Sanford and Son Season 1 DVD review

Film / Video Reviews
Sanford and Son Season 1 DVD review
Aug 6, 2002, 19:32

SANFORD AND SON: The First Season. DVD Set; Sony Pictures, 2002

When Sanford and Son hit the tube in 1972, it was called the black counterpoint to All in the Family.

No way, says Demond Wilson, who played Lamont opposite Redd Foxx on the junkyard sitcom.

All in the Family was such a mean-spirited show,” says Wilson. “There was no humanity there—just a bunch of people arguing about the issues of the day. That's why it's so dated.” “Sanford and Son transcended politics and race,” he adds. “It was a show about a son and a father who have a love-hate relationship, but yet need one another to get by in life—especially during that first season, which is by far the best.”


Though subsequent seasons of Sanford and Son offer some of the show's most outrageous laughs, it's the first that stands as a testament to a story of a father and son lovingly trapped in a trash-heap.

Consider Sanford and Son: The First Season. The recently released two-DVD set compiles the 14 shows that ran in the 1972-73 season. (It contains little else in the way of extras, though). Every episode chronicles Fred and Lamont's rocky relationship, from their unnerving night on the town in “Happy Birthday, Pop” to their bungled attempt to land a Steinway in “The Piano Movers.”

The season begins with “Crossed Swords,” in which Lamont finds a porcelain statue that he hopes to use to start his own business—his ticket out of the ghetto. Like so many episodes in First Season, the one-way ticket becomes a two-way boomerang, sending Lamont right back to the junkyard.

But with each return comes a realization—and a strengthening of the father-son relationship.

“Fred and Lamont didn't have as much, but they had their own business and they didn't have to kiss the man's ass,” says Wilson. “They controlled their own lives.”

Unlike The Cosby Show.

“The Cosbys were upper-middle class aspiring to become a part of white society,” says Wilson. “It's like the difference between Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Fred and Lamont were more like Malcolm X. So was Redd. He always stood up for himself, as a black man.”

Foxx also stood up for those around him. From 1972 to 1977, the top-rated NBC show about a crotchety old junk man and his son busted down the doors for a generation of black entertainers who had toiled for years on the “chitlin circuit”—comedy's equivalent of the Negro Leagues.

“Unlike most black entertainers, Redd never forgot where he came from,” says Wilson. “Most of the characters he brought on—Aunt Esther (played by Cleveland-born LaWanda Page), Bubba, Melvin—were people he had known from the chitlin' circuit.”

“From the beginning, he insisted on having his people involved,” says Wilson. “That's just how Redd was: He was his own man. You could see it in the show.”

Wilson, in an interview from his home in Los Angeles, points to “Here Comes the Bride, There Goes The Bride.” The third show in the first season, it follows Lamont to the alter in holy matrimony. But when the wedding flops, “Big Dummy” and pop are besieged by a gaggle of guests trying to reclaim their wedding gifts.

“Fred and Lamont didn't want their damn gifts; they threw them and the guests out of the house,” says Wilson. “That was the difference: Fred and Lamont weren't bourgeois blacks.”

That's why some had a problem with the show, especially during the first season.

“I always hear people—black and white—saying it has a lot of racial stereotypes,” says Wilson. “But it was the first show where black people were portrayed in a realistic setting.”

“I grew up in Harlem and have been around black people my whole life,” says Wilson, 56. “I've met and know a lot of the same people you might see on Sanford and Son—guys that would mix Champagne with Ripple. But I've never met a Cosby.”

“Redd found humor and humanity in everything,” says Demond Wilson. “That's what made him such a great comedian and that's what makes Sanford and Son so timeless.”

Just check out the DVD. Thirty years later, Fred G. Sanford's empire of junk is still priceless.

-John Petkovic

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