You big dummy!

January 18, 2017

If you grew up or were already grown up in the seventies, no doubt you enjoyed such television shows as Happy Days, All in the Family, M*A*S*H and The Brady Bunch. This magical decade gave America so much in the way of music, television, and politics and let's not forget – fashion. Another favorite television sitcom that ran for six years on NBC each Friday night was, Sanford and Son. The show featured Redd Foxx, who played Fred G. Sanford, a sarcastic and streetwise junk dealer who was perpetually on the hunt for a 'get rich quick' scheme – antagonized by his son Lamont, played by Demond Wilson. Sanford and Son, in 2007, was listed by Time magazine as one of the "100 Best TV Shows of All Time".

Those familiar with the show would often hear Fred insult his son Lamont with the popular rant, "You big dummy", or at the time of distress would pantomime a heart attack, calling out to his dearly departed wife, Elizabeth with, "This is the big one…I'm comin' to join you honey!" – two signature sound bites sure to surface in every episode. Other leading characters included LaWanda Page as Esther Anderson (Fred's sister-in-law), Whitman Mayo as Grady Wilson (Fred's good-natured best friend) and Nathaniel Taylor as Rollo Larson (Lamont's best friend).

Adapted from the BBC program, Steptoe and Son, the show was NBC's response to All in the Family, also produced by Norman Lear, starring Carroll O'Connor as the bigoted, white, loudmouth Archie Bunker. It was a time that these equally racially-charged programs were striking a chord with American audiences. However, Sanford and Son was a bit different in that lacked the same dramatic elements that All in the Family carried, though still helped redefine the genre of black situational comedy.

Fun Facts

  • The show's popular theme song "The Streetbeater" was composed by Quincy Jones
  • The show's ranking peaked at #2 in 1974, with a 29.6 audience share
  • Sanford and Son was produced by Norman Lear
  • Lamont's heavily stereotyped friend, Ah Chew, played by Noriyuki "Pat" Morita was busy playing other recurring roles in M*A*S*H, Happy Days and later waxed-on his legacy as Mr. Miyagi in 1985 hit, The Karate Kid
  • Featured celebrities on the show included Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne and George Foreman
  • Redd Foxx earned $19,000 per episode
  • The show was cancelled in 1977

The show remains in syndication today and whether you were a kid who went garbage picking or perhaps enjoy the more socially-accepted hobby of flea markets and estate sales – there's a little bit of Fred G. Sanford and his son in all of us.a