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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Sanford and Son: The Fifth Season (1975-76)

Dr. Goodman: Six months to live? What kind of a joke is that?
Fred Sanford: Black people have a funny sense of humor.
Nurse Audrey: Mr. Sanford, I'm black.
Fred Sanford: Then get to laughin'.

- Keene Curtis, Redd Foxx, Odessa Cleveland

Review By: Nate Meyers  
Published: September 13, 2004

Stars: Redd Foxx, Demond Wilson
Other Stars: LaWanda Page, Whitman Mayo, Don Bexley, Nathaniel Taylor, Howard Platt, Pat Morita, Marlene Clark, Lynn Hamilton, Nancy Kulp, Raymond Allen, Keene Davis, Odessa Cleveland, Merv Griffin, Arthur Adams, John Laroquette, Lou Jacobi, Percy Rodriguez, Bonnie Barfield, Derek Triplott, George Foreman, Steve Lawrence, Eydie Gormé
Director: Various

Manufacturer: DVDL
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mildly suggestive dialogue)
Run Time: 10h:24m:57s
Release Date: September 14, 2004
UPC: 043396070790
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- BC+C+ D-

DVD Review

Is there a more lovable old crank than Fred Sanford? The sitcoms from the 1970s are primarily dated now, but Sanford and Son has some allure to it that is probably the result of the father-son dynamic between the show's main characters, Fred and Lamont Sanford (played by Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson, respectively). To be sure, some elements of the series will likely be lost on younger viewers who didn't grow up during the 1970s, but the central idea of a loving son working with his gruff father is practically timeless.

Sanford and Son: The Fifth Season contains 25 episodes that highlight the happenings of Fred Sanford and his son. It is in this fifth season that the two men find love, get lost on a camping trip, discover a TV show is being made about their lives, meet George Foreman, and are caught up in a bank robbery. The season's opener, The Over the Hill Gag, is a nice introduction for those who are not familiar with the show because it quickly introduces the main characters, defines their attitudes, and explains their relationships. Lamont manages to convince his father to go to an expensive Beverly Hills doctor, because Lamont's girlfriend is the doctor's nurse. Fred is outraged to discover that his bill will come to 100 dollars, but the gracious Dr. Goodman (Keene Curtis) allows Fred six months to pay the bill. The problem is that Lamont overhears the second half of the conversation and assumes his dad is dying. Ordinarily, this misunderstanding would be easily cleared upÑexcept for the fact that Fred Sanford is not an ordinary man! Instead of doing the right thing and telling his son the truth, Fred uses this to his advantage and nearly tricks Lamont in to getting him a date with Lena Horn.

Thus is the crux of the show, which primarily follows this kind of pattern. Fred is a man who constantly looks for quick gratification and is willing to put all sense of humanity aside in order to get what he wants. Take, for instance, Ebenezer Sanford, this season's Christmas episode. Lamont refuses to do his dad's chores around the house, which prompts Fred to hire a young boy to paint the entire house on Christmas Eve for only 10 dollars. However, three Christmas ghosts visit Fred, à la A Christmas Carol, and teach him the meaning of charity and friendship. It is a tribute to the writing and Redd Foxx's performance that Fred Sanford is such a likeable character, because he does some truly terrible things. When Lamont gets engaged in The Engagement Man Always Rings Twice, Fred attempts to convince Lamont's fiancée, Janet (Marlene Clark), that Lamont is an alcoholic gambler! Plus, there's Aunt Esther (LaWanda Page)—one of the most bitter of family rivalries in television must be between Fred and his sister-in-law. The character of Esther is a little gem, because she is a strong female character who can dish it out even better than even the quick-witted Fred.

However, the amazing thing about Fred Sanford is how lovable he can be. Redd Foxx is one of the true geniuses of comedy and his performance on this show is the hallmark of his career, because he perfectly captures a man who puts up a tough front as a means of protecting himself from emotional pain. The highlight episode if this season is Donna Pops the Question, in which Fred's girlfriend, Donna (Lynn Hamilton), delivers him an ultimatum: he has to marry her or she'll leave him. Initially Fred tries to joke his way out of the situation, but when he comes to understand he'll lose her, there is a truly emotional scene in which he talks to his dead wife, Elizabeth. The scene hinges entirely on Foxx's performance, as does much of the show, and he delivers a perfect ten. Foxx is well supported by the rest of the cast, especially Whitman Mayo (as Fred's friend Grady), but he easily outdoes them all.

But enough with the emotional element of Sanford and Son, because it's the laughs that make it memorable. The fifth season has some terrific zingers, especially in The Greatest Show in Watts (where Fred creates his own circus), but it is the situational comedy that really stands out. Earthquake II has the Sanford residence being hit by a series of earthquakes that make Fred think the house is doomed. In a get-rich-quick scheme, Fred sells his house to unsuspecting buyers and hits it up in Las Vegas. Some of the jokes feel dated, especially when Fred meets the likes of Merv Griffin and Steve and Eydie, but his energy and genuine belief that he can predict earthquakes is just plain funny.

Yet one thing the humor can't overcome is the production value. Aside from the memorable opening credits musical theme, by Quincy Jones, nothing else in the show stands out as an aesthetic achievement. The camera is largely static and the sets look like...well, sets, as opposed to actual houses and apartments. This is probably because of the remarkable change in style over the past 30 years, but it does firmly place the show in the 1970s, preventing it from being a timeless piece of entertainment like Cheers.

However, the acting by Redd Foxx and the writing make for enjoyable viewing. The years have not been incredibly kind to Sanford and Son, but it still has the ability to produce genuine laughs. At the very least, it is a wonderful testament to the talent of its main star.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: Compared to the re-runs of the show, this DVD is a major improvement. The image is crisper and contrast is stronger, however the source material does allow for a fanciful experience due to its age and the by-and-large dull color schemes. There is some video interference on Lamont in Love, though it appears as though this is from the original footage.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The sound is presented in its original mono mix, which means it is spread across the front soundstage and never utilizes the surround speakers. This is not a dynamic mix and contains a few flaws. For instance, the audience applause is over-mixed at times, making it difficult to understand a few lines of dialogue. Overall, the mix is clean with all three of the main speakers working in unison, without sound separation or directionality, to create a seemingly accurate representation of the original broadcasts.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 125 cues and remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Contemporary TV, TV Action Favorites, TV Comedy Favorites
Packaging: Digipak
Picture Disc
3 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The only supplemental material for this set can be found on the first disc. There are three previews for other TV titles from Columbia TriStar, starting with "Contemporary TV." which is a compilation of multiple titles being released by Columbia (such as King of Queens: Season 1, The Best of The Steve Harvey Show, and many others). The second trailer is for "TV Action Favorites," containing advertisements for Charlie's Angels: Season 1, Starsky and Hutch: Season 1, and S.W.A.T.: Season 1. The final trailer is for, surprisingly, "TV Comedy Favorites," such as All in the Family and Married With Children (plus many more). Each trailer is shown in 1.33:1 full-screen format with Dolby Stereo sound.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Columbia TriStar's release of Sanford and Son: The Fifth Season is not as impressive as other TV-to-DVD sets, but the humor of the show is present in each of the episodes. The image and sound are better than the syndicated re-runs currently playing on cable, but the source material does prevent this from being a fantastic viewing experience. The extras are pretty slim, so the lure here is simply the show in of itself.


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