DVD Release Date: October 28, 2008 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
Number of Discs: 17
Number of Episodes: 136
Running Time: approx. 3331 minutes
Runtime of Special Features: N/A
Languages, Subtitles, Closed Captioning: English; Closed-captioned; English and Spanish subtitles (seasons 1 and 2)
Special Features: None
S-A-N-F-O-R-D-period. And period is important in The Complete Series of Sanford and Son, a definitive 17 disc collection containing all 136 episodes of what could be considered the funniest sitcoms of all-time. Redd Foxx stars as Fred Sanford, an over-the-hill and borderline senile junk dealer living in Watts. His son, Lamont (Demond Wilson) is always trying to keep Fred’s head on straight and run a successful business, but somehow Fred always gets his way and screws it up for everybody. Other characters come and go, such as Fred’s friend Grady, Lamont’s friend Rollo, and holier-than-thou (or at least she tries to make it seem that way) Aunt Esther.
The series ran for six seasons on NBC from 1972 until 1977 and was a success with the critics and the audiences alike. It was intended to be NBC’s version of All in the Family, although it was produced by the same production company. The series was based upon a British sitcom called Steptoe and Son.
Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:
There are 136 episodes of the series, and I’d say that at least 100 of them are excellent episodes (and many of the remaining 36 are at least good). Of course, nobody really wants to read about 100 different episodes, particularly those that have seen all of the episodes, so I’ll just pick a few highlights from each season.
In the first season, we have the premiere, “Crossed Swords,” where Lamont buys a porcelain figurine and attempts to sell it at an auction for a nice profit--except Fred messes things up. It’s Fred’s birthday and he can be in a crabby mood if he wants to in “Happy Birthday, Pop.” Lamont breaks some of Lamont’s figurines while cleaning house, but tells him they were robbed in “We Were Robbed.” Fred will do ANYTHING to get Lamont to buy him a color TV in “TV or Not TV.” Fred and Lamont have a difficult time with moving a piano in “The Piano Movers.”
Onto season two, in “Jealousy,” Donna brings a patient with her to dinner with Fred, but Fred thinks he could be more than just a patient. Fred takes a gun to a pawn shop (not such a good idea) in “Have Gun, Will Sell.” In “The Puerto Ricans Are Coming!,” Fred thinks the whole neighborhood is going downhill when Julio (and his goat) move in next door. Lamont leaves Sanford and Son Salvage for a competitor in “Blood is Thicker than Junk.” Lamont gets taken in a scheme involving an antique commode in “Pot Luck.” Fred wants to be a movie star, except he doesn’t know it is for an X-rated move in “Rated X.”
Season three includes “This Little TV Went to Market,” where Fred buys a used TV that Grady recognizes as the one that was stolen from him. Bubba sees Lamont and Rollo going into a new bar that just so happens to be a gay bar in “Lamont, is That You” Lamont may not be a Sanford if the man from St. Louis is right in “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe.”
In season four, Grady is receiving some extra social security checks in “A Little Extra Security,” and decides to get more security by gambling away the extra money--but what will happen when Aunt Esther finds out? In “My Brother-in-Laws Keeper,” Fred’s little sister is getting married... to a white man. Lamont wants to marry his new girlfriend, and Fred is okay with that, until he finds out she is ten years older, in “The Older Woman.”
In season five, Fred gets paranoid after an earthquake and is determined to move away in “Earthquake II.” A new TV series has hit the air about an old Jewish man and his son running a junkyard in “Steinberg and Son.” Aunt Esther is going to be in a beauty contest--help us all--in “My Fair Esther.”
Finally, season six contains the hour and a half episode “The Hawaiian Connection,” which is presented in two parts on this set. The season contains several episodes in which Aunt Esther finally becomes a mother (or at least an adoptive one), beginning with “Aunt Esther Has a Baby.” B.B. King guest stars in “Fred Sings the Blues.”
All in all, there are so many great episodes, particularly in the first four seasons. It is very difficult to create a short list to just give the “best of the best.”
