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S-A-N-F-O-R-D Period.

Lamont: You know what they say, the truth will set you free.
Fred: Your uncle Edgar told the truth, and the judge gave him six months.
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An Americanization of the British sitcom Steptoe and Son, this series from Norman Lear is a Dom Com (of sorts) about a Grumpy Old Man and his long-suffering son who live in a rundown house situated in the middle of the Watts junkyard they operate. Hilarity ensues.

Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson played the title characters of Fred and Lamont Sanford from 1972 to 1977 on NBC and shared the screen with a number of memorable supporting players (notably Whitman Mayo as the forgetful Grady Wilson and LaWanda Page as Bible-thumping harridan Esther Anderson). The father-son duo engaged in frequent arguments about everything under the sun and truly got on each other's nerves, but despite the loud fights and constant disappointments the two remained devoted to each other. The series was one of the highest rated sitcoms of the 1970s before internal strife caused both Foxx and Wilson to walk away from the show in the spring of 1977; subsequent spinoffs and revivals failed to recapture the magic.

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Redd Foxx's friend, Richard Pryor, co-wrote a couple of Season 2 episodes.


"Read the tropes, dummy!":

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    A-G 
  • Absentee Actor:
    • Foxx's salary-related departures derailed the show on several occasions, in one instance leading to Whitman Mayo's temporary elevation to lead actor.
    • Demond Wilson also missed an occasional episode here and there... and both Foxx and Wilson were absent for "The Family Man", the Season Four finale.
  • Accidental Misnaming: In his early post-retcon appearances, Grady repeatedly forgets Lamont's name and has to be prompted, despite the fact that Lamont is his godson and he is a frequent visitor to the Sanford home. Later, it is revealed that Lamont's middle name is in fact "Grady" and the running gag was dropped.
  • Aftershow: 1980's Sanford. Before that was The Sanford Arms: during the opening scene, Grady comes to the house and discovers that Fred and Lamont had moved to Arizona (without telling Grady, a lifelong friend and the godfather of his son) "because of Fred's health", the house had been sold to a widower named Phil Wheeler, who had seemingly overnight turned it into the head office of a fully operational hotel that now employed Bubba.
  • The Alcoholic: Aunt Esther's husband Woodrow. Whenever he visits Fred and Lamont, he always pours himself a drink before doing anything else.
  • Alliterative Name: Bubba Bexley.
  • Aloha, Hawaii!: The two-part Season 6 episode "The Hawaiian Connection" has Fred and Lamont attending a Junkmen of America convention in Honolulu, and getting tangled up with a wacky gang of jewel smugglers.
  • Ambiguously Gay: An antiques collector who hires Fred and Lamont to move a piano in "The Piano Movers". Fred spends most of the episode doing everything short of outright asking him to find out if he is or not.
  • Arab Oil Sheikh: Fred runs into one in a later episode after accidentally discovering oil in the junkyard, only to later learn what little oil was discovered was essentially worthless.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In "The Hawaiian Connection", after the diamond smugglers are apprehended and arrested, Fred and Lamont are also taken into custody for their own misdemeanors in trying to elude the smugglers, including:
    "Not returning stolen property, not paying for a taxi ride from the airport to the nightclub, not paying an eight-dollar cover charge at Don Ho's, doing a rotten hula, and stealing a car."
  • Asian Speekee Engrish: Subverted when Fred walks into a clothing store. When he spots a Chinese-American, he asks to see the manager and engages in some "Engrish" before the man (who happens to be the manager) responds in perfect English.
    Manager: You don't need me. You need a speech therapist.
  • Aside Glance: When the creator of Steinberg and Son (in the episode of the same name) explains that no one wanted to see a sitcom about an old African-American junk dealer and his grown loser son, Fred/Redd breaks the fourth wall to give the audience a shocked glance. In fact, the whole episode is full of Historical In-Jokes regarding the series.
    • Fred does this far more often than one may think; he particularly will turn to the audience after another character says something ironic, or leaves him dumbfounded.
  • As the Good Book Says...: Esther—as well as Lamont to a lesser extent—usually tossed Bible quotes out to Fred, either as a rebuttal or for reasoning. Fred usually replies with either a manipulated version of the same quote or a completely fake quote, which usually threatened to attack them or to turn down a request.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: Lamont is setting up an airline ticket purchase.
    Fred: Are we going on an airplane?
    Lamont: No, on a frisbee!
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Despite the insults, Lamont would never leave his father to fare alone. Well, until he actually did in the Sanford revival in 1980 to work on the Alaskan pipeline.
    • Additionally, despite their mutual disdain for each other, Fred and Aunt Esther would invariably put their differences aside in times of each other's need–-such as the time Fred helped convince a by-the-book case worker that Aunt Esther would make a good mother to a young orphan – or in the rare event they actually agreed on something they thought was an injustice.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Inverted in the earthquake episode, all throughout Fred's exodus to Las Vegas, the extras constantly break reality: as Fred walks down the street after departing the bus, other pedestrians around him have idiotic grins on their faces; when he encounters Steve and Eydie Gorme in the casino, a group of men in the background just stand there and watch the taping in progress (it doesn't help that they're all wearing matching white T-shirts with red hearts, making them stand out like sore thumbs); when Fred later walks towards an outdoor fountain, in the distance, we see a security guard clearly holding tourists back trying to take Fred/Redd Foxx's picture.
  • Batman Gambit: Until he mellowed out and became friendly with Donna in later seasons, Lamont constantly attempted to derail Fred's relationship with Donna; usually by instigating Fred's prideful attitude and/or arranging for other characters including Aunt Esther and her sisters to interfere with Fred and Donna's dates in "The Members of the Wedding Party/The Engagement", (and in one case, their actual near marriage). While he wasn't successful in the long-term, he usually did enough to set up brief roadblocks in their relationship, with Fred usually none the wiser half of the time, except at the end of "The Engagement", where Fred chases after Lamont with a baseball bat.
  • Beef Bandage: Following a fight with the ex of a girl he's seeing, crazy old Grady Wilson puts a slice of bologna on Lamont's black eye because, as he says, steak is much too expensive.
  • Beleaguered Assistant: Lamont often points out that he does the majority of the actual work while Fred spends most of his day watching television and sleeping.
  • Big "YES!": Frank Nelson's characters (of course).
  • Birthday Episode: The episode "Happy Birthday, Pop" has Fred celebrating his birthday. His son Lamont wants to give him the best one by taking him out to a fancy bar, watching Fiddler on the Roof and taking for Chinese, but Fred didn't like it. The only he did like is his new hat.
  • Body Wipe: Done in "The Masquerade Party", when Fred walks offstage from the game show he was on, he walks into the camera, ranting all the way.
  • Breakout Character: Grady Wilson, a one time character on the show that got so popular that he became the lead when Redd Foxx left, and starred in his own spinoff.
  • Camping Episode: In "Camping Trip", Lamont takes Fred camping in an attempt to bond before with him before moving out. They end up getting stranded and it turns into a Clip Show.
  • Captain Ersatz: Max and Murray Steinberg, Gabey and Aunt Ethel from "Steinberg and Son". It is later revealed that Rollo was the one who based the show on Fred, Lamont, Grady and Aunt Esther and pitched it to the network executives. Ironically, there was an early character named Aunt Ethel, who was replaced by Aunt Esther.
  • Catchphrase: Fred's "You big dummy!" (to Lamont), "...on account of my arthur-its.", and "S-A-N-F-O-R-D, period."
    • Aunt Esther's "Watch it, sucker!"
    • ...and of course: "This is the big one!/This is it! Hear that Elizabeth? I'm comin' to join ya, honey!"
    • Later episodes often had Fred introduce himself as "I'm Fred G. Sanford, and the G is for (whatever the main setup for the plot was)"
    • Grady had "Good goobely woop!".
  • Celebrity Paradox: Junk dealer Fred Sanford meets Redd Foxx, nightclub comic and television star. However, Fred's the only one to see any resemblance.
  • Celebrity Star: The last two seasons are full of these, a number of different episodes featuring special celebrity guest stars, including Lena Horne, Della Reese, George Foreman, Don Ho, Chuck Barris, B.B. King, and even Redd Foxx in a dual role As Himself.
  • Chained Heat: In "The Defiant One", Grady's magic trick results in Fred and Esther getting cuffed together. At the end, when Grady removes the handcuffs, he then gets himself cuffed to Lamont.
  • Characterization Marches On:
    • In the early episodes (Season 1 and 2), Lamont is shown to be almost as greedy as Fred (sometimes more so) and having a great disdain for Fred's girlfriend Donna whom he calls "The Barracuda". Not much later Lamont becomes the more sensitive of the two and often acts as somebody trying to broaden his father's horizons and even becomes quite friendly with Donna.
    • Grady starts out as Fred's slow-witted best friend who always forgot everybody else's names. Overtime, while he didn't usually forget other's names, his slow-wittedness did improve somehow. Then we get into the period where he took over in Fred's absence; during this period of time, he suddenly turns into a Suspiciously Similar Substitute by arguing with Lamont a lot more, and even feuds with Esther almost in the same manner as Fred.
  • The Chessmaster: In "Pot Luck", Lamont buys a chamber pot from a woman for $20, only for her husband Mr. Osborne to object to Lamont's unscrupulous sales tactic of talking the wife out of selling the piece for a low price and then raising the resale price, with Lamont believing it's worth more than that because it supposedly once belonged to the Prince of Wales, and the man reluctantly offers $200 to buy back the chamber pot. Later on, Mr. Bonnetnote , a rare globe-trotting antiques dealer comes by, offering $900 to buy the chamber pot Lamont acquired and that Osborne offered $200 to buy back. In the midst of the shady wheeling and dealing, Lamont discovers that Mr. Osborne and Mr. Bonnet are in cahoots, with Lamont paying $300 to buy it off of Osborne, with the original $200 check being bounced by the bank, and Bonnet has left the country, with the contact number belonging to a McDonald's restaurant, and the deal falls through, with Fred explaining that Osborne and Bonnet are running a fake chamber pot racket, with Fred hiring an antiques appraiser to find that the commode is worth $20 because it's a cheap reproduction being circulated throughout the neighborhood, and as a result, Lamont wrote a $300 check to Osborne, and the $200 check Lamont deposited is refused by the bank, with Lamont losing $320 dollars on the deal for a worthless chamber pot.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Melvin (Fred's best friend, pre-Grady), Officer Swanhauser, and Aunt Ethel.
    • Julio after Season 4, and for really no explanation (that's when the Sanfords bought his property and turned it into the Sanford Arms boarding house).
  • Church of Saint Genericus: In "The Reverend Sanford", Fred buys a mail-order minister's license to avoid paying taxes, only to have the Church of the Divine Prophet's "bishop" declare that the Sanford's place is now the church's property, so Fred turns his property into the "Chapel on the Junk Pile of Seventh-Day Junkists" and holds an unusual service to convince the church's bishop to give Fred back the deed to his property, when he runs away, calling the attendants crazy.
  • Circus Episode: In "The Greatest Show in Watts," a tenant at the Sanford Arms is unable to pay his monthly rent, and offers Fred his elephant as collateral to raise money until he can pay. A zoning inspector gives Fred a citation for possessing a non-domesticated animal, but when Fred finds a loophole in the paperwork, he decides to turn his junkyard into a circus to avoid paying fines and/or having the elephant taken away - complete with him posing as the ringmaster, Bubba as a clown, Esther as a fire-eater, and Lamont as a muscleman.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Usually Grady, but Officer Hoppy had his moments.
  • The Comically Serious: Officer Swanhouser, Smitty's by-the-book partner in Season 1. His replacement, Officer Hopkins, was considerably more gregarious.
  • Consolation World Record: In "I Dream of Choo-Choo Rabinowitz", Fred attempted to set the record for longest time staying awake. He missed the mark by less than a minute, yet Bubba and Roger (the son of Lamont's girlfriend) each set their own records in their efforts to help Fred along (Bubba for most repetitions of one song, Roger for marathon basketball bouncing). Note how the man from Guiness took Roger and Bubba's word for how long they'd been at their particular tasks, but wouldn't give Fred the benefit of the doubt for a minute's worth of consciousness.
  • Cousin Oliver: Janet's son Roger, who looks up to Fred as his adoptive grandfather.
  • Corpsing: It isn't unusual to see actors playing guest characters (and sometimes, even the regulars)struggle to keep a straight face during Fred, Esther, and/or Grady's antics.
  • Crossover:
    • Inverted with Hawaii Five-O, of all shows. While none of the characters from the series are seen, there are several references to Steve McGarrett, even by the in-Sanford-universe Five-O's Chief of Police, implying that a McGarrett (famous hair and all) actually works for the actual Hawaii Five-O. Likewise, whenever detectives arrive on a scene, or enter frame, the then-current Hawaii Five-O theme song plays.
    • Also inverted with the original series of Mission: Impossible, in the same episode, as Greg Morris made a guest appearance as one of the diamond smugglers; in two different scenes when he sneaks into Fred and Lamont's hotel room, the Mission: Impossible theme plays.
  • Cue the Rain: During a disastrous camping trip, Lamont notes that it could be worse. When his father asks how, Lamont notes "It could snow." Sure enough, it instantly starts snowing right there and then.
  • Cyanide Pill: In the episode "Sergeant Gork", Fred tells several tall tales about his exploits in WWII, one of which includes his taking a cyanide pill after being captured by the enemy. (After writhing in pain for several moments, he reveals that he accidentally bit his tongue instead, earning him the Purple Heart.)
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Esther, of all characters, is implied to have this! In one episode, a friend of the Sanford family pays Fred and Lamont a visit, claiming that he is actually Lamont's father, because at a younger age, he snuck into the Winfield household, and into Elizabeth's room for a sexual encounter, only for it to be revealed towards the end that it was actually Esther's room he snuck into. Esther is visibly ashamed of her past deed, but she is quick to point out that she has repented of her sinful ways. On another interesting note, apparently in-universe, she and B.B. King were an item, he even writes about her (only by initials: E.W.) in his memoirs, and claims that losing her is what made him turn to singing the blues.
  • Disguised in Drag: Fred learned the new hot tenant at his motel Sanford Arms he has the hots for was a high-end fence. Through obvious means he gets him to confess, but the undercover cop staying at his house dismisses it due to the obvious legal matters. Best friend Bubba manages to successfully bust the crook by cross-dressing, winning the thousand dollar reward Fred and even Lamont were desperate for.
  • Domestic Abuse: Fred occasionally threatened Lamont with a Louisville Slugger, but hopefully only in jest. Otherwise, it's a bit disturbing.
    • He also usually warned Lamont or anybody he didn't like that he would give them "one across the lips" with his fists, but once you see Fred actually try engaging in fighting someone, the results are so over the top that he can't be taken seriously.
  • Dope Slap: Fred to Lamont, usually saying, "Shut up, dummy!"
  • Down in the Dumps: The show takes place at a junkyard.
  • Drop-In Character: Grady, Aunt Esther, Bubba Bexley, Officers Smitty and Hoppy, etc. In other words, the entire supporting cast.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The first season, while having the same tone as most of the others, lacks many members of the show's memorable supporting cast (see Drop-In Character above for a partial list) that would give episodes their flavor. Most of these would be introduced in the second season. (Part of this the result of a number of first season Sanford episodes being adapted Steptoe and Son scripts.)
  • El Spanish "-o": Done hilariously in the episode "Julio and Sister and Nephew", in which Julio's sister and nephew stay with him, but his nephew, Roberto, has problems at school, so Fred reluctantly tags along to translate the principal's words for them.
    Fred: He says Roberto is el dummo.
    Principal: No, no, no, I didn't, I said the teacher is unable to teach him.
    Fred: Principalo says el teacho is the dummo.
    Principal: No I didn't!
  • Enemy Mine: As much as Fred and Esther despised each other, they teamed up on rare occasions, such as when Fred tried to help her win a beauty contest or to defend Elizabeth's honor or in the episode featuring "Big Money" Grip when they challenge him on his claim that he was Lamont's father.
  • Expy: Not only is the entire series this for the British sitcom Steptoe and Son, but Norman Lear intended Fred himself to be the black expy of Archie Bunker.
  • Everything Is Racist: While this show often invoked this, especially given the time period, there are a few specific examples where this trope is utilized for a laugh, such as Fred, Lamont, and Rollo finding a gun left behind by a burglar; Fred suggests taking the gun to the police, since that's what people do, but Rollo argues that's what white people do; if any of them brought the gun to the police, they'd be thrown into jail.
    • In "Fred Sanford the Legal Eagle", Lamont gets a traffic ticket for failure to yield the right-of-way, even though the other motorist ran the red light; Lamont believes he was given the ticket for being black (as the officer issuing the ticket was white, as was the man who ran the red light).
    • Fred often displays bigotry towards other ethnicities: he opposes Julio moving in next door because he hates Puerto Ricans, he opposes Lamont being friends with Ah Chew because he hates Japanese (with the situation improving in "Sanford and Rising Son" when he opens a Japanese restaurant with Ah Chew, and he even hires a geisha at the end of the episode), and he opposes his little sister being married to a white man... you get the idea; but interestingly, inverted when Fred invokes reverse-prejudice when Lamont insists he sees a dentist for a toothache, but Fred's only condition is that he see a white dentist, because (he thinks) only white people would actually go to a highly recommended and established dental school and get diplomas, and therefore, would actually be certified for dentistry as opposed to any black dentist who probably went to a ghetto facility without proper and full education.
  • Fat and Skinny: Bubba Bexley (the fat one) to Fred and/or Grady.
  • Fat Best Friend: Bubba. Fred lampshades this in, "Lamont as Othello", where he and Bubba both have "the big one", to which Fred exclaims, "I'm comin' Elizabeth! With a fat friend!"
  • Frivolous Lawsuit: In the episode "Whiplash", Fred ends up getting rear-ended by a white man in Cadillac. He isn't injured, but when his friend Bubba tells him that a friend of his sued for injuries from whiplash injuries, he decides to fake being injured to the point of filing a false police report, getting "advice" from an Ambulance Chaser and finally confronting the hit-and-run driver himself. It all comes crashing down when the driver turns out to be a car thief who stole the Cadillac.
  • From My Own Personal Garden: Grady serves a dinner with food served from the garden he's been growing. He doesn't realize that marijuna has been growing in the garden and he mixes it in with the salad and invites two cops to have dinner. Hilarity Ensues.
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": In one episode Lamont brings home two (hopefully not used) coffins which Fred refuses to let in the house.
  • Gay Bar Reveal: Rollo inadvertently leads Lamont to one in one episode; with an already-irritated Lamont even more furious upon the discovery. Unfortunately for them; Bubba spotted them coming from said gay bar while on a date of his own.
  • Game Show Appearance: Fred, Lamont and Bubba appear on Fred's favorite show - The Gong Show.
    • Fred, Bubba and Grady also appeared on a Let's Make a Deal Expy called Wheel And Deal to win a prize for Fred to give to Lamont for his birthday.
  • Giant Spider: Fred and Lamont go camping, where at one point, Fred finds a big-ass spider hiding in his coat pocket.
