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On Jan. 14, 1972, at 8 p.m., Sanford and Son premiered on NBC’s primetime Friday lineup. Sanford and Son, a U.S. adaptation from the BBC program Steptoe and Son, was said to have been “sweetened somewhat for American viewing.” The Hollywood Reporter’s original review is below.
Sanford and Son, Bud Yorkin and Norman Lear’s black-cast situation comedy in the frank style of All in the Family, may be a success if future scripts provide more substance than the rather simple-minded pilot show.
Both Red Foxx and Desmond Wilson have the charisma to carry off their roles; Foxx as an aging Watts junk dealer and Wilson as his 32-year-old son who can’t wait to get out of the business. The series is actually copied from the highly successful BBC program Steptoe and Son, though Yorkin says the hostile humor of the Cockney version has been sweetened somewhat for American viewing.
Keeping the show’s development very close to home, Aaron Rubin, who also produces, has written the first several shows largely from scripts of Steptoe and Son episodes (those were written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson). The first, “Crossed Swords,” pried loose several good laughs, though the substance remained shallow and slightly disappointing. Very simply, Wilson discovered an elaborate porcelain figure and attempted to sell it at an auction. Foxx disrupted his intentions, and eventually the statuette. In succeeding episodes, minor characters will join the twosome, presumably pepping up the action. Though William Lanteau and Robert Mandan guested in the first show, their roles were considerably camped up and immediately forgettable.
Norman Lear will continue to nurse All in the Family while Bud Yorkin will look on as executive producer of Sanford and Son, occasionally directing (he directed the first show). The associate producer is Norman Hopps, and Quincy Jones scored the lively theme music. — Rochelle Reed
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