One of my favorite TV moms and one of my least favorite TV sons share a birthday. June Lockhart turns 88 today, and Jimmie Walker turns 66.
Lockhart’s best-known TV roles are Ruth Martin, the mother in Lassie (1959-64), and Maureen Robinson, the mother in Lost in Space (1965-68). She also played Dr. Janet Craig in the waning years of Petticoat Junction (1968-70).
I love June Lockhart. She seems so warm and wise. I didn’t watch Lassie very much, but she made an impression on me as the space mom in Lost in Space. I even liked her as Dr. Craig on Petticoat Junction, though some felt the character contributed to the show’s decline after the loss of Bea Benaderet. I, on the other hand, blame Petticoat Junction‘s weak later seasons on inane stories, a worn-out premise, and an over-reliance on characters singing (I’m looking at you, Steve and Betty Jo). For me, Lockhart’s presence is the only thing that makes those episodes tolerable.
I even like Lockhart in commercials—like this one for Crest, in which she appears with her two real-life daughters.
June Lockhart in vintage Crest toothpaste commercial (1962)
Jimmie Walker is best known for playing J.J. on the sitcom Good Times from 1974 to 1979. When the show began, it centered on a working class African American family with three children living in the Chicago projects. Walker, a young comedian, was cast as eldest son J.J. Esther Rolle and John Amos, two well established actors, were cast as the parents. But it wasn’t long before J.J.’s mugging, preening, and use of his catchphrase (which I won’t deign to type here) began to dominate the show. Amos and Rolle both became frustrated with the shift in focus and with the J.J. character’s buffoonish behavior and poor role-modeling. Amos was fired after Season 3 due to behind-the-scenes conflict, and then Rolle departed after Season 4, although she ultimately returned for the final season.
Below is a mercifully short clip in which Walker says… that thing he says.
Jimmie Walker utters his catchphrase as J.J. on Good Times