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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Sanford and Son: The Second Season (1972)

"Elizabeth! I'm comin' to join ya, honey!"
- Fred Sanford (Redd Foxx)

Review By: Jeff Rosado  
Published: July 09, 2003

Stars: Redd Foxx, Demond Wilson
Other Stars: LaWanda Page, Don Bexley, Hal Williams, Noam Pitlik, Nathaniel Taylor, Howard Platt, Gregory Sierra, Lynn Hamilton
Director: Various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for mild language
Run Time: 12h:00m:00s
Release Date: February 04, 2003
UPC: 043396003507
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A+ A+BB D-

DVD Review

Until the time of this review, Sanford and Son had always been an entry in my never-ending, always mentally updated "to watch" list. Kind of like the pop culture equivalent of intending to read War and Peace one day (bet you'd never live to see Redd Foxx and Tolstoy mentioned in the same sentence, did ya'? Talk about living up to the credo of this website). Being of the Tiger Beat/16 magazine generation at the time of its original run, my Friday nights in front of the tube were spent watching more sophisticated, stimulating fare. Okay, I was a Partridge Family/Brady Bunch groupie, all right? And just for the record, I always thought Shirley Jones was hotter than Susan Dey.

After both of my pre-weekend television rituals went to syndication heaven in the fall of 1974, Sanford was still thriving in its cushy little 8 pm Eastern/7 pm Central time slot. Since I'm the sort that hates to walk into the middle of a movie, I couldn't bring myself to be an instant convert three seasons in. Aside from coming across the middle of an episode here and there over the years, I never had a chance to properly instigate myself into the San-fold until the opportunity arose to take a look at Columbia Tristar's Sanford and Son: The Second Season.

Despite not having access to the show's first 16 episodes presented on the company's initial release of the series, I decided enough dilly-dallying, worrying about the topical aspects being dated and so on. Two to three episodes in, I immediately rented Season One. Where had this lovably cranky junkman and his long suffering son been all my life? It wouldn't surprise me if NBC programming executives second my emotions. Prior to its debut, the Peacock network's comedic division was badly in need of more than a laugh track. Aside from the slowly declining Laugh-In and The Flip Wilson Show, their prime time schedule was pretty much guffaw deprived; Don Adam's heavily touted follow-up to Get Smart (The Partners) tanked and the Larry Hagman/Donna Mills collaboration, The Good Life, was anything but.

No doubt envious over CBS' skyrocketing success with Norman Lear's All in the Family, the network decided they needed some of that barrier-breaking action, too. So whom did they call on to provide progressive programming punch? None other than Mr. Lear himself. Together with partner Bud Yorkin, they decided to tap into the same formula that made Archie Bunker and family successful by reconfiguring another British series for American audience

Like Till Death Do Us Part (the inspiration for Family), Steptoe and Son was a smash British hit that centered on a cranky old man (Wilfrid Brambell of A Hard Day's Night fame) and his long suffering son (Harry H. Corbett) making ends meet via their "totting" establishment (or as we call it across the pond, the junkyard business). But in the vein of reality shows of our day and time, the Americanization of Steptoe came with a twist: In Yorkin and Lear's universe, our scrap-pitching protagonist became the black equivalent of Archie Bunker, with son equally dour and desperate to seek a way out as his British counterpart was.

From a retrospective angle, I know it may be hard for some reading to appreciate what a daring concept Sanford And Son was in its day. For one, no black performers had headlined a prime time program since the days of the highly controversial Amos And Andy, a show you are as likely to seen in repeats as Song Of The South being in stock at the local video store. Secondly, could a comic more known for his raunchy, under-the-counter live albums adjust to the regimented confines of a sitcom? Foxx handled it perfectly.

Added as a mid-year replacement in the winter of 1972, Sanford ended up as the sixth most popular program in the country by springtime (not to mention NBC's highest rated sitcom in its history up to that point) becoming a fixture in Nielsen's top ten for its next four seasons. Although some of the topical aspects of the show have dated, what makes this show still endearing today is the close bond between Fred (Foxx) and Lamont, excellently portrayed by Demond Wilson. As much as they cramp each other's style, there's an underlying love—nothing father won't do for son and vice-versa when the chips are down (but regardless, Lamont never lives down being labeled the "big dummy," much to our delight). Although some may have found Sanford's bigoted barb-ologues offensive, to me they're never mean-spirited and played strictly for laughs with no one immune, not even members of his own family (just ask poor old "ugly" Aunt Esther).

As good as the first mini-season was in terms of quality, the show really hit its stride in its second year, as the chemistry between Foxx and Wilson achieved perfection; rarely have I seen a program rattle off as many consecutive notches in the win column in terms of topping themselves from episode to episode as this collection proves.

Disc One

Episode 1: The Light Housekeeper

After Fred gets hurt in an auto accident, Lamont hires a housekeeper to help around the house. Unfortunately, Mary (Mary Wickes) has three quirks that annoy Papa Sanford from the get go. She never stops talking, she's incompetent, and oh yeah, she's white. An episode that takes a while to get moving, but Foxx's condescending routine toward Wickes at the mid-point sparks off hilarious banter between the two.

To aid Fred in his recovery, I'll chip in a 3 truck rating.





Episode 2: Blood is Thicker Than Junk

Lamont reaches his breaking point with Fred and goes to work for a competing junkyard business. Not missing a beat, Pop hires Norman (Roger Mosely), a none-too-bright replacement who doesn't exactly endear himself to his new boss, especially after presenting his first acquisition. Look for future Magnum P.I. vet Mosely in funny support in an outing that shows that nothing can separate father and son for too long (except future contract negotiations, but that's another story).

While Pop and the dummy work things out, let's chalk up 4 pickups.





Episode 3: By the Numbers

Much to Lamont's chagrin, Pop is playing the lottery again. Still, Fred is certain he's hit upon a successful formula: Using numbers that came to him in a dream. Lo and behold, the technique works, but will the quick cash leave Fred's billfold just as quickly when Aunt Ethel and good friend Bubba come in need of mucho dinero? Eagle-eyed watchers will recognize future Emmy winner Beluah Richards (The Practice); the lovable Don Bexley makes his first appearance in the recurring role of Bubba. Both actors jazz up a limp episode that should have been funnier given the premise.

This outing rolls up 2.5 pickup trucks.





Episode 4: Card Sharps

Righting the wrongs of By the Numbers is the season's first four-star outing with another gambling-based episode that finds Lamont raising Fred's ire by his recent poker game rituals. Not even evoking the memory of his poor long gone mama can shake Lamont's addiction until he gets in too deep with some real professionals (including this week's before-they-were-famous guest player Ron Glass, the future Barney Miller co-star). Sharps starts off slowly but gains steam rapidly with an entertaining round of cards that's as clever as it is funny.

Deal this episode 4 trucks.





Episode 5:Whiplash

One of the series' best episodes commences with our favorite junkman involved in yet another auto accident, this time courtesy of a hit and run driver. While recovering, Bubba plants visions of green in Fred's head and quicker than you can spell d-u-m-m-y, he develops (you guessed it), whiplash. Three semi-regulars join the fold including Noam Pitlik and Hal Williams making their first visit as friendly police officers Swanny and Smitty (with the latter providing invaluable aid in translating his partner's whitebread statements into language Papa Sanford can undertstand); Nathaniel Taylor debuts as Lamont's best bud, Rollo. Enjoy yet another of Foxx's letter-perfect celebrity impersonations (Spencer Tracy is the recipient of flattery this go around), revel in guest players Dick O'Neil and Davis Roberts' turns respectively as a fast talking car salesman and slimy doctor followed by a priceless scene of mistaken identity in the homestretch.

A five-truck classic, hands down.





