By the summer of 1976, ABC had a pair of sitcoms centered on youth. Happy Days, a belated spin-off from Love, American Style, anchored the Tuesday block, and had, in turn, spun off Laverne & Shirley. Welcome Back, Kotter had settled in on Thursdays. So what was one more?
What's Happening!! was Bud Yorkin's 2nd series after he'd split with producing partner Norman Lear while their shared hits (All in The Family, Sanford & Son, Good Times, Maude) were still on the air. Now partnered with writers Saul Turtletaub & Bernie Orenstein as TOY Productions, Yorkin sold What's Happening!! to ABC, which launched the series as a summer replacement.
Inspired by the feature film, "Cooley High", What's Happening!! centered on three African American teens, Roger (Ernest Thomas), Dwayne (Haywood Nelson), & Rerun (Fred Berry from the Lockers dance troupe), and their misadventures. The series lasted from the summer of '76 until April 1979, and attracted some name guest stars, including the Doobie Brothers, and Greg Morris (ex-Mission: Impossible), cast as Dwayne's father. Morris would go on to Vega$ after that.
Six years after the series ended, TOY brought the gang back for a sequel, What's Happening Now!!, which also lasted three seasons, this time in syndication, and we'll look at that another day.
Right now, let's take a look at a sample season 1 episode: