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The Royal Family aired from September 1991 until May 1992 on CBS.

Redd Foxx returned to series television one last time as Al Royal , a cranky Atlanta mailman looking forward to an active retirement with his loving, if somewhat contentious wife Victoria ( Della Reese). Everything changed, however, when his daughter Elizabeth ( Mariann Aaida ) arrived with the news that she was getting divorced from her husband Dexter. Al, who had never liked Dexter, thought that was great news until he found out that Elizabeth was moving back home with her three children and wanted to go to medical school. The three grandchildren were almost more than Al could take-high schoolers Kim and Curtis ( Sylver Gregory, Larenz Tate), who were more interested in their social lives than in school, and adorable little Hillary ( Naya Rivera).

Less than a month after The Royal Family's premiere, star Redd Foxx collapsed and died from a massive heart attack during a rehearsal on October 11, 1991. His death was written into the show and actress Jackee was added to the cast as Victoria's half-sister Ruth, who returned to help her deal with Al's passing. When the series returned , brieftly, in the spring of 1992, Jackee's character had been recast as Victoria's sexy older daughter.

The Royal Family which originally looked like a moderate hit for CBS , fell completely apart in the ratings without Foxx and was canceled that spring. The series was produced by comedian Eddie Murphy.

A Review from The Deseret News


By Scott D. Pierce, Television Editor
Published: September 18, 1991 12:00 am

On paper, "The Royal Family" looks like pretty much your run-of-the-mill sitcom.

Retired grandfather, with sassy wife, is stunned when his soon-to-be-divorced daughter moves in with her three children.But what makes this show stand out from your average sitcom are the two lead actors - Redd Foxx is that retired grandfather and Della Reese is his sassy wife. The chemistry between these two show business veterans lifts "Royal Family" (which debuts tonight at 7 on Ch. 5) above the crowded sitcom field.

Not that it's terribly well written - it isn't. And the daughter (Mariann Aalda) and three kids (Sylver Gregory, Naya Rivera and Larenz Tate) are entirely too much like sitcomish cartoons. But there are definite possibilities here, if the production end can work up to the performances of Foxx and Reese.

Although the pair have known each other for decades, it took a recent movie and Eddie Murphy to bring them together on this show.

"It was his idea in the first place," Reese said of Murphy. "He had the idea because Redd and I were doing `Harlem Nights' and Redd and I got into a conversation that amused Eddie and made him laugh.

"And he said, `This is a television show.' And he went immediately into his dressing room and began to write scenes for us."

Murphy's production company developed "Royal Family," and the actor/comedian is one of the show's executive producer.

But the pair go way back - they met long before Murphy was even born.

"Redd and I have known each other at least 40 years," Reese said. "We've worked together. We like each other, aside from the fact that we love each other. We come from the same roots.

"He doesn't have to explain himself to me, and I don't have to explain me to him. We both come from the slums - that was before the `ghetto.' . . . And we can relate because of everything that we have done through these 40 years."

Foxx's character, Al Royal, recalls his most famous and most successful television creation, Fred Sanford - although Foxx claims not to see the similarities.

"I don't think they're any way the same because Sanford didn't live in that kind of an atmosphere," Foxx said. "You know, he was a junkman and his son was the one who was doing the work, really. Sanford didn't want to do anything but stay home and sell some junk.

"Al was a postman, which is a pretty fair job . . . and then (he's) on retirement, got some money coming, and (he's) enjoying his life. Then the kids come."

Both Sanford and Al Royal are cranky, irascible old codgers. Al does, however, have genuine love and affection for his wife, daughter and grandchildren even while he tries to hide it.

"He believes in family, he believe is right and wrong, and he believes in respect," said Greg Antonacci, the show's executive producer.

"And he believes his woman is a fox," Reese said.

"This is a great love affair . . . that's lasted 40-some years, and that the real core of it," Antonacci said. "And this great love affair holds that family together, and it's the rock that if the kids are in trouble they'll come home to."

And with the rock of Redd Foxx and Della Reese to build a sitcom on, "The Royal Family" just might succeed.BIG BUCKS: Foxx, who's problems with the Internal Revenue Service have been well publicized, was very specific about what lured him back to do another weekly series:

"Grand-theft bucks," he said.EDDIE'S INVOLVEMENT: According to Antonacci, Murphy "comes in, he'll take a look at the script. He'll say, `Wouldn't this be funny?'

He's giving us punch-ups. He's come to run-throughs. He's been very involved."

Here is Redd Foxx's Obituary from The New York Times

Redd Foxx, Cantankerous Master Of Bawdy Humor, Is Dead at 68

Published: October 13, 1991

Redd Foxx, a ground-breaking comedian best known for his portrayal of a curmudgeonly junk dealer in the 1970's televison series "Sanford and Son," died late Friday night in Los Angeles after suffering a heart attack on the set of his new television series. He was 68 years old.

Mr. Foxx collapsed during a rehearsal for the CBS series "The Royal Family," in which he and Della Reese starred. The series had its premiere on Sept. 18.

He died at Queen of Angels Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, a hospital spokesman said early yesterday.

While Mr. Foxx was best known as the bow-legged, raspy-voiced star of "Sanford and Son," which ran from 1972 to 1977, he had had a long career on the black theater and cabaret circuit, where he was known as the dean of X-rated comedians.

Long before Richard Pryor and others began skewering social taboos about sex, race and other delicate topics, Mr. Foxx was playing nightclubs and making 54 "party records" -- spoken comedy with no music -- a genre he claimed to have originated in 1956.

"No one expected me to be on television because I had a reputation from the party records as X-rated, but that's the type of humor I liked," Mr. Foxx said in an interview in 1982. "That's the humor I heard in the ghettos. They didn't pull no punches, and they didn't want to hear about Little Boy Blue and Cinderella. So I gave them what they wanted. I busted loose."

Mr. Foxx's real name was John Sanford. His televison character, Fred Sanford, was named for his brother.

Born in St. Louis, Mr. Foxx grew up in Chicago in a poor family. His father left home, and Mr. Foxx ran away when he was 13.

Even earlier, though, he had decided that he wanted to work in show business. When he was 7, he would tell jokes to relatives and friends. He began professional work as a teen-ager, playing in a washtub band on street corners and later moving to the black vaudeville circuit. Jail for Minor Offenses

Success did not come easily. Mr. Foxx spent a considerable amount of time working as a dishwasher or sign painter in order to eat. For some years, show business dates alternated with brief jail sentences for such offenses as stealing a bottle of milk and sleeping in a hallway.

In Harlem Mr. Foxx got the nickname "Red" because of his hair color and light skin, and he later added another "d." Sometimes he was called "Chicago Red" to differentiate him from his friend, "Detroit Red," the young Malcolm X.

With the first of his party records, in 1956, Mr. Foxx began to be heard by larger audiences, eventually selling 20 million records. He was a bridge between a decades-old burlesque-show tradition of scatological party humor and a younger generation of comics and social satirists from Lenny Bruce to Andrew Dice Clay.

It was not until the late 1960's that Mr. Foxx moved from black clubs to television and to clubs in Las Vegas, where he lived for many years.

Mr. Foxx repeated his role as Fred Sanford in a series that ran in 1980 and 81. He starred in another comedy show in 1986, but nothing ever achieved the popularity of his first series, which also starred Demond Wilson as his son, Lamont.

Despite his popular and financial success, Mr. Foxx often expressed bitterness about his career. He felt that he had been exploited by unscrupulous associates and victimized by racism in the entertainment industry.

"I've been cheated more than most people because I'm gullible and I'm a target," he said. "My heart is open, and I listen to people and I believe their sob stories."

A big spender who once owned a fleet of fancy cars, Mr. Foxx made millions of dollars from "Sanford and Son." But he filed for bankruptcy protection in 1983, citing mounting debts. Two years ago the Internal Revenue Service raided his Las Vegas home and took many possessions, claiming he owed nearly $3 million in taxes, penalties and interest.

Mr. Foxx often feigned heart attacks as a comedy routine in the role of Sanford. When he collapsed on Friday, many in the cast first thought he was joking, then quickly realized he was ill. Earlier he had complained of chills.

Slappy White, an early partner, accompanied other friends and relatives to the hospital. "He's going to be missed a great deal because he was pretty creative," Mr. White said. "The comedy world is going to miss him. He broke a lot of barriers."

Bob Hope, who performed with Mr. Foxx in Vietnam in the late 1960's, called him "a natural comedian."

And Ruth Brown, a rhythm and blues singer, credited Mr. Foxx with renewing her singing career after she had been working as a maid and busdriver.

"Redd would do anything for a friend," she said. "He was constantly putting his arms out to help somebody."

He is survived by his wife, Kahoe, of Los Angeles, and his mother Mary.

An Article from The New York Times

THE MEDIA BUSINESS: ADVERTISING; CBS Considers Its Options After a Death in the Family

Published: October 16, 1991

The death of Redd Foxx, who starred in "The Royal Family" on CBS, has left the network, advertisers and agencies facing delicate choices, from whether the series will stay on the air to what will become of the commercials running on the show.

While no decisions have been made yet, CBS would like to avoid canceling the series, because that would free advertisers from millions of dollars in commercial commitments.

Mr. Foxx, who died on Friday, had filmed seven episodes of the situation comedy, three of which have not yet been run. In the series, created by Eddie Murphy Productions for Paramount Television, Mr. Foxx and Della Reese play parents who find their imminent retirement interrupted when their daughter and grandchildren move in.

Since it is unusual for a leading actor to die during a series, there are no formal procedures to deal with Mr. Foxx's death.

"It's a terribly unfortunate situation," said Paul Schulman, president of the Paul Schulman Company in New York. He purchases $175 million worth of commercial time annually and had bought spots during "The Royal Family" for a client, the Ralston Purina Company.

Before the 1991-92 television season started, advertising executives had expected that "The Royal Family" would be a successful new series at 8 P.M., Eastern time, on Wednesdays. This summer, during the advance, or up-front, market, they bet on its potential drawing power by committing clients to purchases that, according to Advertising Age, averaged $80,000 for each 30-second spot.

Those spots were part of guaranteed packages the executives bought from the networks. For example, while CBS does not guarantee Mr. Schulman that a spot during "The Royal Family" would attract a certain number of viewers, the network would guarantee him that figure for a package of 100 spots during its Wednesday lineup.

"It becomes a question of whether Redd Foxx's absence causes the show to perform less well than the guarantee," said Joseph Ostrow, corporate executive vice president and worldwide media director for FCB/ Leber Katz Partners in New York. If it does, he added, "then you get compensatory spots," or make-goods, for the rest of the season.

CBS thought "The Royal Family" had "breakthrough potential," -- the chance to become a huge hit, thereby improving the network's previously anemic Wednesday ratings.

The series had yet to achieve hit status, according to David Marans, senior vice president for media research at J. Walter Thompson in New York. Yet ratings for its four appearances before Mr. Foxx's death -- it was 51st among 99 series measured in the A. C. Nielsen ratings -- were higher than for any recent CBS Wednesday lead-off series.

At CBS, "The consensus is we'd like the show to continue," said George F. Schweitzer, senior vice president of marketing and communications, adding that meetings are being held to discuss "where it goes from here."

The next step for advertisers is to wait as CBS "tap-dances for a while," said Aaron Cohen, senior vice president and director of network broadcasting at Ayer Inc. in New York, "and to encourage them to do the best they can."

The executives' position is bolstered "by the fact we can take our money back" if CBS cancels "The Royal Family," said Jon Mandel, senior vice president and director of national broadcast at Grey Advertising Inc. in New York, who had purchased spots during the series for clients including Domino's Pizza and Mitsubishi.

CBS is studying the possibilities. Mr. Schulman suggested "replacing Red Foxx with a major name," like the actor Sherman Hemsley, star of the comedies "Amen" and "The Jeffersons."

"We hope that will work," Mr. Schulman said. "If it doesn't, we won't be terribly depressed. Our biggest sponsorship on NBC is on 'Unsolved Mysteries' -- which runs opposite "The Royal Family."

In the meantime, Mr. Schweitzer said, CBS will pre-empt "The Royal Family" twice before it returns on Oct. 30. Tonight, it will be replaced by "Teech," a comedy that normally follows "The Royal Family" at 8:30, and a week from tonight, by a World Series pre-game show.

Viewers with long memories offered CBS solace by citing television history. In 1960, when the actor Ward Bond died, his NBC series, "Wagon Train," was second in the ratings. After he was replaced, by the actor John McIntire, it rose to No. 1 during the 1961-62 season

An Article from Time Magazine

Business Notes Entertainment
Monday, Oct. 28, 1991

The sudden death of raunchy raconteur Redd Foxx during a rehearsal for his new TV series, The Royal Family, deprived America of one of its most popular comedians -- and may have cheated CBS of a hit. Foxx's much-anticipated return to TV, opposite co-star Della Reese, was producing respectable ratings for the network in a long-lagging Wednesday-night time slot. CBS has only three more episodes featuring Foxx. While replacing him will be difficult, since the show was tailor-made for Foxx, the network hopes to keep the series alive. One possibility: a new male lead, perhaps two-time star Sherman Hemsley (The Jeffersons and Amen), who already has a development deal with CBS. The strategy is risky. After the suicide of comedian Freddie Prinze in 1977 NBC replaced him with a child actor in Chico and the Man, and the network hit swiftly became an also-ran.

