The PJs is an American stop-motion animated black sitcom, created by Eddie Murphy, Larry Wilmore, and Steve Tompkins. It portrayed life in an urban public housing project, modeled after the Cabrini–Green housing projects in Chicago. The series starred Eddie Murphy, and was produced by Imagine Entertainment by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, The Murphy Company and Will Vinton Studios in association with Touchstone Television, marking as Disney's first adult animated series. The original run of the series debuted on Fox on Sunday, January 10, 1999, following the network's coverage of the NFC Divisional Playoffs. Two days later, the second episode aired in its regular Tuesday night time slot, following King of the Hill.
44 episodes aired during the show's run of 2 years and 4 months. Each took over 2 months to produce, owing to the laborious stop-motion process.
While co-creator Eddie Murphy is credited as the voice of Thurgood Stubbs on every episode, actor Phil Morris says that in some episodes, he provided the voice of Thurgood; according to Morris, Murphy did not want to show up on some days to record the voice of Thurgood Stubbs, so the producers hired Morris to record Thurgood's lines, where he worked in a separate booth with the other actors, allowing the producers to replace Morris' recordings with Murphy's voice in case Murphy decided he wanted to record his dialogue.
After two seasons on Fox, the show moved to The WB in 2000. Its high budget and declining ratings led to its cancellation in 2001; the final 2 episodes weren't aired until 2003. The show aired in syndication for a time on Trio, Fuse, MTV2, and Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. As of 2019, the series is no longer syndicated by other networks.
The PJs won 3 Emmy Awards and one Annie Award during its run. Some social activists (including director Spike Lee) accused the show of depicting negative racial stereotypes of life in the projects. Quincy Jones' son QD3, along with George Clinton, produced the theme music for the show.
Portrait of most of the major characters
- Thurgood Orenthal Stubbs (also known as The Super or simply Super) (voiced by Eddie Murphy in most episodes, Phil Morris in later episodes, understudied by Mark Moseley) - The superintendent of the Hilton-Jacobs projects and the main protagonist. Thurgood is short-tempered, impatient, not very bright, and suffers from a variety of health issues. He wears a white short-sleeved shirt, blue overalls, and brown shoes. He also has salt and pepper hair worn in a tall style akin to Don King. Thurgood originally had a black afro, but an accident on his wedding day transformed his hairstyle to its current state. Thurgood is terrified of black rats as revealed in "Fear of a Black Rat." Much of the show's humor is derived from Thurgood's unwillingness to repair the dilapidated projects or deal with the many frustrations of leading a community of the urban poor. Despite his laughably poor education, he is shown to be kind and a natural leader when the situation calls for it. His diet is another source of humor, as he prefers fried foods, red meat, and Forties, which is the likely cause of his big belly and other health issues he complains of such as angina. Thurgood throughout the series has used a variety of interjections in reference to African-American icons. Such interjections are "What on Eartha Kitt?", or "Mother Marion Barry!".
Thurgood also makes a background appearance in The Simpsons episode "Missionary: Impossible" as a telethon volunteer along with characters of other Fox TV shows. In tribute to that, an episode of The PJs featured Futurama character Philip Fry on a missing person poster.
- Muriel Stubbs (née Warren) (voiced by Loretta Devine) - Thurgood's wife and the voice of reason. She wears a pink sweatsuit with the word "Paris" on it (which she got on a trip to Paris with Don King) and light pink shoes. Muriel has a sister named Bebe Ho who is married to another tenant. Muriel and Bebe were likely raised in Alabama during the era of school desegregation, as evidenced by Muriel's having met her state's governor when she attended an all-white high school. However, Muriel attests that the only reason she got to meet the governor was because he was blocking the school door.
- Florence Normandie Avery (Mrs. Avery) (voiced by Ja'net Dubois) - A senior citizen who bullies Thurgood throughout the series. She, like the other tenants, hates him with a passion because he never fixes her run-down apartment. A retired con artist, Mrs. Avery often tells random and inappropriate stories of her past as a grifter. She suffers from numerous ailments and has had multiple strokes. Florence keeps a loaded shotgun with her named "Mrs. Jones", which she used to shoot Thurgood, the garbage man, the mailman, and a helicopter as well as using it as a general threat to get her way. It was later revealed she had not become impaired by the fall in the elevator shaft, but was lonely and seeking companionship.
