What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this classic '70s sitcom is based on the strong bond between an aging father and his adult son. While their relationship is a positive one, the son often finds himself taking on the parental role when things go wrong. Parents should also know that while the show's language and situations are mild when compared with today's sitcoms, Fred Sanford's consistent use of race-based insults and stereotypes make him a less-than-desirable role model -- and make the series better-suited for kids who can understand its original context.
What's the story?
Classic 1970s sitcom SANFORD AND SON follows the exploits of a father-son team of junk dealers in L.A.'s working-class Watts neighborhood. Redd Foxx stars as cantankerous widower Fred Sanford; Demond Wilson plays Fred's thirtysomething son Lamont, who lives with his father. Their circle of friends and family includes Fred's nemesis, Aunt Esther (LaWanda Page); his best friends Grady Wilson (Whitman Mayo) and Bubba Bexley (Don Bexley); his sometimes-girlfriend Donna Harris (Lynn Hamilton); and Lamont's friends Rollo Larson (Nathaniel Taylor), Julio Fuentes (Gregory Sierra), and -- later in the series -- Ah Chew (Pat Morita). Fred and Lamont's relationship provides the show with many funny moments, but it also highlights some of the issues that present themselves when parents get older. Lamont is fully capable of living alone, but he stays with his father out of loyalty; as a result, he often ends up taking charge when Fred's half-baked schemes go wrong. And while Fred loves his son, he tends to show his "appreciation" via frequent insults, constant complaints, and faked heart attacks when things don't go his way.
Is it any good?
Characteristically for its time, Sanford and Son consistently presents racial stereotypes as part of its comedy. Fred takes on Archie Bunker-like qualities when offering his bigoted ideas about the world around him. The show isn't a source of social commentary, per se, but it does serve as an indicator of how silly prejudice is. Kids who are too young to understand that concept may take away the wrong message; save this one for slightly older viewers.
Explore, discuss, enjoy
Families can talk about how and why some comedies use racial stereotypes as a means of bringing attention to prejudice. Is it ever OK to do that? When does it cross the line? How have stereotypes (in the media and in society in general) changed since this show first aired? Families can also discuss the nature of relationships between parents and their grown-up kids. What responsibilities do adults have toward their parents when they get older? Why does Fred always insult and belittle Lamont? Is that ever an appropriate way to communicate with someone?