The Jeffersons was an iconic show that helped influence so many sitcoms starring African Americans and the pop culture landscape in general. Boasting a talented racially and comically diverse cast, always funny and occasionally hard hitting scripts and characters that became household names and a iconic memorable theme song that became the black national anthem as well as one of the most beloved television themes of all time, this spin off from the mega hit All in The Family was a wonderful gift to the public that like with everyone else made my childhood even brighter. These episodes are what I consider the greatest and most memorable episodes for me and I’m sure many others, and in my opinion showcased The Jeffersons at its best. So here we go! Cue the theme song!
10. Now You See It, Now You Don’t parts 1 and 2. Season 6, episodes 4 and 5.
In this classic two parter on Halloween Louise catches a man in a big white rabbit suit shooting another man from across the street with the telescope on the terrace. The man eventually makes his way to the Jefferson residence and holds the gang hostage all in their crazy Halloween costumes. A very funny and interesting episode that was also one of the few caper episodes the show ever did and it was very entertaining.
9. 984 W. 124th Street, Apt. 5C. Season 4, episode 15.
The Jeffersons had many great Christmas episodes that I make to sure to watch every year around Christmas time but this great fourth season entry is one I favor most and it’s because the story was such a unique and satisfying one and really exuded the spirit of Christmas.
8. And the Doorknobs Shined Like Diamonds. Season 7, episode 13.
In my opinion Isabel Sanford has always been overlooked as the brilliant actress she really was so I loved that this episode really gave her such room to shine. This was a great episode that was all about Weezy. When Louise visits her old home in Harlem it stirs up some pleasant memories. What’s especially great about this episode is that we finally got some real background about her childhood and her relationships with her mother and sister. Watching this one It’s no coincidence that Isabel Sanford happened to win the emmy in 1981 for best actress in a comedy series:
7. George’s Old Girlfriend. Season 10, episode 20.
You know what they say about a woman scorned. Or in this case a crazy woman who thinks she’s been scorned but is not in touch with reality. George’s ex girlfriend Yvonne from his childhood shows up and holds him at gunpoint demanding that he suffers because of how bad her life has turned out and it’s all his fault for dumping her. At this point in the show they had long abandoned more serious material but this was a wonderful return to form for the aging series and even though at this point The Jeffersons had lost steam, this episode proved that there was still some gas left in the tank. Sherman Hemsley and guest star Barbara McNair put out tour de force performances in this episode and the episode balanced humor with genuine suspense quite nicely.
6. Sorry, Wrong Meeting. Season 7, episode 14.
One of the most memorable and hard hitting of Jeffersons episodes. Tom unbeknowst invites George to what he thinks is a tenant’s meeting but is actually a Ku Klux Klan meeting. The ending where George of all people saves the life of the leader using CPR was a powerful moment and a real sign of the character development George has had. The George from All In The Family and the earlier seasons would’ve kicked him. Perhaps this moment was added because of Sherman Hemsley’s insistence that he wanted George to evolve that we got this turning point for George’s characterization as a bigot. It wasn’t long after this that he stopped using the word “Honky” and poking fun of Lionel and Jenny’s relationship and calling Jenny “Zebra”. All the actors did a phenomenal job with such strong material, though Sherman Hemsley really was in his element and was robbed of an Emmy for his performance in this episode.
5. Florence Meets Mr. Right. Season 5, episode 16.
Some of the best episodes of the series as well as some of my favorites centered on The Jeffersons’ lazy and opinionated maid Florence Johnston played to perfection by Marla Gibbs. When George and Louise meet Florence’s new fiancee who is a seemingly devout Christian and all around goody two shoes, Louise is suspicious. Later on at Florence and Buzz’s engagement party Buzz shows his true colors as a hypocrite and a controlling jerk, and if that’s not enough he insults Louise which is when Florence has had enough and puts her foot all the way down:
Marla, like Sherman Hemsley was horribly overlooked for awards for her portrayal as Florence, but she was just incredible in the role and had then and still does have one of the greatest skills of comic timing an delivery of all time!
4. A Friend in Need. Season 1, episode 1.
Don’t get this confused with the pilot episode. As a spin off The Jeffersons were given a backdoor pilot on a episode of All in the Family titled “The Jeffersons Move Up.” And I have to say that, that pilot was less than stellar. Wasn’t a bad set up for the series but could’ve been better, and that awkward last section of the pilot that somehow lost the studio audience and only had what seemed like two guys laughing… Very weird. But this first official episode of The Jeffersons which was about George pushing Louise to hire a maid was a massive improvement. You could see just in a short time how much more comfortable the actors were and how much stronger the writing was for this episode as compared to the back door pilot. The greatest and most explosive scene was the infamous “N word” scene where George gets into it with Louise, Tom and Helen over arguments in a interracial marriage. This whole exchange was monumental in setting the bold tone of the show as well as showing how amazing this cast was together:
In 2019 there was a live show revival of this episode with actors like Jamie Foxx, Wanda Sykes, Will Ferrell, Kerry Washington etc. that was a nice effort but it definitely was nothing compared to the original and lacked the real fire of the original episode, this scene especially in the revamp lacked the punch of the edge needed. It also gave us one of the greatest one liners and gut busting endings of all time!
