The Ten Best SANFORD AND SON Episodes of Season Two

Welcome to a new Sitcom Tuesday! Today, we’re continuing our coverage on the best episodes from one of the unashamedly funniest sitcoms of the decade, Sanford And Son (1972-1977, NBC). I’m thrilled to announce that every single episode of the series has been released on DVD.

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Widower Fred G. Sanford and his adult son Lamont reside in their humble Watts abode, which also doubles as a junkyard. With the irascible Fred around, hijinks are always bound to ensue — much to the bemused chagrin of Lamont. Sanford And Son stars Redd Foxx as Fred G Sanford and DEMOND WILSON as Lamont Sanford.

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The second season of Sanford And Son is infinitely better than the first, as the show deviates from its British roots and begins tapping into its own comedic heart. While the abbreviated first season managed to break into the top ten at a solid #6, this year finds the series as the #2 most watched show on television — second only to All In The Family. Although this season boasts many exquisitely superb episodes, we haven’t quite gotten into what I believe to be classic Sanford and Son (which, admittedly, is only a six month era). The series spends the entire year trying to cultivate a rich ensemble. Many friends and relatives pass through in the hopes of earning recurring status, but only Bubba, Rollo, and Julio stick. And while the memorable LaWanda Page appears twice in the second half of the season as Aunt Esther, we’ve yet to meet the legendary Grady. Nevertheless, the scripts and stories are divinely fresh, and Foxx and Wilson are great at mining the material for all potential comedy, thus ensuring a laugh-heavy year. Because of it’s high quality, this was a tough list to make. But, I have picked ten episodes that I think exemplify this season’s strongest installments. For new fans, this list will give you a place to start. For seasoned fans, there might be a few surprises.

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Here are my picks for the ten best episodes of Season Two. (They are in AIRING ORDER.)

 

01) Episode 20: “The Card Sharps” (Aired: 10/27/72)

Despite Fred’s warnings, Lamont is suckered by a bunch of hustlers in a game of poker.

Written by Aaron Ruben | Based on a script by Ray Galton & Alan Simpson | Directed by Peter Baldwin

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Although the season opens with several very solid excursions that make good use of the two characters, it isn’t until this, the sixth episode in, that hilarity abounds. Fred’s attempts to keep his dummy of a son from losing to the crooks in poker is a scream, as is his final victory over them. (Check out that wild get-up too — reminds me of the Seinfeld episode when Kramer is mistaken for a pimp!) Shockingly, this is one of the few episodes from Season Two that was adapted from the British series. It’s probably the funniest recycled script.

02) Episode 21: “Have Gun, Will Sell” (Aired: 11/03/72)

When a burglar leaves his gun at the house, Lamont and Rollo convince Fred to pawn it.

Written by Adell Stevenson | Directed by Rick Edelstein

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Rollo is introduced in this funny episode that maintains a consistent level of excellence throughout the entirety of the story, climaxing in a wonderful scene at the pawn shop. The series is exhilaratingly fresh when its stories are grounded on the seedier side of things; burglars, guns, and pawn shops, while not foreign to the situation comedy genre, are all appropriate fixtures for this series, and its delightful to see this kind of comedic grittiness exploited by the writers. One of the highlights of the season.

03) Episode 22: “The Puerto Ricans Are Coming!” (Aired: 11/10/72)

Fred nearly has the big one when he learns that their new neighbor is a goat-toating Puerto Rican.

Written by Allan Katz & Don Reo | Directed by Peter Baldwin

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One of the show’s best remembered story lines was Fred’s dislike of his Puerto Rican neighbor, played by Gregory Sierra, one of the decade’s “go to” ethnic actors of ’70s television. It is in episodes such as these that we are reminded of Sanford And Son‘s connection to All In The Family (1971-1979, CBS), as Fred’s intolerance for another race (in this case, the Puerto Ricans) is evocative of Archie’s distaste for his neighbors, the Jeffersons. This episode introduces Julio and his goat and brings in some big laughs. A favorite.

04) Episode 23: “The Shootout” (Aired: 11/17/72)

Fred fears he’s killed a neighbor when he accidentally fires an antique Revolutionary War rifle through the window.

Written by Allan Katz & Don Reo | Directed by Peter Baldwin

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Another episode about guns within two weeks of each other? Well, yes, but this one is entirely different in tone, taking a much sillier approach (albeit, with potentially higher stakes). Fred quarrels with a neighbor, and then fears that he’s killed him after he accidentally fires a 200 year old Revolutionary War rifle that Lamont has brought home into said neighbor’s window. Although this is a very funny installment, it took repeated viewings before I appreciated the strong construction of the story as well.

