Our reviews of Sanford And Son: The Complete First Season (published September 10th, 2002), Sanford And Son: The Complete Third Season (published November 20th, 2003), Sanford And Son: The Complete Fifth Season (published October 13th, 2004), and Sanford And Son: The Complete Series (published November 13th, 2008) are also available.
How'd you like one across your lip?
Thirty years after these episodes originally aired, Columbia TriStar releases the complete second season on DVD for the first time.
What's even better is how much this show is a breath of fresh air in an era of witless, dumb sitcoms.
Facts of the Case
Fred G. Sanford (Redd Foxx) and his son Lamont (Demond Wilson) operate a junk business out of their house in the neighborhood of Watts. Their house is a virtual pigsty of junk, either for sale or as part of Fred's personal collection. For Fred, junk is a way of life. For Lamont, junk is the first step towards bigger and better things.
Along the way, the duo contend with a variety of colorful characters: Aunt Esther (LaWanda Page), whom Fred hates with a passion; Grady (Whitman Mayo), a forgetful old codger; Bubba (Don Bexley), a not-so-bright friend of Fred's; Rollo (Nathaniel Taylor), a smooth talking friend of Lamont's; and Julio (Gregory Sierra), the Puerto Rican junk collector neighbor of the Sanfords.
It's hard for me to discuss how groundbreaking this series was. The show was off the air when I was born in April 1979. But from the perspective of watching the series thirty years after this season aired, it remains fresh and original. Like many Norman Lear/Bud Yorkin productions, real issues were dealt with in this sitcom and that was something new in the early '70s. Unfortunately, today we are reverting back to an era where concealing issues instead of confronting them is the norm. That is a leading reason why there are so few good sitcoms these days. What connection did any of us have to the NBC dud Coupling? But I'm sure you will find someone who will relate to Fred G. Sanford and his motley crew of characters.
The show was conceived mainly as a vehicle for Redd Foxx. Foxx, whose real name was John Sanford, was never better than he was here. Fred is often referred to as the "African-American Archie Bunker" (even on the back cover), but I think that's a vague description. Fred is cantankerous and even racist at times, but he's a much funnier character, I think, than Bunker. A great deal of the credit goes to Foxx's acting choices; he keeps his character rooted in the reality of the situation and he never strays from how Fred should behave, even when it makes him look the fool.
The second season was a great improvement over the first. A majority of the first season's episodes were remakes of the British series Steptoe and Son and the dry British humor was all too evident. With more original episodes written and many of the best characters added, the quality of the show increased greatly. Of course, perfect casting helped with every role cast with the right actor.
All 24 episodes are spread out over three discs. I have rated them on a scale of zero to five junk trucks:
"The Light Housekeeper"
"Blood is Thicker Than Junk"
"By the Numbers"
"Have Gun, Will Sell"
"Tooth or Consequences"
"The Puerto Ricans are Coming!"
"A Visit from Lena Horne"
"Sanford and Son and Sister Makes Three"
"Fred & Carol & Fred & Donna"
"A Quest in the Yard"
"The Big Party"
"Lamont Goes African"
"Watts Side Story"
"Pops N Pals"
"The Infernal Triangle"
"Home Sweet Home for the Aged"
Columbia TriStar remains respectful to the original photography by issuing the show on DVD in a full frame transfer. This is probably their best work on a TV show to date. There are the obvious, tell tale signs of early videotape production, but it's a nice, clean transfer with vibrant, bold colors and little grain. This is a great improvement over the prints used for TV Land.
As was typical in the early years of television, a Dolby Digital 1.0 mono mix is the chosen audio format for this set. It's unremarkable in general, but the dialogue does come across clearly and there are no major defects in the soundtrack. Quincy Jones' theme music sounds quite good actually, now that I think about it.
No extras are included, other than the usual mandatory coming attractions trailer at the beginning of the first disc. This series was groundbreaking for its time and deserves better. Redd Foxx and Whitman Mayo are departed, but many of the others are still living, so a commentary track could have been easily arranged. As I have said before, some studios will do anything to save money.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
According to the Internet Movie Database, three minutes of footage were cut from the episode "Blood is Thicker than Junk." This footage does remain in the print used on TV Land airings, so the question arises: why cut it? The footage isn't offensive in any way and it remains timely and funny today.
Norman Lear and his co-workers are acquitted.
Columbia TriStar is given a stiff fine for making unnecessary cuts to one episode.
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