You just can’t top perfection and this first episode is a great example of just that. Sorry, Jimmy Kimmel.
3. The Break Up parts 1 and 2. Season 2, episodes 16 and 17.
Talking about classic episodes this episode was seriously one of the all time greatest of not just this series but of most sitcoms in television history. This great two parter is all about how a couple and a family can break up due to one incident. In this case it was Lionel cheating on a term paper and it led to a crazy fight between The Jeffersons vs. The Willises. This scene was a fabulous showcase for just how amazing this cast really was and how they simply made magic together onscreen:
It also boasted some of the funniest moments in tv history that gave the usually on the sideline characters like Jenny and Lionel some great like Jenny and her parents dancing and Lionel running and crying like a toddler out of the room. A truly wonderful episode that definitely was worth having two parts.
2. The First Store. Season 6, episode 23.
My second ever Medium article covered this amazing episode so I won’t retread it here, but, I will say that like George’s Old Girlfriend, this was a unique episode for this era in The Jeffersons’ run as a stand out dramatic piece with only little bits of humor sprinkled in. Enough to ease the tension but not overpowering the deep and powerful message or the great dramatic performances. Truly a first rate episode that would’ve been great on stage as well.
- Louise Gets Her Way. Season 3, episode 2.
For me there couldn’t have been a more deserving number 1 spot for me but this episode. That’s because this was a monumental episode that really projected this show to great heights. This the episode that Marla Gibbs’ Florence becomes The Jeffersons’ full time live in maid and the family of The Jeffersons and Florence truly begun. Florence is being evicted from her apartment so Louise suggests she moves in with her and George and become their full time maid but George hates this idea because he and Florence don’t get along and after giving her a shot and she not passing the mustard, George fires her. But after Florence saves George from losing some big money on a lousy deal, George rehires her and is proud to have the nosiest maid in the world on his side. I’ve always felt that while the entire ensemble cast of The Jeffersons was phenomenal, the trio of Sherman Hemsley, Isabel Sanford and Marla Gibbs truly made The Jeffersons what it was. The chemistry amongst them added to so much of the comedy and some of the more emotional moments on the show. This episode showed the audience what great stuff was to come with Marla Gibbs becoming a full time regular on the show.
Florence Did It Different part 1. Season 8, episodes 6.
After Florence leaves for a new job George and Louise find a new maid who is having a tough time trying to fill Florence’s shoes. The first part of this two parter is a favorite of mine and it’s because it’s a great clip show featuring all of Florence’s best moments and highlighting her bond with George and Louise.
The Grand Opening. Season 4, episodes 1 and 2.
Another classic two parter that centers on George opening up another cleaning store but things get crazy when two kidnappers overhear him bragging about all his money and they kidnap Louise(who is actually Florence). This episode was funny all the way around and everyone did their thing but this episode was definitely a showcase for the comic talents of Zara Cully as Mother Jefferson and Marla Gibbs as Florence. Both Mother Jefferson’s brilliant little put downs at Louise’s expense and Florence’s hysterical ramblings while being held for ransom were comic gold!
The Jeffersons Go To Hawaii parts 1–4. Season 7, episodes 2–4.
This was just a wonderfully fun 4 parter that I really enjoy every time I watch it. The Jeffersons, Florence and the Willises go to Hawaii on vacation and get into kooky adventures while George is under strict doctor’s orders not to get stressed. Good luck with that!
Louise vs. Florence. Season 6, episode 10.
George’s plans to impress a snooty millionaire black couple is in jeopardy when after a huge fight Louise and Florence aren’t speaking to each other and Florence almost quits until George bribes her to stay. The girls patch things up after teaming up against the snooty couple and all is right with the world. The episode is especially notable for the classic moment George throws out the couple in his usual no nonsense and butt kicking way:
The show never failed to have George go all in whenever someone insulted his family and even Florence. This episode is another example of George at top form. In this episode we see the two funniest and best sides of George Jefferson: The everlasting social climber whose always trying to reach some social pinnacle and further his wealth and the badass protector who is ready to throw down to protect his family at any cost.
Brother Tom. Season 6, episode 14.
Never has Tom Willis gotten to shine more than in this hilarious episode where Tom tries to fit in with Helen and their black friends by having George teach him how to be black:
Franklin Cover nailed this scene and you gotta love how you can tell that the other actors could barely keep it together.
I hope you enjoyed this list. And if you haven’t seen The Jeffersons in a while I hope this list got you ready to binge it in a hurry because you don’t know what you’re missing! ’Til next time, folks!