A Review from The New York Times

Reviews/Television; Mom Adds a Daughter, and a Show Goes On

Published: April 8, 1992

Television tinkering can be a wondrous process. Last year, CBS's "Royal Family," created by Eddie Murphy, was one of a very few new series showing ratings strength. Then, in October, Redd Foxx, who was playing the lead role of Al Royal, died suddenly, right on the set. Sincere mourning was heavily tinged with panic.

The actress Jackee, formerly of the series "227," was grabbed to play the half-sister Ruth, also known as Coco, of Victoria, now Al's widow and still portrayed by Della Reese. More time was needed, though, to work out necessary adjustments, and the show went off the air temporarily. Tonight at 8, it's back, with Jackee and Ms. Reese sharing carefully calibrated star billing. One slight change: Coco is now Victoria's elder daughter. A family portrait on the living-room wall allows Mr. Foxx to gaze down on the new proceedings, looking as grumpy as ever.

On one level, "The Royal Family" cruises on standard insult humor, with the one-liners flying furiously between proper, churchgoing Victoria and sassy, sultry Coco, who ran away from home when she was 17 years old. Daughter: "I'm still trying to find myself." Mom: "Look on the sofa in front of the TV." Coco is always looking, someone observes. "And she is always finding," huffs Mom. Of course, Mom and daughter are more like each other in their stubbornness than either will admit.

Then there are the weekly plot hooks that give the rest of the Royal family a chance, however slight, to get into the act. Tonight, for instance, 15-year-old Curtis (Larenz Tate), son of the divorced Elizabeth (Mariann Aalda), Victoria's other daughter, gets some ribbing from friends about being the only man in a house full of women. Beneath the light banter lurks a serious issue about father figures, or their absence, in a family. It's not pressed, but it is felt.

Meanwhile, the new local deacon (Ron Glass), fussed over by Victoria, takes Coco on a date and turns out to be a smooth but not very effective lecher. He then tells Victoria that Coco "was all over me," which Mom is all too ready to believe. Coco is furious, explaining that "just because I dress a little hot doesn't mean I'm looking for the devil." By half-hour's end, be assured, Mom will learn the truth.

The chemistry between Jackee and Ms. Reese will be crucial to the revised show's chances. The impression conveyed in the first two episodes is that of a wary truce: you stay out of my way, I'll stay out of yours. Fragile is not a description that applies to either actress. Ms. Reese has a booming voice that adds considerable heft to her matriarchal authority. And Jackee is an apparently compulsive scene-stealer, using everything from teeny-tiny rapid footsteps to line readings suggesting intense study of Mae West. Stunningly curvaceous, Jackee has also been given a wardrobe that no Coco could possibly afford.

Eddie Murphy Television is serious about saving "The Royal Family." Lenny Ripps and Rob Dames have been recruited from the ABC hit series "Full House" to serve as co-executive producers. The script writers have obviously been told to beef up the wisecracks with real contemporary issues. And Jackee, given the right vehicle, can indeed be irresistible. The Royal Family Created by Eddie Murphy; Shelley Jensen, producer; Mark McClafferty, Lenny Ripps and Rob Dames, co-executive producers; Mr. Murphy, executive producer. In association with Paramount Network Television. At 8 tonight on CBS. WITH: Della Reese, Jackee, Mariann Aalda, Sylver Gregory, Larenz Tate, Naya Rivera, Ron Glass.

To watch some clips of The Royal Family go to

For more on The Royal Family go to

For more on the death of Redd Foxx go to

For the Official Site of Redd Foxx go to

For a Page dedicated to Della Reese go to

For the Official Website of Della Reese go to

For some Royal Family-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to

To watch the opening credits go to
Date: Mon January 21, 2008 � Filesize: 55.8kb, 66.3kbDimensions: 807 x 1000 �
Keywords: Royal Family: Cast Photo (Links Updated 8/2/18)


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