- Lucky - Mrs. Avery's beloved pet dog that is seen in a lot of episodes. He got his name from being shot three times by Mrs. Avery's shotgun, one time because Thurgood let him in, and then two more times to be sure he is lucky. Thurgood gave Lucky to Mrs. Avery to get out of taking care of her after he caused her to fall down an elevator shaft Lucky is probably the only person that Mrs. Avery shows constant affection and love to.
- Calvin Banks and "Juicy" Hudson (voiced by Crystal Scales and Michele Morgan) - Two children who are best friends and idolize Thurgood. Calvin is a thin and intelligent boy while "Juicy" is overweight and slow-witted. Juicy's parents are morbidly obese shut-ins, leaving Calvin and Thurgood as a surrogate family. Juicy is often made to wear a sign stating "Please Do Not Feed " when he leaves his apartment. Despite appearing dim-witted, Juicy has displayed virtuoso-level talent in cooking, painting, and automotive repair. In late episodes, they are rival admirers of Sharique.
- "Smokey" (voiced by Shawn Michael Howard) - A homeless crackhead, whose antics often anger Thurgood. His real name is Elister, but was referred to as "Mr. Crackhead" and "Mr. Crack" in the first 3 episodes of the series. In one episode, it is revealed that "Smokey" used to train fighting rats under the name "Ratman Crothers" (a reference to Scatman Crothers). He is often insulted with the phrase "You damn stupid crackhead!" by Thurgood This phrase results in a stand-up comedy act with Smokey and Thurgood in one episode). "Smokey" later quits drug use by season 3, but is still homeless. Despite his homelessness as well as his tendency to steal from tenants whenever possible, Smokey is considered a part of the projects community by most residents.
- Jimmy Ho (voiced by Michael Paul Chan) - A Korean tenant who considers himself part of the African-American community. He is married to Bebe, making him Thurgood's brother-in-law. Jimmy frequently uses urban or "ghetto" phrases (colloquialisms) when he speaks and also speaks of himself as a black person much to Thurgood's frustration.
- Bebe Ho (née Warren) (voiced by Jenifer Lewis) - Muriel's loud and obnoxious sister. She dislikes Thurgood extremely and has a jealous feud with Muriel. Bebe appears to have had an active dating/sex life, having slept with most of her high school teachers and an exotic dancer the night before her wedding. Jimmy Ho is her fifth husband.
- Garcelle DuPris ("Haiti Lady") (voiced by Cheryl Francis Harrington) - A Haitian mambo, she is the resident Voodoo queen of the Hilton-Jacobs Projects and a Haitian immigrant. Her powers, though highly potent and proven in the episodes "U Go Kart" and "Cruising For A Bluesing" are rarely seen in action. Examples of her powers are when she literally drives the go-cart built by Thurgood, Calvin, and Juicy "to Hell and back." She also summons a cyclops to scare Calvin and Juicy after they disrespected her and Mrs. Avery. Garcelle often incurs Thurgood's anger for regularly clogging her toilet with paper towels. He is generally unfazed by the animal parts and voodoo accessories she flushes with the paper towels, however.
- Emilio Sanchez (or just simply known as Sanchez) (voiced by Pepe Serna) - Thurgood's luckless Cuban friend. He speaks with an electrolarynx because of years of smoking, but it was implied in the episode "Haiti Sings the Blues" that Haiti Lady may have used her voodoo powers to cause that. Emilio once wanted to become an Opera singer. He often expresses sadness over his dead wife, Esperansa. Sanchez wears a blue and white trucker hat with "Nevada" written on the front, which he actually bought in California.
- Walter Burkett (voiced by Marc Wilmore) - The neighborhood parole officer with a past as a crooked cop. His past is regularly alluded to, as many people around the projects owe him favors or are subject to his blackmail. In the Christmas episode "How the Super Stole Christmas," Walter arrested a thug for stealing an old woman's purse, but kept the thug locked in his trunk rather than call the police. He also once helped Thurgood get into prison for free dental care and is shown to be willing (and able) to blackmail judges and business owners. Walter is also portrayed in many episodes (such as "Haiti and the Tramp") to be a sexual deviant, most likely a result from admitting to growing up in a whore house (revealed in "Bougie Nights"). In an episode where Thurgood makes up a ghost story to scare Calvin and Juicy that refers to a nonexistent monster as "the bastard son of a thousand maniacs", Walter turns to Thurgood and wails "I told you that in confidence!"
