Sony // 1975 // 623 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dennis Prince (Retired) // October 13th, 2004
Watch it, sucka!
It's another year in the junk business for TV's most successful Los Angeles junkman. Sanford and Son continued to rank among the top ten programs during its Friday 8:00pm timeslot. With the four previous seasons selling at a record clip, Columbia Tristar offers the fifth season in a new boxed set.
It's 1975, and Fred (Redd Foxx) and Lamont (Demond Wilson) continue to labor in their small-business pursuits. While Lamont sought just to make ends meet, Fred continued to float along in his dreams of grandeur, the emperor of Watts' most prestigious junk empire. Unfortunately, Fred continues to be distracted by all manner of diversions and disturbances, from a major earthquake to a beauty pageant to the opening of his new Sanford Arms boarding house, a renovated home previously occupied by former neighbor, Julio (Gregory Sierra).
Fred's friend Grady (Whitman Mayo) pays an occasional visit to remind Fred that jackasses shouldn't mate; Bubba (Don Bexley) still pals around with the jaundiced junkman, usually getting caught up in Fred's latest schemes; and Officer "Hoppy" Hopkins' mother (Nancy Culp, The Beverly Hillbillies) checks in to the Sanford Arms, quickly burrowing under Fred's skin with her unending list of tenant demands. Of course, Fred's greatest nemesis, Aunt Esther (LaWanda Page) continues to haunt his doorway, trying to exorcise him of his heathen ways.
"Let me tell you something Esther, every time I see your face, it makes me wish birth control was retroactive."
When its fifth season rolled around, Sanford and Son had firmly established its tone, pace, and style. It was clear that the one-liner barbs launched indiscriminately by Redd Foxx were the stuff of weekly belly laughs. This season began right where Season Four left off, but quickly injected some significant changes by the fifth week. It seemed to indicate that Redd Foxx's demand for more creative input into the show's direction was being satisfied. Although the show clearly experimented with change, the laughs rarely ceased during this run of 25 episodes.
* "The Over the Hill Gag" -- Fred's doctor says there's only six months left -- to pay the bill. Lamont overhears only the former, and thinks his pop is headed to the great junkyard in the sky.
* "Earthquake II" -- When Russian seismologists target Fred's house as the epicenter of the next "big one," the jangled junkman is ready to sell the farm.
* "Divorce, Sanford Style" -- Aunt Esther moves in with the Sanfords after a fight with Woody.
* "Bank on This" -- Seeking a business loan, Fred and Lamont get caught up in a bank robbery.
* "The Sanford Arms" -- Fred and Lamont buy Julio's house and open the Sanford Arms boarding house.
* "Steinberg and Son" -- Convinced a hit TV series was based on their lives, Fred and Lamont threaten to sue NBC.
* "Brother, Can You Spare an Act?" -- Fred lends his talents to save the local movie-house-turned-vaudeville-stage.
* "Della, Della, Della" -- Star-struck Fred supports the candidate backed by songstress Della Reese; Lamont is supporting the challenger.
* "Donna Pops the Question" -- It's wedding bells or lonely hearts for Fred as girlfriend Donna pushes for the ultimate proclamation.
* "My Fair Esther" -- Can it be true? Is Fred actually helping Esther prepare for a beauty contest?
* "Sanford and the Rising Sun" -- Fred and Ah Chew decide to start a Japanese restaurant.
* "The Olympics" -- Fred enters the Senior Olympics decathlon to win Donna's love.
* "Ebenezer Sanford" -- Fred, the Christmas Scrooge, is confronted by ghosts from the past. Can you guess who they might be?
* "The Oddfather" -- Fred testifies against a hitman in a gangland murder.
* "Can You Chop This?" -- Fred "borrows" money from Lamont to invest in the Whopper Chopper business.
* "The Greatest Show in Watts" -- Fred accepts an elephant as collateral from a tenant, then proceeds to open his own big-top attraction.
* "Fred Sanford Has a Baby" -- Fred, alone for the weekend, unwittingly rents a room to an imminently expectant mother.
* "The TV Addict" -- Fred's addicted to TV; Lamont enlists a hypnotist to cure his pop of his boob-tube fixation.
* "Lamont in Love" -- Aunt Esther and Fred scheme to uncover the history of Lamont's girlfriend, Janet.
* "The Escort" -- Fred starts his own escort service to prove his "animal magnetism."
* "The Engagement Man Always Rings Twice" -- Fred springs into action after he learns Lamont is about to pop the question to Janet, then move away with her.
* "The Director" -- Fred gets the acting bug when he learns former boxing champ George Foreman will be in Lamont's play.
* "A Pain in the Neck" -- Back trouble won't keep Fred from attending the Businessman of the Year ceremony.
* "Sgt. Gork" -- Fred inflates his role in World War II to impress his grandson-to-be.
* "Camping Trip" -- Stranded during a camping trip gone awry, Lamont and Fred reminisce about the "good old days."
As with seasons one through four, the show retains its trademark opening titles, showcasing its immediately recognizable theme, "The Streetbeater" by the legendary Quincy Jones. Since each show consumes 25 minutes of small-screen time, it conjures nostalgic pangs for a time when commercials didn't so severely upstage the programs they were intended to sponsor. There are a few lesser episodes to be found here, but a wide majority elicit honest laughs even 30 years after their original airings.
Columbia Tristar offers this fifth season in another 3-disc set. The transfers look pretty good given their videotape origins. The opening title sequences are particularly soft, unfortunately; the superimposed text is distractingly plagued with aliasing artifacts. The episodes themselves are sharper, but are still a bit soft at times. The colors are a bit muted but, again, that appears to be caused by a combination of the original production design (it was a junkyard setting, remember) and the source video. The audio comes by way of a reasonably impressive Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track, one that delivers a rather full-sounding mix that is always clear and intelligible. Again, though, there are no extras to be found on this box set, as was the case with the previous four releases.
You big dummies!
While this show, another in the Norman Lear canon, is quite liberal in unleashing insults and injuries to racial groups and government policy, it doesn't come off as potentially offensive as the harsh rhetoric spewed by All in the Family grump, Archie Bunker. You won't find any adherence to today's stifling levels of political correctness, but you likely won't feel assaulted by the ramblings of Redd Foxx's junkyard codger.
As with the previous releases, Sanford and Son -- The Fifth Season is definitely recommended for purchase. The shows have a unique replay value that makes them genuinely enjoyable and still freshly funny upon repeat viewings. If you've already purchased the first four seasons, there's no reason to stop now.
Columbia Tristar is commended for continuing its rapid release schedule for this excellent series. This court does, however, give notice that the studio has only one last chance (Season Six) to deliver some extras, or suffer an arguably overdue stern sentence.
Review content copyright © 2004 Dennis Prince; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 623 Minutes
Release Year: 1975
MPAA Rating: Not Rated