on November 30, 2008
Even after over 35 years,Sanford & Son is still the funniest show ever.Based on the british sitcom,Steptoe and Son(featuring Wilford Brambell best known to Americans as Paul McCartney's grandfather in A Hard Days Night),a show about a cantankerous junk dealer and his long suffering son who was his business partner.Television producer Norman Lear who had a hit with All In The Family(Based on another British sitcom Til Death Us Do Part),bought the American rights to Steptoe then changed the format and lead characters to African American featuring bawdy comedian Redd Foxx as Fred Sanford and Demond Wilson as the son, Lamont.
Although the first season lacks such memorable characters such as Grady and Aunt Esther(who would make their debut in the following seasons),the chemestry between Foxx and Wilson is undeniable magic.The funniest episodes of the season(many were based on Steptoe episodes were We Were Robbed,Here Comes The Bride,There Goes The Bride and A Matter Of Life or Breathe (the scene with Fred entering the set with a surgical mask is priceless).
After the hilarious first season,the second season of Sanford and Son raised the bar considerably,and set the tone for the rest of the show.This season marks the apperence of the classic supporting cast,including Bubba(Don Bexley),Rollo Lawson(Nathanial Taylor),Julio Fuentes(Gregory Sierra)Officer Hopkins a/k/a "Hoppy(Howard Platt),and of course Fred Sanford's greatest nemesis,Aunt Esther(LaWanda Page).Unfortunately it would mark the end of Melvin(Slappy White),Officer Swanhauser a/k/a "Swanny"(Noam Pitlik),and Aunt Ethel(Beah Richards).
Classic Episodes includes By The Numbers,The Card Sharps,The Dowery/Sanford & Son & Daughter(both written by Richard Pryor and Paul Mooney),Blood is Thicker Than Junk,and of course Rated X.
Sanford & Son's third season not only debuted Grady Wilson(Whitman Mayo) but boasted many classic episodes including The Chameleon(Blind Mellow Jelly),Lamont, Is That You?(The Gay Blade),Introducing The Three Degrees,This Little TV Went to Market(Guy's Groovy Grabbag),Fred Sanford, Legal Eagle,and many others.Although brilliant, The Third season of S&S was marred by the abscence of Redd Foxx who walked out due to contract disputes.The show carried on for six episodes with Fred Sanford in St. Louis for a funeral as Grady (Whitman Mayo) looked after the place and took care of Fred's over 30 son/business partner Lamont (????).
In the beginning of the fourth,Fred was back(although some "Grady" episodes were aired later on),and for the first half of the season the show was back on track with classic episodes, The Surprise Party(Fred's hilarious return home), There'll Be Some Changes Made (Lamont's sensitivity group), The Stand-ins (featuring Scatman Crothers and Billy Eckstine) and The Masquerade Party (Fred's entrance in the gorilla suit is priceless).But by the latter half of the season, the show started to run out of fuel as the plots became more ludicrous, and the show became a former shell of itself.The fact that Foxx's new contract may have given him a huge ego as he had more creative control of the show (as well as Demond Wilson's own contract disputes and substance abuse problem).
By the time the fifth season of Sanford and Son came around,it was obvious that the show was on it's last leg. Despites some funny episodes (Earthquake II,Steinberg and Son,My Fair Esther, Sanford and Rising Son, The TV Addict and The Director featuring George Foreman) we get a ton of stinkers (Sergeant Gork, The Oddfather, Can You Chop This?, Greatest Show in Watts and A Pain in the Neck). The supporting cast becoming more prominant, as season five also introduces Janet,Lamont's new fiancee, Hutch and May Hopkins (Hoppy's Mother) , two resident of the new Sanford Arms. Even with the new recurring charaters,it's obvious Sanford and Son was getting tired.
By the time Sanford and Son returned for it's sixth season in 1976,not only has issue oriented sitcoms(All In The Family,Good Times) lost their foothold in the Nielsons and replaced by more family friendly shows (Happy Days,Laverne & Shirley,What's Happening!),but the show's quality had erode to the point that it's audience had tuned elsewhere. After four high rated seasons,S&S sucumb to poor writing, gratuitous guest stars(like celebraties would visit a junkyard), and cheap ratings catching gimmicks (the Hawaii episode and the Redd foxx lookalike contest).
At the end of the 6th season,the two stars quit,and the next season the show was retooled as The Sanford Arms featuring Teddy Wilson along with the supporting cast.The show only lasted few episodes before it was officially cancelled.In 1980,Sanford premiered sans Demond Wilson.Lacking the chemestry of the previous show,it was cancelled after a year a half later.
The first four seasons were undeniably the best.The show was plagued later by ego trips,salary disputes,and Foxx's walkout.Even after Foxx's return,weak writing and bufoonery lost veiwers.Even with it's erratic history,S&S first four seasons was the greatest African-American television comedy,if not overall