarrying. Our three young heroes hung out at Rob's, the local diner, where they traded quips with sassy waitress Shirley Wilson (Shirley Hemphill). During the boys' high-school years, they were frequently annoyed by pesky Marvin (Bryan O'Dell), a reporter for the student newspaper. Eventually the trio graduated from high school, whereupon Raj moved into an apartment with Rerun. (Mabel King had left the series due to creative differences with the producers.) Raj now attended college, while Rerun took on a variety of jobs, forever hoping to strike it rich overnight. As Dwayne receded into the background, several new characters were introduced, notably Raj's college pal "The Snake" (Leland Smith), a champion basketball player; Raj and Rerun's neighbor Big Earl (John Welsh), a police detective; and Earl's son Little Earl (David Hollander), who took a liking to Raj's sister Dee. Debuting as a summer-replacement series on August 5, 1976, What's Happening!! underwent a four-week trial run before it was optioned for the entire season in the fall of that year. Bouncing around the ABC schedule during the next three seasons, the series never developed a large audience, and was canceled April 28, 1979. However, the show proved quite popular in Rerun syndication, particularly in cities with large black populations. The latter-day success of What's Happening!! resulted in a sequel of sorts, a weekly half-hour syndicated sitcom titled What's Happening Now!!, which ran from 1985 to 1988. Ernest Thomas, Fred Berry, Haywood Nelson, Danielle Spencer, and Shirley Hemphill all repeated their original roles in this later version, while among the new cast members was a young Martin Lawrence, playing a teenaged busboy named Maurice Warfield.
African-American, high-school, teenagers