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1980s / Checking In - Sitcom Flop 1981
The Jeffersons was a hugely successful spinoff from All in the Family, running for 10 seasons from 1975 to 1985. It also inspired a not-so-successful spinoff: Checking In. On The Jeffersons, Marla Gibbs played Florence Johnston, the sassy, wisecracking maid who regularly exchanged insults with George Jefferson. Her character was so well liked by viewers that CBS figured it would be a smart move to give Gibbs her own series. Accordingly, in episode #154 and #155 of The Jeffersons, a hotel manager was so impressed by Florence that he offered her the job as supervisor of maids at his St. Frederick Hotel. Florence accepted and Checking In was born. It premiered on Thursday, April 9, 1981. Larry Linville (Major Frank Burns from MASH fame) played Lyle Block, the hotel's weasly manager and, naturally, Florence's nemesis. After four weeks, though, Checking In was floundering in the ratings and CBS pulled the plug after the April 30 episode. Smartly, the network had Gibbs return to the Jeffersons' household as their maid. In her return episode, #161, Florence arrives at the Jeffersons' door explaining that the hotel burned down! (Her clothing and hair had traces of soot and fire damage to add credibility to the plot twist!) She had to compete with new maid Carmen to get her old job back. After missing just five shows, Gibbs' Florence character remained on The Jeffersons until the series ended in 1985. Marla Gibbs was nominated for an Emmy as Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Emmy in for five stright years (1981 through 1985) for her role as Florence Johnston. Gibbs' career accomplishments are even more impressive when one considers she was married at age 13 and had three children by age 20! She still managed to graduate from Wendell Phillips High School in Chicago. A performer in amateur theatricals, Gibbs was working as a customer service agent for United Airlines when she got her role on The Jeffersons. Cautiously, she waited until The Jeffersons was a bonafide hit show before quitting her job at United!