Episode 6: Have Gun, Will Sell

Fred becomes the victim of a home invasion robbery at the hands of a burglar who leaves behind his gun, which sends off visions of cash in Lamont's mind as he contemplates pawning it off. Following up an episode as classic as Whiplash had to be daunting, but Gun comes awfully close to equaling it, putting Fred through another round of extreme duress resulting in another vintage yuckfest.

Stick up 4 pickups.





Episode 7: The Dowry

Fred's cousin Grady and his new wife drop in for a visit as they attempt to fix their uncomely stepdaughter up with a none-too-thrilled Lamont. Pop doesn't think much of the suggested union until Grady reveals a $10,000 dollar inheritance the happy couple will collect upon saying "I do." Richard Pryor and fellow funnyman Paul Mooney collaborated on the script for this outing, which starts off slowly but builds in the homestretch; the duo would have much better results later on in the season. Bit of triva: Margueritte Ray, who plays Margaret (Grady's wife) in this episode, would later go on to play Foxx's girlfriend in NBC's ill-fated Sanford revival in 1981.

No sort of financial incentive can elevate Dowry beyond three trucks.





Episode 8: Jealousy

Fred sees red when fiancée Donna makes the mistake of bringing a male patient to dinner who'd like nothing more than to have her services on a more personal level. Seeking any chance to rid himself of his potential new mother-in-law, Lamont seizes the opportunity by sewing the seeds of jealousy in Pop. Norman Lear fave Roscoe Lee Brown (so good in the infamous "elevator birth" episode of All in the Family) is terrific as the dapper rival that sparks Fred into a verbal battle of silk versus sass.

Wheel(chair) in four pickups.





Disc Two

Episode 9: Tooth or Consequences

Ah, the aching tooth sitcom plot emerges from the attic of comedy tricks for another go round. But in good hands like the Sanford bunch, it works magic again. Beset with mouth problems, Fred could use a trip to the dentist. After trying everything from smelly home remedies to a fly-by-night hypnotist without favorable results, he decides its time to face the dril—but not before insisting on a white dentist!

No need for laughing gas during this four-truck yukfest.





Episode 10: The Shootout

All excited over obtaining an antique gun possibly dating back to the Civil War, Lamont shows off his newest investment to Pop. Unable to resist the urge to play soldier, they get quite a shock when the pistol goes off. Oh, and did we mention that the stray bullet may have struck down next-door neighbor Goldstein, with whom Pop's been feuding? Comic Howard Platt joins the show in a recurring role as Officer Hoppy (replacing the departed Noam Pitlak).

Duck, cover, and laugh at yet another four-truck episode.





Episode 11: The Puerto Ricans are Coming

Agitated over noisy renovations next door, Fred's ire is rankled yet again after he learns his new neighbor Julio (Gregory Sierra) is Puerto Rican and a soon-to-be competitor. Wasting no time in fending off the competition, Sanford hatches a plan to have the future junkman's property condemned. Future Barney Miller mainstay Sierra proved to be yet another catch as the show's sterling rotating support players continued to grow. And you gotta love that pet goat, which gives Fred bogus heart attack #29 (or something like that).

More fun than a weekend siesta; cuatro pickups, amigos.





Episode 12: A Visit From Lena Horne

While visiting the NBC studios, Fred wanders away from Lamont and the tour group, only to wind up in the dressing room of his all-time movie star crush, Lena Horne. After gushing how he saw Stormy Weather thirty-eight times (well, actually Fred "went in on a Sunday and came out on a Wednesday evening"), Fred concocts a bogus story on how much his "little" Lamont adores her, which touches the legendary songstress to the point that she makes plans to visit Fred's house. Guest star turns tend to be hit or miss depending on the performer, but the classy Horne's honey-sweet charm is engaging, making this a fun 25 minutes. Lamont's reaction to his surprise visitor is inspired; watch closely for future Good Times cast member John Amos as one of Fred's cronies, anxiously awaiting Lena's presence.

Chase all those stormy clouds away with this fun four-vehicle road trip.





