Amen


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

Tabs

About

From 1986 to 1991, Amen aired on NBC. Set around a Philadelphia parish, this was the first hit situation-comedy to focus upon religion, an African-American church in particular, depicting, as a Jet magazine article put it, "the political as well as humorous side of [this] centuries-old institution." Emphasizing the relationship between the church's virtuous minister, played by Clifton Davis, and its shrewd, quick witted deacon, played by Sherman Hemsley, this comedy highlighted the continuous conflicts between these contrasting principals. By centralizing these characters' comedic struggles, Amen proved a successful parody, satirizing as well as exploring the everyday workings of their church, from service to choir to congregation. Produced by Carson Productions, Amen gained top-ratings throughout much of its prime-time life.

Focusing primarily on the apparently endless conflict between the Deacon Ernest Frye and the Rev. Reuben Gregory, Amen was able to capitalize on the humorous dissimilarities separating these perpetually arguing characters. Frye, played expertly by Helmsley, was not unlike George Jefferson, Hemsley's arrogant, determined character for eleven seasons on The Jeffersons. The Deacon was stubborn, aggressive and extremely vocal. He had taken over the church from his father, the founder of the First Community Church of Philadelphia, and resisted giving up his control and decision making power, especially to Rev. Gregory. Ironically, however, the Deacon Frye's melodramatic antics usually lost more control then they gained, leaving a situation the Rev. Gregory was often forced to resolve, and opening Frye to the sarcastic ridicule of the congregation.

Gregory, on the other hand, was a kind-hearted, ethical pastor with the church's best interests at heart. Mild-mannered in action and even-toned in voice, the Rev. Gregory was a distinct contrast to the boisterous, authoritarian Deacon Frye. Played by Davis (star of the 1974 series That's My Mama), who was an established real-life minister, the Rev. Reuben Gregory slowly and patiently established an influence over the church, the Deacon, of course, fighting him throughout. A rational voice amid the Deacon's fiery outbursts, Rev. Gregory helped to temper Frye's melodramatic excitement, aiding in the resolution of the program's various episodes.

Thelma Frye, the Deacon's adult, socially awkward daughter, also played an important role in many episodes of Amen. Thelma, a romantically distraught thirty-year-old who still lived with her "Daddy," provided a constant source of humor, her own childlike naiveté a comical contrast to the clever, often scheming Deacon Frye. Later episodes focused on the developing romantic relationship, and eventual marriage between Thelma and the Rev. Gregory, a marriage which signaled Thelma's coming into adulthood as well as lessened the distance between the Reverend and the Deacon Frye. Additional characters included Rolly Forbes, the church's spunky elder church board member and sisters Casietta and Amelia Hetebrink, all adult church members who frequently made humorous and sarcastic contributions to the show, most often at the expense of the Deacon Frye.

Throughout its five years, Amen offered a light-hearted look at an African-American church, playfully satirizing its day to day activities. Focusing humorously on this everyday conflict between Rev. Gregory and Deacon Frye, as well as these other familiar characters, Amen proved a satiric, yet human, portrait of ordinary church life and people. 

-Brent Malin

CAST

Deacon Ernest Frye........................Sherman Hemsley

Rev. Reuben Gregory................................Clifton Davis

Thelma Frye.................................Anna Maria Horsford

Casietta Hetebrink (1986-90)..........Barbara Montgomery

Amelia Hetebrink.........................................Roz Ryan

Rolly Forbes.........................................Jester Hairston

Lorenzo Hollingsworth (1986-87)............Franklyn Seales

Leola Forbes (1987-89).........................Rosetta LeNoire

Inga (1988-90).............................................Elsa Raven

Chris (1988-90)....................................Tony T. Johnson

Clarence (1990-91)..............................Bumper Robinson

PRODUCERS

Ed. Weinberger, Michael Leeson, Marcia Govons, Reuben Cannon, Kim Johnston, Arthur Julian, Lloyd David, James Stein, Robert Illes

PROGRAMMING HISTORY

110 Episodes

NBC

September 1986-April 1987   Saturday 9:30-10:00

June 1987-September 1988   Saturday 9:30-10:00

October 1988-July 1989   Saturday 8:30-9:00

August 1989    Saturday 8:00-8:30

September 1989-July 1990   Saturday 8:30-9:00

August 1990   Saturday 8:00-8:30

December 1990-July 1991   Saturday 8:00-8:30

FURTHER READING

Collier, Aldore. "Update: Jester Harrison." Ebony (Chicago), March 1988.

Dates, Jannette and William Barlow, Editors. Split Images: African Americans In The Mass Media. Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1990.

MacDonald, J. Fred. Blacks and White TV: Afro-Americans in Television since 1948. Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1983.

Stoddard, Maynard Good. "'Amen's' Clifton Davis: A Reverend For Real." Saturday Evening Post (Indianapolis, Indiana), July-August 1990.

Highlights
Sherman Hemsley on how Amen came about, and how he got into the character of "Deacon Ernest Frye"
04:06
Sherman Hemsley on the religious consultants on the show, and his admiration for Ed. Weinberger
01:38
Who talked about this show

Reuben Cannon

View Interview
Reuben Cannon on casting and co-producing Amen
06:56

Sherman Hemsley

View Interview
Sherman Hemsley on how Amen came about, and how he got into the character of "Deacon Ernest Frye"
04:06
Sherman Hemsley on the religious consultants on the show, and his admiration for Ed. Weinberger
01:38

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