  • G-Rated Drug: The "wild parsley" in the "Fred's Treasure Garden" episode, which Rollo mistakes for marijuana, only for Aunt Esther to later recognize the plant as wild parsley by its taste, with hilarious results when Rollo and Lamont try to "dispose" of the evidence:
    Lamont: We gotta think of some way to get rid of that stuff.
    Rollo: Hey, don't worry, baby! I'll do it.
    Lamont: Wait a minute! I know - I'll burn it!
    Rollo: That's exactly what I had in mind!
    • Later on, when Grady is trying to dispose of the evidence:
    Lamont: Now just about everybody knows that one of the main side effects of using marijuana is the hungries or the munchies.
    Grady: Weren't they in "The Wizard of Oz"?
    Lamont: That was the Munchkins!
    Grady: Oooh, yeah. Didn't you just love that picture?
    Lamont: Grady, would you knock it off? This is no time for that.
    Grady: There was Dorothy and Toto and the Wicked Witch of the Watts.
    Lamont: Of the West, Grady!
    • When the police are eating the salad:
    Hoppy: That is delicious! Oughta be a crime for a salad to be this good.
    Rollo: In most states it is.
  • Gonk: Fred has made numerous jokes about how "ugly" Aunt Esther is.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: The Sanford's neighbor Julio would randomly throw in Spanish in a regular conversation.
  • Guinness Episode: "I Dream of Choo-Choo Rabinowitz", where Fred tries to break the record for most time spent without sleep.

    H-R 
  • Handbag of Hurt: Aunt Esther's way of dealing with people she doesn't like is to hit them with her purse.
  • History with Celebrity: In "Fred Sings The Blues", Fred meets B.B. King, and finds evindence that he may have wanted to marry Elizabeth before Fred got to her. It later turns out that King was going steady with Esther, and became a blues singer after they broke up.
  • Hollywood Heart Attack:
    • It's the running gag where Fred – when something doesn't go his way, he doesn't get his way or he's otherwise upset or surprised – clutches his heart and does the "I'm coming, 'Lizabeth" routine. Lamont who wasn't fooled at least 20 times beforehand (per the series premiere) and dozens more throughout the course of the series – would just roll his eyes and go outside to unload the truck as though nothing was wrong.
    • At least once, Lamont took Fred to the doctor after another of his father's fake heart attacks to try to knock some sense into him and warn him that he may well be ignored when he is suffering an actual heart attack. (In real life, that's what happened to Redd ... and it killed him.)
    • Both Bubba and Lamont each also have, "The Big One" at least once - Bubba when and Fred both see what appears to be Lamont strangling a white woman to death, and Lamont when Fred actually brings Lena Horne to the house; Lamont even says, "I'm coming, Mom! Your boy's coming to join you... with a mustache!"
    • In one episode, Fred suffers an actual heart attack and has to be hospitalized. Afterwards, Lamont gives him an ultimatum: no more fake heart attacks. When Fred receives the hospital bill, he pleads for just one more, and Lamont reluctantly agrees.
  • Horrible Camping Trip: Fred and Lamont go camping together, and naturally they get into an argument. Lamont wants to leave and cool off ... that is, until the truck won't start. A girl scout troop, which had been camping nearby, arrives later and they figure out that Lamont had flooded the engine. Fred then pretends that he knew the engine was flooded and it was his way of getting his son to stay for some much needed father-son time.
  • Hustler: Lamont's best friend Rollo Lawson, who happened to be an ex-con and frequently enlists him in his outrageous schemes.
  • Hypocritical Humor: In "Pot Luck", when Fred objects to Lamont taking advantage of customers:
    Lamont: Don't tell me you're still mad about that commode business, are you? Why don't you just forget about it?
    Fred: I can't forget about it. I hate to see you taking advantage of people. This is Sanford & Son, not "Shakedown & Son".
