The Lorimar Production of 'Just Our Luck' in cooperation with Lawrence Gordon Production first went on air in the 1983-84 TV season. T.K. Carter played a black genie, Shabu, who had lived inside a green bottle for 3000 years. "I think 'Dr. Detroit' (as Dan Aykroyd's on-screen chauffeur) was a turning point for me. As an actor, it always feels good to be recognized for what you're doing," T.K. Carter confessed. Of 'Just Our Luck', T.K. Carter maintained, "I see Shabu as the first black superhero."

Richard Gilliland read for the part of Keith Barrow - the San Diego TV weatherman waiting "to be an anchorman some day" - at the last minute. Co-executive producer Chuck Gordon stressed, "What is important is that the key character represent Everyman. When you conceptualize these shows you try to get someone the audience can identify with. We won't be dwelling on Barrow as a weatherman as much as that Keith is simply a guy from Wisconsin who is the son of a cheese inspector."

Keith bought the dusty bottle from a sidewalk vendor and brought back to his apartment in Venice, California. His cat then accidentally broke the old bottle and released the genie who had no contact with the outside world for 200 years. Shabu told Keith, "I am Shabu, your genie. I must serve you for 2000 years or until your death, whichever comes first." 

ABC commissioned 13 episodes including the pilot, which were filmed single-camera style with a laugh track. Up against 'The A-Team', 'Just Our Luck' averaged 12.7% households ratings and 20% audience share (compared to 'The A-Team' 24.0% households ratings and 35% audience share). Speaking to 'Akron Beacon Journal', T.K. Carter remarked, "They're (the network) telling us they have faith in the show. 'The A-Team' is just a powerhouse. On a national level they're getting us. I hope they give it a chance, because all I know is that the people out there like it." 

On reflection, Richard Gilliland reasoned, "People enjoy cute, they appreciate funny, but they remember weird … This is what television is all about." As reported, "Countering charges that Shabu is a poor role model for blacks, he will no longer call Keith 'master'." Speaking to Associated Press, Richard Gilliland hinted, "I think the two characters will have a dual dependency. In the future Keith will become more magical and Shabu will become more mortal. Figuratively, Shabu is the master. I want to get rid of him, but I can't. I'm stuck with him." 

As Pamela Douglas of the 'Courier-Post' understood, there were no black writers on 'Just Our Luck' until Calvin Kelly, the chairman of the Committee of Black Writers of the Writers Guild of America and Willis Edward, the president of the Beverly Hills-Hollywood NAACP wrote to Lawrence Gordon. Jane Ellison, a white woman, who was associate executive director of the 7000-member Writers Guild explained, "As a consumer I have to question what the producers are presenting. What are they giving people except their own narrow fantasies of what black people are like? No black writers were sincerely solicited until the guild and the NAACP raised a commotion."

It was noted in previous times, Shabu had served Napoleon, King Arthur, and Cleopatra. "Yeah, he's hip and people like that," T.K. Carter observed. "He's the one doing the magic, and that's never been done with a black actor before. It's a switch-up. But he's a nice guy. He's not mean. He's the kind of guy you'd like to have over for dinner." Alcohol was said would cause Shabu to lose control of his powers and senses. "Hey, I'm going to be one black guy that's got the edge. I'm not even allergic to kryptonite ... (But) I mean, after 3000 years in a bottle, man, I need a date!" 

Richard Gilliland continued, "There are obvious comparisons to 'I Dream of Jeannie'. People will think this is an obvious remake but there are many differences. We've both got the genie, but that's where it ends. Actually, I think what it may ultimately become is 'The Odd Couple' with magic. Still, its success won't depend on the magic. It will depend on how people like the two of us." 

Speaking to 'The Arizona Daily Star', Richard Gilliland noted Keith did not ask Shabu for wealth and fame because of "his belief in America, in the American way, in wanting to earn a living for himself, and in not wanting to make his life that easy because he wants to grow on his own and experience life. Ultimately the two characters should converge somewhat. Keith will trust his own charisma and his own spiritual magic more, while Shabu will become more human, more mortal. So ultimately you will have more of an 'Odd Couple' relationship, with two people who are from different worlds balancing each other … We're two guys who are opposites. I'm from Wisconsin and he’s from a bottle." 

