Sunday, February 12, 2006


It's all in the punctuation........

Tom Willis of 'The Jeffersons' married Helen Douglas in 1952 and had two children, Jenny and Allan. He worked as an editor for the Pelham Publishing Company, but in the 1980s, he went into partnership with his neighbor (and the father-in-law to Jenny) George Jefferson, investing in "Charlie's Bar".

It's my theory that in the late 1980s, after his daughter Jenny divorced Lionel Jefferson, Tom Willis began his soul-searching to find more meaning to his life. This journey of self-awareness was heightened by the tensions in his relationship with his son Allan, who used to live on a commune, and then by the death of his wife Helen sometime after 1995.

There had to be something more meaningful for Tom to do than just be an editor making sure there weren't too many exclamation points in a manuscript.

It wasn't so much religion per se, but I think Tom found a higher calling by getting more active in local politics, in order to bring him closer to his son and his views. Eventually he might have become a Justice of the Peace, and as such, he would have been empowered by the State of New York to perform wedding ceremonies.

In May of 1999, Justice Of The Peace Thomas Willis was scheduled to marry William Truman to Rosario Salazar. It was really a sham marriage, as Will was gay and only going through with the scheme to make sure Rosario was allowed to stay in the country.

That happened in the first season finale of 'Will & Grace'. Looking through the list of TV credits for Franklin Cover, who played Tom Willis, he also appeared in the second of two 'All In The Family' episodes that launched the 'The Jeffersons' as a spin-off.

It doesn't look likely that he played the role in anything else, but with the stretch that he could have been the JP for that 'W&G' episode, I'd be happy to induct him some day into the TV Crossover Hall of Fame... on the birthday honors list, of course. (When what I say, goes.)

I mentioned that there were two episodes of 'All In The Family' which were instrumental in the creation of 'The Jeffersons'. But the first one concerned the wedding of Lionel and Jennie, and it featured Charles Aidman as Tom Willis.

I wrote about this once before in my old Tubeworld Dynamic website when it was still active. It's my belief that this is no Zonk!, nor is it a case of a 'Quantum Leap' from the future. (Although I think that's a possibility as to why there were two Lionel Jeffersons during the run of the show.)

We can also rule out aliens, robots, demonic possession, illness, weight gain, and plastic surgery as reasons why Tom Willis should look so different from one episode to the next.

It's always best to go for the simplest reason. And in this case, there were two Tom Willises at that wedding reception.

Archie met a cousin of the bride's father, who also had the same name. (It's not an uncommon occurrence.) In and of itself, this could have been the end of it, but the other Tom Willis finally let it slip that he was the bride's father.

As he didn't give a rat's backside to being at the wedding in the first place, Archie probably wasn't paying close enough attention to the ceremony to have noticed that the man who gave the bride away was not the same man he was talking to at the cash bar. He certainly didn't object when this Tom Willis made that claim.

I think there could be two reasons why the first Tom Willis would claim to be Jenny's father. One was that he was becoming disgusted with Archie's observations on the blacks attending the reception and wanted to put him in his place in the strongest way possible.

But then again, it could be that he really was Jenny's dad!

Nothing is purely black and white in life - except for the bride and groom that were on top of Tom and Helen's wedding cake. Although we don't often see it, all TV characters have shades of gray. It's always possible that Helen Douglas Willis cheated on her husband with his cousin and gave birth to a daughter which she passed off as her husband's.

It's a plot stand-by that is quite common in soap operas which are a major factor in the TV Universe.

This might also splain why their daughter was black and their son Allan looked more white - a difference in the donor DNA.

It was obvious that the Tom Willis played by Charles Aidman was pretty much in his cups at the bar when Archie struck up the conversation with him. Otherwise he might never let slip such a revelation no matter what the reasoning behind it.

As to why we never saw Franklin Cover as the true Tom Willis in that episode..... Well, it was 'All In The Family' and as 'Lost' episode guides might have put it, the show was Archie-centric. Obviously the "Cover version" never wandered into Archie's orbit to be noticed in the story.

And so ends this Willis Screed.


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