    Lamont [derisively]: Ho, ho, ho.
    Fred: What does that mean "Ho, ho, ho"?
    Lamont: Well, I bought something for about $20, and I sold it for $200. Now, that's a 1000% profit, right?
    Fred: Right.
    Lamont: You had an old suit laying around here that you paid $2 for, and you sold it to that Mexican guy down the street for $20. Now that's a 1000% profit, so ho, ho, ho.
    Fred: Well, that was different; see, everybody was satisfied with my deal. See, that Mexican fellow, he was happy as a clam, 'cause he ain't never had a three-piece suit before.
    Lamont: But you didn't tell him that knickers was out of style, did you?
    Fred: Well, knickers ain't out of style, that's why I didn't say nothing. I saw a picture in the paper the other day, and you know the head man in Yugoslavia, what's his name, Toto?
    Lamont: Tito; Toto was the dog in The Wizard of Oz.
    Fred: Well, I get 'em mixed up. Anyway, he had on some knickers and he was out hunting and he looked great.
    Lamont: Hunting, yeah, but you don't wear knickers to apply for a job in a restaurant. That's the whole point, Pop, you took advantage of somebody. At least I took advantage of some people that could afford it.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: When Fred is in St. Louis, Grady chases off some of Lemont's friends with a rifle. When Lemont talks to him about it the next day, Grady says he didn't load it and holds up a cartridge, then starts pointing it at the ceiling and says "you sure can scare people with an empty rifle", pulling the trigger in the process and shooting the ceiling, which startles Grady enough to let go of the rifle and flail his arms around.
  • Informed Judaism: Explored in "Funny, You Don't Look It", when Fred has his family tree researched, and he believes that he's descended from Ethiopian Falasha Jews, and possibly descended from King Solomon. Later on, Fred goes down to a Jewish bookstore and finds out that the family crest is bogus. Later on, even though he's not revealed to be Jewish, Fred, Lamont, Bubba, and Esther close the episode by discussing the cultural similarities between Africans and Jews.
  • I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder:
    Aunt Esther: I need help!
    Fred: Help? I'm just a junkman, not a plastic surgeon.
  • Induced Hypochondria: Happens whenever Fred fakes a heart attack. Of course, the other characters always catch on to the charade.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: "The Streetbeater", by Quincy Jones.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One!: When Fred and Grady are having an argument:
    Grady: I ain't givin' you nothing, you stubborn, bull-headed, old buzzard.
    Fred: Who you calling old?
  • Jive Turkey: The local beat cops Hoppy and Smitty on Sanford and Son. Hoppy, the whitest of white guys, would try to speak jive and get it wrong, or would deliver a line of copspeak with a gratuitous big word or two for good measure causing Fred and everyone else to give him a blank look and then turn to Smitty for a translation.
    Hoppy: All right, let's crack!
    Smitty: You mean "split".
    Hoppy: Uh, right, split!
  • Juggling Loaded Guns: After Lamont buys an old musket, Fred starts explaining how his Revolutionary War-era ancestor fought the British. The gun goes off, and both Fred and Lamont begin thinking that he killed a neighbor across the street.
  • The Key Is Behind the Lock: In "The Suitcase Case", Lamont finds a suitcase full of money and hides it in a safe until he can turn it in to the police. Unfortunately, he ends up being unable to open the safe because Fred left the combination in the safe, and he doesn't remember what it was.
  • Kitchen Sink Drama: It's an American remake of Steptoe and Son, which makes it one of the first sitcoms to get humor out of a poor working class environment, and it's one of the first shows to feature a predominately-black cast, within the working class environment.
  • Later Installment Weirdness: The last couple of seasons are often regarded by many fans as being weaker and sillier compared to its earlier seasons, mainly due to the departure of the show's original black writers and producers, and replacing them with Jewish writers and producers, causing the show to lose its original authentic urban edge and ethnic vibe that made it such a stand-out and groundbreaking series (for its day) and instead relying on standard sitcom fluff and hijinks.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to Steptoe and Son, this show is far less depressing, is brighter and more cheerful.