A few months ago, Sony released Soap and What’s Happening!! as complete series sets, and both of them used horrible packaging that seemed to be basically unanimously hated. Sadly, Sony didn’t learn from that and decided to move forward with using that packaging for this set as well.
Basically, we have an outer box that is dark red and has a picture of Fred and Lamont on the front (the same picture as used on the cover art used for season four) that is about an inch thick. There is a little tab that you open up and inside, you’ll find a list of all of the episodes on the set, with a complete disc breakdown. But don’t expect episode descriptions. There is no room for that on this box. Then, inside, you’ll find the DVD collector’s greatest nightmare: the black spindle of death.
The black spindle of death is Sony’s economical plastic black spindle that holds the discs, in this case all SEVENTEEN of them. You have to remove all of the discs to really get what you want out of there...as if that isn’t bad enough, this black spindle is made of the cheapest possible plastic. In fact, my set already had SEVERAL cracks in the plastic upon arrival. It is almost like the plastic that you would find inside of a box for a toy that you’d throw away upon taking the toy out of the box. But don’t worry these discs are protected from falling off of the spindle, by the magic of... cardboard. Yes, cardboard. I wish I were making this up.
The discs are the same as the discs found on the season sets. There really is no artwork aside from a red and black show logo on the first two seasons. There are cast photos on the discs from the third season. The remaining seasons all have artwork that resembles items or is a picture of something that you may find at a junkyard. Generally speaking, there are 7 or 8 episodes per disc, although the second season was released at a time when Sony was doing some weird disc breakdowns, so it has nine episodes on Disc 1 and 2 and six on Disc 3.
Menu Design and Navigation:
The menus are pretty basic, with the first three seasons basically giving you only one option: Episodes. Well, technically one disc for each of the seasons has a Previews or Trailers option, but Episodes is really all you can pick. By the time you get to the fourth season, a Play All option finally appears on each disc. As with any other Sony DVD set, each menu presents you with pictures from each episode. Unfortunately, the first two seasons do not contain chapter stops, but by the time you get to season three, they do appear.
Video and Audio Quality:
The video on the episodes is not superb by any means. In fact, on some episodes it can be extremely obnoxious. But don’t let that scare you. The episodes are still very much viewable and enjoyable. The main problem is that the picture quality tends to not be very sharp at all on some episodes and compression seems to be an issue on the earlier seasons (this was common for Sony series released at the time). The audio isn’t perfect either. It is muffled at times, and again, seems to suffer from compression issues. The episodes are closed-captioned, and seasons 1 and 2 have subtitles, both in English and Spanish.
Most of the episodes are unedited and run at the full 24 to 26 minutes. But as was the case with the series as it was released in season sets, there are a few trouble areas. It appears that syndicated episodes slipped in for the following episodes: “Blood is Thicker Than Junk,” “This Little TV Went to Market,” and “A Matter of Silence.” There are a few other minor editing issues on some other episodes as well. They should have corrected these issues for this set, but unfortunately, they didn’t.
Six whole seasons and what do you have to show for special features? Not a single thing. Of course, I’d imagine that it would be hard to get any new extras from the cast, since pretty much all of the cast members are either no longer alive or are far away from the spotlight these days. Still, it would be nice to have something, maybe even something like a few episodes of the British sitcom that this was based upon, Steptoe and Son.
Well, the bottom line is that this is intended to be an economical way to own every season, and the price of the set is more than reasonable, even considering the “issues” with the set (particularly with the few edited episodes and the horrid packaging). If you don’t already own the series on DVD, this is a great way to get all of the episodes at a great price, particularly if you aren’t too particular about packaging (or are one of those people that has a tendency to lose original boxes).
Personally, I’ve always found this to be the funniest series of all time, and it is also one of those series where you can watch the same episode over and over again, here the same line over and over again, and still laugh about it. It is basically a lot like All in the Family, except it doesn’t have any of the “very special” episodes, although the final season does take on some more serious issues (but always in a humorous manner). My suggestion is to get a bottle of Ripple, pick up these DVDs, and... “watch it, sucka!”