Episode 13: Sanford and Son and Sister Makes Three

Fred showers the living room with flowers and splashes on the cologne in preps for a visit from his old friend, Juanita. As they spend time reminiscing over the past, Lamont gets hot and heavy over her daughter, Alice. As they paint the town, Juanita reveals a long-kept secret that might significantly alter this quickly blossoming love affair—or shall we call it, a family affair? Janet DuBois (yet another guest actor Lear would recruit for Good Times) is a hoot as Fred's old dance partner in another episode that would go on to become a classic amongst fans; the wickedly funny dialogue came courtesy of Richard Pryor and fellow comedian Paul Mooney (and far superior to their scripting of The Dowry).

A laugh-out-loud classic scores the truck equivalent of five spit takes.





Episode 14: Fred & Carol & Fred & Donna

Charmed by a visiting sales lady, Fred invites new friend Carol over for dinner, forgetting that he already has a prior engagement with Donna. In spite of warning his father he's too old to be burning the candle at both ends, Lamont just can't resist the fun of watching Pop get in over his head.

Chalk up a second consecutive perfect 5 truck rating; this show keeps getting better and better:





Episode 15: A Guest in the Yard

Giving in to Lamont's ongoing pestering, Fred starts work on cleaning up the front of the junkyard only to find a dead body in an old bathtub. Like unwanted gum on the bottom of a shoe, they can't get rid of the guy. To compound matters, the bum falls and threatens to sue. Fred smells a rat and tries every trick in the book to prove it, with hilarious comic results. Davis Roberts (Caldwell from Whiplash) returns as the slimy doctor always looking for a quick buck.

We're becoming overstocked here! Another five-truck winner.





Episode 16: The Big Party

Up to their ears in bills and on the verge of having to apply for welfare, it's not good for fiery 'ol Aunt Esther (LaWanda Page) to be dropping by the Sanfords for a visit. Although Fred turns down her request to use the premises for her weekly bible study group, it does inspire a brainstorm. Why not throw a house party, charge admission and use the profits to get out of debt? Seems like a splendid idea until local gangsters appear wanting a piece of the action. One of television comedy's most unforgettable characters surfaces via Page's Aunt Esther, who would make the perfect foil for Fred.

Pony up four pickups.





Episode 17: Lamont Goes African

In an attempt to get closer to his heritage, Lamont starts uttering African phrases, adapts a vegetarian diet and begins donning culture-friendly clothing including a dashiki, which looks like a dress to Fred. Things come to a head at dinner when Lamont blows up at his father in front of company, offending his Nigerian friend (Paula Kelly), who says it's sacred for children to respect and listen to their elders.

Fred gets some r-e-s-p-e-c-t as this episode pounds out five pickups.





Episode 18: Watts Side Story

Julio gets under Fred's skin again once more, without meaning to, as Lamont begins seeing his sister Maria, who's visiting from the East coast. As she mulls over a move out west along with her Mom, Pop fears the neighborhood might turn into (as he puts it), "Harlem West."

"Something's coming..." and I think it's a four-truck rating.





Disc Three

Episode 19: Pops and Pals

As Lamont spends more time with Julio, Fred feels left out. After an attempt at letting the old man tag along to a Mexican restaurant goes horribly, Pop feels more detached than ever, to the point that he starts checking out burial insurance. James Wheaton makes another funny appearance as Nelson B. Davis, the undertaker with a smile (previously seen in Season One'sCoffins for Sale).

Bond with your father and take in this four-truck winner.





Episode 20: The Infernal Triangle

For once, Lamont is alone in the house for hours, worrying as Papa Sanford returns after a night on the town. With a song on his lips and a smile on his face, Fred brags about a younger woman having the hots for him ("Just because a prune has wrinkles don't mean it's not tasty"). Although Lamont is wary about the situation, he figures there's no harm in at least meeting the new lady in Pop's life, until it turns out to be an old flame of his own. Slightly more drama-flavored than most episodes, but there's still lots of laughs to be had, especially Fred's reaction when he learns the truth about Lamont's history with his current squeeze.

A remarkably consistent season continues; four pickups.