05) Episode 27: “Fred & Carol & Fred & Donna” (Aired: 12/15/72)

Fred accidentally makes two dates for the same evening, much to Lamont’s amusement.

Written by Lloyd Garver & Ken Hecht | Directed by Rick Edelstein

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Installments that deal with Fred’s romantic life can be hit and miss, despite the strong potential for good comedy. While I never quite bought Lamont’s intense dislike of Fred’s most steady love interest, Donna, she’s not a favorite of mine either — simply because she’s not a big laugh-getter. She’s a prop off which others can play. Nevertheless, I do like seeing Fred charm the ladies, and in this episode he’s caught between two (giving new meaning to the term “double date”). This makes for one of the funniest and most uncomfortable evenings of Fred’s life, as both women show up for dinner. Hilarious!

06) Episode 29: “The Big Party” (Aired: 01/05/73)

Fred hosts a house party and charges admission in an attempt to raise money for bills.

Teleplay by Odie Hawkins & Aaron Ruben | Story by Odie Hawkins | Directed by Jack Shea

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This episode’s calling card is that it’s the first one to guest star LaWanda Page as Aunt Esther, probably the best remembered recurring member of the ensemble, and, I must admit, my favorite comic presence on this series next to Foxx himself. Insults fly from their first scene together, and it’s just as fabulous as it can be. Meanwhile, though the premise shows originality, the episode itself isn’t on par with some of the other Season Two classics. Esther makes this episode, and it’s worth it just for her.

07) Episode 30: “A Visit From Lena Horne” (Aired: 01/12/73)

Fred spins a sob story about his son, poor crippled Lamont, in an attempt to get Lena Horne to pay him a visit.

Written by Allan Katz & Don Reo | Directed by Jack Shea

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Fred meets his idol in this installment, one of the few times this series builds an episode around a guest star. While on a tour of NBC (naturally), Fred sneaks off into Lena Horne’s dressing room, where she catches him holding her powder puff. After a potential heart attack, Fred fabricates a tale about his crippled son, poor little Lamont, and how much he’d love to meet Lena. She agrees to stop by the house on her way to the airport. Will she show up? (Yes.) Is it funny? (Yes.) Is it another classic? (Yes.)

08) Episode 34: “Pops ‘n’ Pals” (Aired: 02/09/73)

Fred is jealous of Lamont’s growing friendship with Julio, the Puerto Rican.

Written by Allan Katz & Don Reo | Directed by Jack Shea

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Speaking with several fans, I’ve found that many regard this episode as one of their absolute favorites. While I’ve never considered it to be among those that I would place on the highest shelf (with this season’s MVE, for instance), I must admit that this is one funny episode — with a great sequence involving Fred, Lamont, and Julio at a Mexican restaurant. Additionally, this episode is most satisfying because it’s founded on one of the series’ principle themes — the relationship between Fred and Lamont.

09) Episode 36: “Pot Luck” (Aired: 02/23/73)

Lamont buys an antique commode for cheap and intends to resell it for a large profit.

Written by Aaron Ruben | Based on a script by Ray Galton & Alan Simpson | Directed by Peter Baldwin

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One of several very solidly written (and unendingly amusing) episodes from the end of the season, this minimalistic episode is (like “The Card Sharps”) adapted from a British script — a fact you probably wouldn’t notice given the strength of the comedy and the delightful crassness of the premise. Crass is the appropriate word because Lamont’s antique “commode” is, as Fred points out, just fancy talk for old-fashioned toilet. An episode built around a toilet: original, memorable, and hysterical.

10) Episode 38: “Rated X” (Aired: 03/16/73)

Fred, Lamont, and Rollo are arrested after unknowingly answering a casting call for a porno film.

Written by Ilunga Adell | Directed by Peter Baldwin

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Much of this excellent episode is set outside of the house as we follow Fred, Lamont, and Rollo from the studio where they audition for a new film, which, unbeknownst to them, is a porno flick, to a prison cell, after they are all three arrested in the raid. This installment boasts probably the biggest laughs of the entire season, culminating in a genius appearance by Aunt Esther, who coms to bail the heathens out of prison. Her attempt to beat Fred with her handbag while bars stand between them never gets old. “You keep sucking on that sucker, sucker. And when I pull your chain, you bark!”

