What’s Happening!!

What's Happening!!

Light on the social commentary and heavy on the laughs, the 70s sitcom What’s Happening!! focused on the importance of family and friendship, specifically a teenager named Raj, his single mother, evil little sister, and two best friends, all doing their best to make the most of life while living in the impoverished community of Watts, California.

The bespectacled Raj was intelligent, polite and ambitious. His goal was to become a writer and he worked toward that aim with serious dedication. But like every teenage boy, he had a mischievous streak that was only made worse by hanging out with his two best friends, Rerun and Dwayne, both of them somewhat bad influences, but always with good hearts.

Dwayne was a shy boy that usually ran into trouble with bullies or girls or bullying girls, often heard uttering his catchphrase, “Hey Hey Hey!” Rerun was overweight, jovial, a little dim and a bona fide dancing machine. His trademark ensemble always including a bright red beret and matching suspenders. Rerun (nicknamed so because every year he would have to “rerun” all his classes in summer school) drew a lot of razzing for his weight and dumb ideas but he was a talented dancer with unshakable confidence.

Raj, Rerun and Dwayne navigated the choppy waters of adolescence together, united against their nemesis: Raj’s little sister, Dee. The young girl had a deadpan, caustic personality and quite the shrewd business mind. Dee loved money and her favorite way to get it was by blackmailing Raj and his friends. Raj paid up to keep Dee from exposing his misbehavior or wacky schemes to their mother, Mabel. The matriarch of the house, Mabel was hard-working, no-nonsense and doting mother to Raj and Dee.

When the teens weren’t at home, they could usually be found at the local eatery, Rob’s Place, eating burgers and planning their next scheme. While there, they also had to contend with Shirley, a brash waitress with a razor tongue who loved nothing more than to trade insults with Rerun.

The third season took the trio of friends from high school to college, with Raj and Rerun sharing an apartment. The ratings had never been stellar and the network was trying to amp up interest with more adult plotlines. It had the opposite effect, and after years of behind-the-scenes friction between the three actors and the show’s producers, the series was cancelled.

But that was not the end: What’s Happening!! achieved far more fame and a wider fanbase through reruns than it ever had during its original airing. It went on to become a popular staple of late afternoon/early evening syndication, earning plenty of new fans along the way, enough to eventually spawn the 1985 sequel, What’s Happening Now!!, which ran for three seasons and featuring many from the original cast.

If you have fond memories of watching Raj, Rerun, Dwayne, Dee and Shirley all trade barbs each week on What’s Happening!!, we hope you’ll take a moment to share your thoughts on this classic sitcom in our comments section below.

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