Episode 21: Home Sweet Home for the Aged

Following a reasonably pleasant afternoon on the beach, Lamont pulls out some brochures for some old folks' homes in the area. Not surprisingly, Pop wants no part of it. But Lamont's dream of playing fisherman on a tramp steamer headed around the world won't wait, so he drags his father kicking and screaming into his new surroundings. However, with a little help from Bubba, Fred may be back in his old digs sooner than later.

Man the lifeboats as this outing floats to shore.





Episode 22: Pot Luck

An ancient commode believed to have once belonged to the Prince of Wales is the focus of Lamont's latest get rich quick scheme. Before he can attempt to better his $20 investment, the husband of the woman that sold the item comes back to reclaim a potentially valuable heirloom. If the prissy collector visiting the Sanfords looks familiar, you're evidently a Lost in Space geek; Jonathan Harris guest stars as Emille Bonnet.

Don't forget to flush and enjoy this 3.5 episode.





Episode 23: The Kid

A runaway boy takes refuge at the junkyard agitating Fred, who's not crazy about kids. In sharp contrast, Lamont has a soft spot and invites the kid to spend the night. Surprisingly, Fred takes a liking to his houseguest in the end, teaching him a valuable lesson in appreciating what one has in their own backyard. Yeah, it's as corny as it sounds; truly the season's weakest entry by far, but with the many highlights as this season's given us, one dud is allowed.

Go away, Kid; you're bothering us. A miserable two pickups.





Episode 24: Rated X

With the "blaxploitation" picture reaching its peak, what red-blooded African American male wouldn't want to play something akin to Richard Roundtree or Fred Williamson? At least that's Lamont and Rollo's mindset as they go to audition for a local casting director. "If those two dummies can be a movie star, so can I," an envious Fred mutters as he dresses to the nines in search of stardom, too. But our three Billy Dee Williams wannabes get more than they bargained for when it turns out they're being sized up in their skivvies for duties in an X-rated movie. Scrambling for their street clothes, the cops raid the facilities before they can make a break for it. Good news arrives at the jailhouse in the form of a kind soul who's come to bail the trio out. Bad news? It's Aunt Esther. Terrific way to round out a phenomenal season; Foxx's spot-on impersonations of Charles Laughton and Ronald Coleman are hilarious.

Keep your clothes on and enjoy this 4.5 season finale.







Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: As Sanford and Son is one of the first American television shows to be shot and preserved on videotape, I prepared myself to be disappointed due to the limitations of visual technology in its infancy. As expected, colors are a bit faded with grain and occasional dropouts evident here and there. In spite of these imperfections, I was impressed by how well these shows looked, considering the elements are over three decades old.

One thing that caught my attention: Some episodes look clearer/sharper than others (which leads me to think some of the original master tapes may have been lost during some housecleaning at NBC back in the mid 1970s, a move that wiped many of Johnny Carson's early Tonight Show segments). Regardless, I don't think long time fans will be disappointed.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Like the visual elements, we're not talking state-of-the-art audio, here. But I'm glad the monophonic track has been encoded into 2.0, which helps open up the sound a bit more, making occasional flaws, like occasional distortion, slightly less grating (although a little equalization on studio audience applause between segments would have been welcome).

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
3 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Although Columbia Tristar is to be commended for dipping into their sitcom holdings to provide season sets as terrific as this collection, the lack of additional content besides promotional bits for other company product is beginning to get old. Come on, how much trouble would it be to track down Demond Wilson for at least a retrospective interview? Or seek out promotional materials from avid collectors to showcase in some shape or form?

Another letdown is the lack of chapter stops on each episode. With as many highlights as this season had, it's a real drag to be forced to perform the DVD equivalent of fast-forward and rewind to access them.

Extras Grade: D-

 

Final Comments

Sanford and Son: The Second Season offers 24 half-hours of evidence as to why it became a bonafide comedy classic in its sophomore year. A collection to file alongside opening seasons of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, M*A*S*H and All in the Family in the category of indispensible.

 


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