Why was it special?: IT WAS ONE OF THE FIRST, IF NOT THE FIRST SUCCESSFUL BLACK ANIMATED SITCOM MADE FOR PRIME TIME TELEVISION
Ahh, the PJ’s, what can I say about it that millions of other haven’t said before me. It managed to carve out a successful viewership for itself on prime time television as an adult focused animated comedy despite stiff competition from The Simpsons and South Park.
I feel a bit of shame in saying that I didn’t really watch it. I didn’t watch much of The Simpsons either but that’s a story for another day. I’d catch bits and pieces of the PJ’s here or there and be enchanted by the stop-motion animation but I never sat down and watched it until it was shown for a brief time on Adult Swim year later.
I enjoyed it quite a bunch. I mostly had the show on as background noise while I was putting off sleeping but I still felt entranced by the animation just like when I was a kid. I also got quite a kick out of the many antics of the residents of the Hilton-Jacobs Projects, particularly all of the zany, hyper-exaggerated personalities. The quality of writing was pretty high, I didn’t understand a lot of the jokes since they made references that kind of flew over my head but the fact that they had so much energy in their lines is what really made me laugh.
What is it about this show that made it an award winning hit with audiences and critics? I wish I could answer that question but I just don’t know. Is it the fact that Eddie Murphy was attached to it? Is it because it had a similar sort of style of humor to The Simpsons but wrapped up in a totally different package?
Let’s maybe get an idea from some folks who might know better. Today we’re joined by both Ash and Pix so let’s turn the platform over to them.
Ladies first so Ash, what do you have to say about the PJ’s?
Growing up not only as a young black girl living in the projects but also growing up on Wallace and Gromit , Gumby , and of course a big fan of Eddie Murphy , The PJs truly spoke to me .
Despite running 3 seasons , having an ensemble voice cast , and collecting prestigious accolades ( Emmys and one Annie Award ) this series still falls under the radar unfortunately . But it’s the year 2015 and the nostalgia bandwagon is still running high right ? so I am more than happy to add my two cents and hopefully introduce others to this series .
In this age of tumblr , the discussion of representation is discussed more than ever if you ask me so this a good time to discuss this series’ entertainment value and what it stood for.
Eddie Murphy was one of the masterminds behind this series , in addition to that he also lended his voice work along with prominent black talents such as Loretta Devine , Janet Duboise , and Jenifer Lewis . It gets much better knowing that brilliant George Clinton blessed our ears with his sounds.
Our show’s main character Thurgood Stubbs was rather obnoxious for the most part but nonetheless entertaining , had this character just arrived in the year 2015 he would have been picked apart by people who didn’t consume the product . It’s very fortunate that this series was released when it was because it didn’t really sugar coat what it was like to live in the projects and I can tell you first hand that if you had this upbringing there was most likely a Thurgood in the neighborhood as well as the nosey elderly lady ( Mrs. Avery ) who often got under people’s skin.
Some people may not like to see these things displayed in the media because they feel that stereotypes are being perpetuated. But due to the time of it’s release and the lack of social justice hovering , it allowed people to say “ Hey this show speaks to me ” and while it may not have been embraced like the Simpsons was , as I mentioned earlier it lasted 3 seasons and collected a few Emmys as well as an Annie Award which speaks volumes .
For anyone interested in this series you are in luck since the show is now airing on MTV2 which again says something about it’s worth .
While it may not appeal to the suburban prudes and the hive mind , this show represents people in other corners of the country who can laugh and say “ We have one of those in my neighborhood ” I just hope that those individuals can be open with their satisfaction with the series .
And Pix, how about you, whaddya got for us?
You know I remember really wanting to like The PJ’s when it first came out. There were a lot of elements within it that should have made it an instant winner in my book.
It’s animation style was claymation, which besides MTV’s Celebrity Deathmatch, was never utilized in the states, especially for television. It a major network show that stared a black cast, which was also nearly unheard of in the late 90’s. And it partially came from the brain of Eddie Murphy, who despite his “Party All The Time” shenanigans and many career missteps, is a comedian/actor who arguably will be mentioned in the same breath as Richard Pryor when it comes to the most influential black comedians.
On paper, it’s was a bold show. Heck, even now a show like the PJ’s would still seem kind of ahead of the curve.
Yet despite all these elements, I was never really a huge fan of this show.
It’s not bad.
In fact, it’s fair to say that FOX has had much worse when it comes to an animated show starring black characters (side eyes to the lazy Cleveland Show). But there are a few inner and outside elements related to the show that made it hard for me to really love it.
On the inside, most of the humor or jokes were actually kind of hit or miss. Cheap even, coming off at times as something I would have found during the opening days of UPN.
Yeah, anyone else, remember “Homeboys In Outer Space?”
That’s not to say that you can’t do stellar urban comedy. In fact, FOX showed that you could years prior thanks to legendary sketch show In Living Color. And the PJ’s at the time could shine as well to me, but never to the point that you would expect from something related to Eddie Murphy, Larry Willmore, and Matt Groening.
But maybe the real problem is that The PJS never had enough time to fully become as great as it promised to me. A lot of animated shows have rough starts before becoming fan favorites. I mean there’s no way you could look me in the eyes, and tell me that the first couple of seasons of The Simpsons, although charming, were a bit rough compared to the onslaught of comedic gems it delivered later before withering. And maybe that’s the case with this show. It did only last three seasons. Maybe season four would have been the one to fully convert me.
We’ll never know.
Pretty differing viewpoints but insightful none-the-less. Thanks guys
3 seasons worked out pretty good for this show in my opinion. It was kind of losing steam, by the end of season 3. There’s also the fact that there was rumors persisting the show of Eddie Murphy leaving due to disputes with Fox executives or he was just b-flat busy with a movie meant that the series was losing one of its main draws. So it’s probably a good thing that it was cut before it started to overstay its welcome.
All and all, this was certainly an enjoyable watch and an example that black animation can survive on prime time t.v.
Thanks to everyone who came out to our April Fool’s Eve Funaround last night. What a blast!
Enormous thanks to Paul F. Tompkins
for being the greatest interdimensional imp, the host with the
so-very-much. Thanks to all of the WorkJuice Players for playing and
singing their hearts out: Paget Brewster (“In These Shoes”), Craig Cackowski with Annie Savage (“Run Joey Run”), Marc Evan Jackson, Hal Lublin and Busy Philipps (who backed up everyone).
Thanks to our special guests: Ed Helms (who joined Paul on “Just a Fool”), Adam Savage, Shannon Woodward, Matt Gourley, Steve Agee (who took all of these stunning photos), Mike Phirman (who also made the sound-effects go, to hilarious effect), and first-timer Michaela Watkins.
Thanks to Jordan Katz for leading and putting together a knock-out band: Eli Wulfmeir, Tripp Beam, Jon Flaugher, Phillip Krohnengold, Danny Levin, Michael Birnbryer, Jonathan Dinerstein, and featuring Eric Kufs.
Thanks to behind-the-scenesters Julie, Todd, and Clint. To director Aaron Ginsburg for doing his damndest, and to Ben Acker & Ben Blacker for creating the show and bringing everyone together.
Our 4/22 show, Sparks Nevada’s “I’m from Earth” Day Special, is SOLD OUT! So thanks! If you’d like us to add a late show, tweet at us and let us know!