 

Other notable episodes that narrowly missed the list above include: “Whiplash,” in which Fred seeks damages following a fender bender, “Sanford And Son And Sister Make Three,” in which Fred thinks Lamont’s new girl is his son’s half-sister, “Lamont Goes African,” in which Lamont seeks to tap into his African roots, “Watts Side Story,” in which Fred and Mrs. Fuentes burn when Lamont dates Julio’s sister, and “Home Sweet Home For The Aged,” in which Lamont puts Fred in a retirement home. All five of these episodes are hysterical and could have easily made my list.

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*** The MVE Award for the Best Episode from Season Two of Sanford And Son goes to…..

“Rated X”

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Come back next Tuesday for the best from Season Three! And tune in tomorrow for a new Wildcard Wednesday post!

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6 thoughts on “The Ten Best SANFORD AND SON Episodes of Season Two

  1. SANFORD AND SON was one of my dad’s all-time favorite shows and it brings back some nice memories of him, reading your reviews of it. The only episodes he didn’t like were the ones done without Redd Foxx, the ones that had Grady living in the Sanford’s house. He usually didn’t bother to even watch those. But it seems like there weren’t that many of them.

    • Hi, Jon! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Foxx missed the last six episodes of Season Three and the first three episodes produced for Season Four, which were then sprinkled throughout the middle of that year. I too dislike the episodes in which he doesn’t appear. It’s most unfortunate now with hindsight because the first 18 episodes of Season Three are probably the series’ best, a height that the show would never reclaim, even after Foxx’s return.

  2. If you think that “The Shootout” is a better and funnier episode that “Lamont Goes African”, then you probably shouldn’t be compiling this list.

    • Clay,

      Congratulations. You’re my second heckler! Welcome.

      Okay, I must admit that I’m a bit confused. After all, you visited this page to read my personal opinions about the best installments from SANFORD AND SON’s second season. You sought out MY thoughts, not a mirror of your own. And yet you were still expecting to find your own thoughts anyway. So I’m wondering: why do you need me to agree with you? Do you not trust your own point-of-view?

      But enough questions. Let’s talk facts. I encourage readers to share their own opinions and do indeed enjoy lively discussion about the merits and flaws of individual installments, but, frankly, I find it impossible to entertain dialogue with a visitor who is unable to articulate his own thoughts without resorting to inflammatory rhetoric that indicates both ignorance and ill-breeding. (If you are neither ignorant nor ill-bred, it would be in your best interest to change the way you interact with others. I, dear heckler, have faith in you.)

      Let me give you some advice, because, remember, this is MY page. If you want to share an opinion (as you are welcome to do), back it up with an argument instead of personal insults. To wit: you gave no reason in your comment for that episodic preference, thereby making it impossible for anyone else to engage with you intellectually. Notice how I share my thoughts and then explain how I got there. You did not give either yourself or us that same respect. But then again, the tone of your comment makes an intellectual discussion seem improbable anyway, so perhaps this is wasting time.

      For the record, I think “Lamont Goes African” is comparatively gimmicky, contrived, and built entirely on easy laughs — that’s why it didn’t make my list when I wrote this post over a year ago and why it wouldn’t make this list if I wrote it today. However, you are entitled to feel any way you wish about any episode you wish. (As am I.)

      What you aren’t entitled to is uninvited vitriol, particularly here on MY site, and if you think that the best way to handle dissenting opinions is rudeness, then you probably shouldn’t be using the internet. Furthermore, if you can’t do better next time, then you should definitely stay away from my page. I make the rules here.

      As I bid you farewell, I’d like you to carry on with the knowledge that the people on this page are surely passionate — and yet we’re also friendly. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. You’re welcome to come back again — but only if you’re prepared to do better.

      • Bravo Jackson! You share your thoughts and always explain them — never asking others to agree with you. And when anyone has a different opinion they get to express that here too, which usually leads to great discussions. The CHEERS posts have been especially great and engaging.

        I love this blog and I hope anyone who disagrees with you respects you enough to be courteous. This is your blog. No one else’s . Don’t let the hecklers get to you!

        And PS: you handed that a-hole his keester!!!

        • Hi, Elaine! Thanks for reading and commenting.

          Your last comment made me laugh — and I very much appreciate your kind words. I’m happy to note that I’ve only had two insult-comics in over two-and-a-half years on the internet; that’s a darn good record!

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