- Tarnell (voiced by James R. Black) - The local street corner hustler who Thurgood usually turns to when he needs something unusual. He speaks almost entirely in street slang, which Thurgood usually misunderstands, leading to Tarnell delivering the wrong items.
- Papa Hudson and Mama Hudson (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson and Cassi Davis) - Juicy's parents. They are morbidly obese and confined to their apartment. Because Papa Hudson is so fat, we usually only see his arm and stomach through his door or window. In the episode "Bougie Nights," Papa's face is shown for the first time. In the episode "What's Eating Juicy Hudson?," Papa leaves the apartment for the first time. In the episode "Boyz N the Woods," Papa is confirmed to weigh more than half a ton. Because of the Hudsons' obesity, Juicy is tasked with performing most household functions for the family.
- HUD Lady (voiced by Cassi Davis) - The receptionist at HUD, she always seen through frosted glass who always refuses to give Thurgood what he wants. Despite her unwillingness to help Thurgood do his job, the HUD Lady is surprisingly friendly to Muriel and is willing to grant Thurgood's requests after hearing them from Muriel. Her trademark phrase is "Next!," which she yells at the end of most sentences directed at Thurgood. She is referred to as LaShawnda by the Postman. Her son's name is Chevron, her sister's name is Latrine, and her daughter's name is Lasagna. She represents the stereotype of faceless, underfunded and uncaring bureaucracy upon which HUD residents depend for supplies and guidance.
- Sharique (voiced by Wanda Christine) - Appearing in later episodes, Sharique a beautiful teen runaway who comes to the projects after her uptown parents are jailed for investment fraud. Beloved by Calvin and Juicy, she moves in with Mrs. Avery.
- Babs and De-Shawn (N/A) - Babs and De-Shawn are also addicted to crack and live on the streets like Smokey. Even though Babs speaks, it always seems to be like an animal's screaming, but Smokey is the only one that can understand her. Babs is also portrayed as a hooker (in "He's Gotta Have It" Smokey announces to Babs she has a customer when Thurgood brings up sex). De-Shawn never speaks and is usually seen with Babs and Smokey. Smokey also mentioned that De-Shawn has Tuberculosis in "U Go Kart" and has a diet of rats in "Fear of a Black Rat". Also, whenever Smokey forgets to say something, either Babs or De-Shawn whisper to him what to say (seen in "U Go Kart", and "Let's Get Ready to Rumba").
- Nula - A girl that probably is Calvin and Juicy's classmate which Juicy has a crush on (although She doesn't approve of his crush on her)
Note: Because of a rumored dispute between Eddie Murphy and the Fox network (apparently over unfavorable scheduling of the show), Mark Moseley (an impressionist known as Eddie Murphy's voice double; Moseley can be heard scattered throughout almost every PJ's episodes covering re-written Thurgood dialogue that time did not allow Murphy to re-record) and Phil Morris took over the role of Thurgood in several late episodes. Some sources indicate that Murphy was actually busy on a movie role at the time.
- Thurgood and Muriel's Apartment - A below street-level apartment near the front of the building.
- Front of the Building and Courtyard - Most outdoor scenes take place here. Thurgood and Sanchez occasionally play chess at the table in the corner of the courtyard.
- Boiler Room - The room where Thurgood comes to plan ideas or relax with a Forty and his collection of Jet Magazines. It was briefly a beauty salon for Muriel and Bebe in "Weave's Have a Dream." In one episode, it also features a nuclear reactor that powers the projects.
- The Roof - A variety of events and activities take place here, including the community garden (as seen in "Haiti Sings The Blues") and a gumbo cookoff in "Operation Gumbo Drop."
- Street Corner - This is where Thurgood usually meets Tarnell and gets the items he's after.
- HUD Building - This is where Thurgood comes to get equipment for the building. The front sign features a number of cynical HUD "slogans" that change in each episode.
- Porno Theater - An old dilapidated movie theater located near the Projects. Thurgood bought it with the intention to fix it up but accidentally bought a dirty movie on opening night.
"Hilton Jacobs penthouse" season 1 episode 6 Thurgood discovers a penthouse in the building
Lionsgate Home Entertainment (under license from Disney) has released all 3 seasons on DVD in Region 1.
Episodes are available on demand for streaming on the Pluto TV app and website in the United States.
|The Complete First Season
||May 3, 2011
|The Complete Second Season
||July 5, 2011
|The Complete Third Season
||October 4, 2011
Raphael Saadiq & Q-Tip's "Get Involved", which predates Saadiq's first solo album.