T.K. Carter started performing at the age of 11. He spoke to 'Longview Morning Journal', "My godmother told me that I used to stand in front of the TV set watching 'Popeye, the Sailor' and I would insist on becoming part of the animated act. In fact, I loved all the programs on television. One of my favorite shows was 'The Addams Family'. Oddly enough, John Astin who starred in the series, directed the pilot of 'Just Our Luck', plus several other episodes of the show. 

"I knew where every major studio was and made a point of dropping around whenever I could. One time I stood in front of Paramount Studios in a phone booth near the main gate for more than an hour waiting to be discovered. While working on the rides (at Disneyland), 'Pirates of the Caribbean' and the 'Haunted Mansion', I got a chance to perform in front of people from all countries. I didn't need words to communicate. They understood my expressions, mannerisms and body movement." 

Speaking to 'Gannett News Service', T.K. Carter made the comment, "I loved all the jobs that involved people. I would always make 'em laugh. Pretty soon, I thought, 'I've got something here.'" It was after that T.K. Carter decided to pursue a career in acting, "I sent an agent this huge photo album I'd kept over the years. It was a real mess. I didn't hear from him so I called and said, 'If you're not going to use my picture please send it back.' The agent told me he was trying to reach me. Needless to say, I wasted no time getting to his office." During auditions, "I had 'em on the floor. After that, I was sure I had the job. But I kept waitin' and not hearin' anything. I chewed my fingernails down to the bone." 

Of stardom, T.K. Carter offered, "I think they (his family) knew it would happen but they didn't know when. You know, trying to become a star is like saying, 'Bye, Mom. I'm going to the moon. I'll be right back.' I've always considered myself an actor who does comedy well. Both the acting and the comedy came natural to me. You just roll with it. You don't question it.

"You just can't work with people like Goldie Hawn or directors like John Carpenter and Walter Hill and not have it rub off on you. They all help you to improve. When I worked with Walter Hill (on 'Southern Comfort'), he taught me how to be subtle as an actor. John Carpenter taught me how to be terrified. When we shot 'The Thing', it took an hour to get to the location. I never felt so cold in all my life."

T.K. Carter who had also worked at the Safeway Supermarket was 26 in 1983. At the time, T.K. Carter enthused, "It's refreshing to do both acting and comedy but I feel more comfortable on stage. That's me saying what I want to say. My dream is do feature films like Sidney Poitier used to do and headline in Las Vegas. I'd also love to work with Blake Edwards. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, so you know, I'm an L.A. kind of guy. People always think all blacks grew up in the ghetto but I come from a middle-class neighborhood. We had minibikes, a pool table."

Speaking to the 'Los Angeles Times', T.K. Carter stated in comedy, "I'm going for class not that angry stuff. It's all a matter of where your roots are. I idolize Richard Pryor, but I wasn't raised the ... the way he was, so I don't have that built-in bitterness. That's why he was so cool. He said stuff that everyone else felt but was too afraid to let out. But look at my face – you'll never see any bitterness. If I'm wronged, I'll go behind a door and hide it. I won't show any bitterness out here.

"Shabu can do anything and, in a sense, that's how I am. I can be driving down the street in my car and I'll see a guy walking along, a business executive, and I will break into an imitation of him. I also do impressions on the phone. I once tricked a girlfriend into thinking it was Bill Cosby calling her for a date. I made it clear that I won't do that jive routine, acting like some cat in a black El Dorado drinking a Kool-Aid daiquiri with a hat as a big as a house. I'm into being hip, and there's a difference. When Shabu pops out of the bottle, he's wearing a Bill Blass raw-silk suit. I mean, move over, Billy Dee Williams. You're not going to see me wearing a lot of jewelry and stuff. If I wanted that, I'd ask Mr. T to lend me a few chains."

In acting, T.K. Carter made the point, "It's much easier for a black comic actor to get parts, because you're making people laugh. It's a lot harder if you're carrying a heavy message." Of Shabu being a servant, "I don't look at it that way. Shabu doesn't have a master because he doesn't believe in masters. This isn't going to be anything like 'I Dream of Jeannie'. I really feel like I'm the first black superhero to be on TV. When I was a little kid, every time I opened a book I saw a white Captain America, a white Batman and Robin. I think I'm going to be a positive black character, a real role model." 

Blog Archive