Back when I was a TV-addicted little geeklet, I'd watch just about anything, and although I wasn't exactly the "target demographic" for the urban sitcom What's Happening!!, I have fond memories of the wacky adventures had by Raj, Rerun, and Dwayne.
Loosely based on the 1975 comedy film Cooley High, and produced by the same team behind Good Times!, What's Happening!! seemed, to me, a lot like Happy Days -- only with black goofballs instead of white ones. Both shows made me giggle, so there's a life lesson for the kids out there; good comedy can defeat racial divisions every time.
Looking back over What's Happening!! these days, it'd be easy to dismiss the series as broad, silly, and obvious sitcom fare -- and that's entirely true -- but the cast had a solid dose of chemistry together and there's still a bunch of nutty & nostalgic chuckles to be found here. There's not a lot of "replay" value here, at least not for me, but I still had a good time visiting with my silly old pals from What's Happening!! ... and at least it's better than What's Happening Now!!
For the third and final season of What's Happening!!, Raj and Dwayne are sharing an apartment, and they're due for frequent visits from the jovially portly Rerun, the ever-sarcastic Shirley, and Raj's surly little sister, Dee. Entirely typical sitcom hijinks ensue with each new episode, some full of laughs, others not so hot ... but fans of the old show will doubtlessly enjoy adding this third and final DVD set to their "Happening!!" collection.
Here's what you'll find on each of the three platters, with episode synopses culled from the little booklet tucked away inside the packaging.
1. Disco Dollar Disaster -- Rerun's guaranteed to win an upcoming disco contest, but he needs the $25 entry fee. With the help of some "investors," he gets more than he needs - including trouble with some local loan sharks. (Original airdate: 9/21/78)
2. Shirley's Boyfriend -- Raj plays matchmaker for Shirley and a friend of his father. She's head over heels in love and is on her way to Las Vegas for what she hopes is a proposal. But there's a little something her new boyfriend forgot to tell her. (9/28/78)
3. Basketball Brain -- When Raj gets a job tutoring a college basketball star, he doesn't expect the toll it will take on his own studies, or that he'll be asked to make an even bigger compromise. (10/12/78)
4. The Creep Detective -- A well-meaning Rerun offers to store a box for some neighbors. When it turns out to be filled with hot goods, it lands Rerun, Raj and Dwayne in hot water, and it's up to Dee to save the day. (11/2/78)
5. Shirley's Cookies -- Everybody loves Shirley's homemade cookies, and in no time they're the hottest thing on the menu at Rob's. A fast-talking con man gets Shirley in his sights, and soon the cookie starts to crumble. (11/9/78)
6. The Landlady -- Rerun's on the picket line, and the guys are behind in paying rent. Mrs. Watson, the landlady, doesn't mind - as long as Raj becomes the new man in her life. Or is Raj misreading her signals? (11/16/78)
7. Charge -- Rerun goes crazy with his new credit cards and is shocked when he gets the bills. A bank loan will solve everything, even if it means using Raj's furniture for collateral! (11/23/78)
8. Raj Moves Out -- Raj alienates Rerun and Dwayne when he decides to move in with a sexy co-ed. When he discovers that there's more to the arrangement, will the guys want him back? (11/30/78)
9. No Clothes Make the Man -- Desperate for money, Raj takes on some very "odd" jobs, including baring it all as an artist's model. (12/14/78)
10. Positive Identification -- After helping a man in the hall with a heavy bag, Raj and Rerun discover that he was making off with the contents of their apartment, including all their Christmas presents! (12/21/78)
11. Making Out -- Raj and Rerun engage in one-upmanship in the dating department. Both brag of their success with the ladies, and both discover the honest truth about "striking out." (1/11/79)
12. Dee, the Cheerleader -- Dee tries out for the cheerleading team, but loses her spot to a less-talented classmate. Her search for the reason leads her to a discovery that's pretty hard to take. (1/25/79)
13. A Present for Dee -- When she gets a stolen necklace for her fourteenth birthday, Dee ends up taking the fall, and finds a purpose for her newfound maturity. (2/9/79)
14. Dwayne's Dream -- Dwayne's new job has him thinking of leaving school, until two dreams of his possible future - one as a criminal, the other as President - change his mind. (2/16/79)
15. Shirley's Fired -- Shirley's had it with the ditzy new waitress at Rob's, and when she gives Rob an ultimatum, she gets fired. The guys discover that the new girl is stealing, and they set out to get Shirley's job back. (2/23/79)
16. Food Poisoning -- Rerun comes down with food poisoning, and a fast-talking lawyer talks him into suing Rob. Will greed make him turn his back on a friend when Rob's business starts to fail? (3/2/79)
17. The Eviction -- Tired of the rundown condition of their apartment, Raj and Rerun stage a protest and run afoul of the domineering new landlord, who throws them out. Rushing to their aid, Shirley rouses the remaining tenants into action. (3/9/79)
18. The Thomas Treasure -- Raj discovers that his mother's house was used as a hideout for a bank robber who may have left his stash of riches behind. Raj's search hits pay dirt, bringing the robber and his gang, all old men, out of hiding. (3/16/79)
19. The Last Page -- Rerun took his job as a network page to break into show business. Fed up with it leading to nothing, he decides to quit. On one last tour of the wardrobe department, he imagines what it would be like to star in his own show. (3/31/79)
20. First Class Coach -- Dwayne fills in for Big Earl as coach of Little Earl's basketball team. The kids like Dwayne so much better that they vote Big Earl out, putting Dwayne in a tough position. (4/7/79)
21. Dwayne's Debate -- Dwayne is roped into running for class president against his better judgment. His father is understandably proud of Dwayne, making the upcoming class debate even harder. (4/21/79)
22. The Benefit Show -- The community teen center is about to close, and the gang stages a benefit variety show to save it. Raj and Dee will sing, Dwayne will play drums, and Rerun will bring his "good friend" Sammy Davis Jr. -- right, Rerun? (4/28/79)
Video: The episodes are presented in their original Fullscreen format, and Sony Home Entertainment delivers some surprisingly strong picture quality in this collection. The footage looks a little flat & fuzzy, but that's more a product of the times than any sort of knock on the transfers.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, which isn't anything spectacular, but good enough for a goofy ol' sitcom like this one.
Extras: Nada, aside from a bunch of trailers for Hitch, Guess Who, The Partridge Family, Bewitched (TV Series), D.E.B.S., "Classic Urban TV Series," and "Classic Comedy."
For all its broad and simplistic sitcom silliness, What's Happening!! still holds a small place in the hearts of those who grew up enjoying the series. It's not nearly anything brilliant, but hey, Rerun's funny, Raj is a good guy, and it's always amusing to hear Dwayne say "HeyHeyHey!"