Wednesday night brings the second presentation of Jimmy Kimmel and Norman Lear's Live in Front of a Studio Audience. The first installment aired earlier this year and successfully bet that live event TV would attract eyeballs to re-creations of classic sitcom episodes from Lear's legendary stable. This time around, audiences will be served a second helping of All in the Family, along with a side of Good Times, another of Lear's best-remembered shows of the 70s.
Of course, one of the big draws of last Spring's special was seeing how some of today's biggest stars would interpret roles made famous by other actors thirty years ago. Tonight's installment holds the same promise, with much of last spring's All in the Family cast returning, and a whole new crew of A-listers stepping in to tackle Good Times. Here's who to expect (and where):
Filling Caroll O'Connor's shoes (or his chair in this case) is no small feat, but Woody Harrelson proved himself up for the challenge in the first installment of Live in Front of a Studio Audience. The three-time Academy Award nominee has been busy this fall, recurring on SNL as Joe Biden, and starring in the Zombieland sequel, Double Tap.
After channeling Jean Stapleton as Edith Bunker last Spring, Marisa Tomei said she was "snake bit" by the experience, and wanted to do more TV. The Academy Award winner gets her wish tonight. She next stars in the upcoming Judd Apatow/Pete Davidsonmovie, set for release in 2020.
Ellie Kemper's Gloria Stivic was a highlight of last Spring's Live in Front of a Studio Audience. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt star is said to be appearing in the upcoming Home Alone reboot.
The former Mindy Project star was an inspired casting choice in the role Rob Reiner made famous, and he did Meathead proud. Barinholtz's voice can be heard in the Fox animated series Bless the Harts, in which he plays Wayne, boyfriend of Kristen Wiig's Jenny.
It's not clear what role Zombieland/Social Network star Jesse Eisenberg is playing, but his manic energy seems like it would make for a great foil for intolerant Archie.
Upping Live in Front of a Studio Audience's already impressive star wattage (and bringing us all a degree closer to the project's other stars) is Kevin Bacon. His Showtime series City on a Hill was renewed for a second season, which is expected to air in 2020.
Justina Machado is no stranger to Norman Lear reboots, having starred in Lear's Netflix (soon to be Pop/CBS) series One Day at a Time. Macahado's role in tonight's special is unknown.
The truest casting coup of this installment of Live in Front of a Studio Audience is Oscar and Emmy-winning actress Viola Davis in the role of the Evans matriarch. Davis is in-house talent at ABC, still captaining the ship at How to Get Away with Murder, though she has always been a figure whose ability and accolades have towered far and beyond merely the role of Annalise Keating. Few TV networks have ever employed an actress as talented or accomplished. In taking on the role of Florida, Davis has — perhaps unconsciously — nodded to her two biggest film roles. Florida began as a maid on Maude, just as Davis was Oscar-nominated as a maid in The Help, before getting spun off to Good Times, where she was the matriarch of a working-class black family, as Davis was in her Oscar-winning role in Fences. And in stepping into a role made famous by Esther Rolle, who was an experienced theater actress, Davis's extensive theater legacy seems only too appropriate.
Is there something about the James Evans character that requires someone who looks good in a uniform on NBC? Because in the role of the Evans family patriarch originated by John Amos (who played Admiral Percy Fitzwallace on The West Wing), we're getting Andre Braugher, currently best known as police captain James Holt on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Braugher has been one of the most respected actors on television for years, dating back to his Emmy-winning role as another police officer, Frank Pembleton, on NBC's Homicide: Life on the Street. Since then, he's starred on the TV shows Gideon's Crossing, Men of a Certain Age, and the miniseries Thief. All told, he's a 10-time Emmy nominee with two wins. He's also appeared in such films as Primal Fear, City of Angels, Poseidon, and The Mist.
The Evanses' very single neighbor Willona, originally played by Ja'Net DuBois, will now be played by the tremendously funny and very ready Tiffany Haddish. Haddish has some experience playing a pop-in-friendly neighbor on The Carmichael Show, but she's best known for starring in Girls Trip and earning rave reviews and even a New York Film Critics Circle award for her trouble. Since then, her star has risen even further with roles in Nigh School with Kevin Hart and The Kitchen with Melisa McCarthy. Her recent Netflix special, Black Mitzvah, was a blast of energy that proved that our faith in her as a comedic neutron bomb wasn't misplaced. Watching Haddish share the screen with Viola Davis feels like an occasion momentous enough to make Live in Front of a Studio Audience an event all on its own.
Stepping into the role that made Jimmie Walker a sensation in the '70s with his "DY-NO-MITE!" catchphrase is former Saturday Night Live star Jay Pharoah. His years on SNL, where he portrayed such characters as Barack Obama, Denzel Washington, and Kanye West, proved that Pharoah had a gift for celebrity impersonations. Since leaving SNL, Pharoah has appeared on ABC's A Million Little Things and is reportedly working on an album.
18-year-old Asante Blackk has enjoyed a huge breakthrough year in 2019. He appeared as the young Kevin Richardson in Ava DuVernay's acclaimed Netflix miniseries When They See Us, for which he earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series. He then joined the cast of This Is Us in its fourth season as Malik, a teenage single father. That performance nabbed him a Critics Choice Awards nomination. And now he'll be stepping into the shoes of young activist Michael on Good Times. Originally played by Ralph Carter, Michael Evans was notorious for being a radicalized black activist in the body of a little kid.
Bern Nadette Stan originally portrayed the Evans' daughter Thelma, who through the course of the series grew up, got married, got pregnant, and moved out of the projects with her new family-to-be. Stepping into that role is Corrinne Foxx, a model-actress best known for being the DJ on the FOX game show Beat Shazam. Oh, and she also happens to be Jamie Foxx's daughter. Previously, she was the 2016 Miss Golden Globes, and this year she appeared in the horror sequel 47 Meters Down: Uncaged.
While his co-star Asante Blackk got nominated for his role in When They See Us, burgeoning young star Jharrel Jerome won the Emmy for playing Korey Wise, one of the famously falsely accused "Central Park Five." Jerome was hugely acclaimed for his performance, and his Emmy win was one of the most deserved in recent memory. Before When They See Us, Jerome was best known for playing the young version of Kevin in Moonlight.
...And that may not be all. If last Spring's Live in Front of a Studio Audence is any indication, we may be in for some high profile cameos, as well. Might Janet Jackson reprise her role at Penny in Good Times? (It woudn't be the first time.)
Live in Front of a Studio Audience: All in the Family and Good Times airs Weds December 18th at 8:00pm ET on ABC.
Joe Reid is the Managing Editor at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, The Herald Sun, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.
TOPICS: Live in Front of a Studio Audience, ABC, All in the Family, Good Times, Andre Braugher, Asante Blackk , Corinne Foxx, Ellie Kemper, Ike Barinholtz, Jharrel Jerome, Jimmy Kimmel, Justina Machado, Kevin Bacon, Marisa Tomei, Norman Lear, Tiffany Haddish, Viola Davis, Woody Harrelson