Sanford and Son was both a ratings success (credited with knocking the Brady Bunch off the air) and critically respected as a good sitcom. If someone else were making this list, I’d wonder what 23 TV shows are considered ‘more important’ than Sanford and Son (that’s what we call a ‘tease’ in the Business folks!) Anyway, let’s move on to the tale of the tape…
Relevance: Already considered one of the greatest black stand up comedians of all time, Redd Foxx made the transition to television by starring in this show about a father and son junkyard business run out of Watts (Los Angeles). Again this reflects a different time (sadly), but it was not uncommon to have a majority/all black cast headline a show on network television. Very relevant.
Legacy: “Oh Lord! Elizabeth, I’m coming honey!” “Lamont, you big dummy!” Those two we all know; not to mention another great TV theme song (which was composed by Quincy Jones, by the way). References to Sanford and Son still pop up quite a bit in other parts of pop culture; if you grew up in my generation, it was just one of those shows that was constantly on in syndication even after its initial run. One of my favorite writers (Bill Simmons) is always good to mention an out of shape athlete was ‘stumbling around the court looking like Fred Sanford’, which always gets a chuckle out of me.
Craft: It’s not Shakespeare obviously, but this was/is one of the shows you put in a DVD of to show people what a good 70s sitcom was. Knock on wood, but when Hollywood was full throttle remaking every 70s TV show into a big budget movie, they left Sanford and Son out of it. Who would play Fred now? No one immediately comes to mind, and there’s a lot of good black comedians out now.
Crossover: Besides the theme song which I think everyone 30 and up is familiar with, Sanford and Son was also nominated for several Golden Globes over its run. Redd Foxx actually won Best TV Actor one year for his portrayal of Fred Sanford. And as I mentioned earlier, it was a perennial top ten show during the 70s.
Apollo: You know how Martin would always slam Pam as soon as she came through the door on Martin? That move was originated by Fred Sanford insulting Aunt Esther as soon as she came through the door on Sanford and Son. On top of that, the star of the show was Redd Foxx. Good luck finding the clips now (the scenes have already been altered for cable syndication), but there were a few memorable scenes where Redd went ‘off script’ and threw out the ‘n’ word way before Dave Chappelle had us howling by having the nerve to say it on television.
So…2 down, 23 to go. Film #24 goes up tomorrow; maybe if things go well TV show #23 goes up a little after MLK day…