  • The Load: At the end of Season 3, while Grady was watching the house for Fred, who was taking care of business in St. Louis, in "Hello Cousin Emma, Goodbye Cousin Emma", Grady invites his cousin Emma to do some housekeeping, believing that she will fix meals for Lamont and Grady. Unfortunately, she never gets around to making the meals, and Lamont believes that her "help" is more of a hindrance.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: So many, in fact, that they tried a spin-off without the main characters.
  • Malaproper: Usually Fred, but Officer Hoppy frequently misused 'street lingo'.
    • Not to mention Grady.
  • Malcolm Xerox: Lamont, in "Lamont Goes African"
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Possibly the Trope Namer; the episode has an old friend of Fred's claim that he had a one night stand with Elizabeth and that he's actually Lamont's father. Another friend of Fred's actually says the trope name verbatim. At the end it turns out that the guy actually slept with Aunt Esther, and thought it was Elizabeth in the dark.
  • Manly Tears: In "Donna Pops The Question", Fred Sanford's "Elizabeth i'm comin' to join ya" bit takes a somber turn as he tearfully reflects on their time together and seeks her permission to move on with Donna.
  • Mattress Tag Gag: An episode had Fred Sanford tearing a tag off a chair, reading out loud that it says "do not remove under penalty of law." He tears it up and quips "Well...power to the people!"
  • Missing Mom: Elizabeth, up in Heaven waiting for Fred to join her.
  • Mistaken for Dying: In "The Over-The-Hill Gang", thanks to a misunderstanding, Lamont believes that Fred only has six months left to live and gives him everything he wants.
  • Mistaken for Gay: When Rollo led Lamont into a gay bar to be "adventurous", Fred and Bubba see them enter and begin thinking they are gay to Fred's panic. When they decide to investigate, Fred and Bubba enter the bar...only for Lamont and Rollo to see and begin thinking the same thing about them. Lamont likewise begins freaking out.
  • Mistaken Identity: "Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe" has "Big Money" Grip claim to be Lamont's father, only for the end to reveal that he mistook Esther for Elizabeth in the dark, and they apparently did the deed.
  • Monochrome Casting: There are only three recurring characters who aren't black; The Asian Ah Chew, the Puerto Rican Julio, and the Caucasian Officer Hopkins.
  • My Nayme Is: S-A-N-F-O-R-D Period. Frequenty, he'd end this with "The G stands for ... " whatever "more-bark-than-bite" physical or legal threat met Fred's situation.
  • Mysterious Middle Initial: Whatever the "G." stands for – usually "gonna get this" (showing a fist) or some other way to antagonize whomever Fred was trying to get his way with.
    • In real life, his character's namesakes, his father and brother, whose respective names were Fred G. Sanford and Fred G. Sanford, Jr., with the "G" in both of these cases standing for Glenn.
  • New Job as the Plot Demands: Character actor Frank Nelson in the last two seasons; he just happens to be working wherever the characters find themselves, such as the maitre d in a Mexican restaurant, the owner of a jewelry store, an airline pilot, among other odd jobs.
  • N-Word Privileges: But usually not in first-run network episodes or syndication. And Fred's attacks on other ethnic and minority groups that got big laughs in the 1970's would never fly today. Or would they?
    • Presently, TV One, GetTV, and Starz EBlack broadcasts of the show leave Fred's (and occasional other characters') use of the N-word intact.
  • Once per Episode: Fred's fake heart attacks.
  • One Crazy Night: In "Surprise Party," Lamont, Grady, Bubba, Rollo, and Esther throw Fred a surprise party on the night of his return from St. Louis. After Fred comes home and makes a mess of his own party, he overhears Lamont trying to mend Grady's broken feelings by telling him he was just as good a housekeeper and businessman as Fred; now with Fred's feeling's hurt, he wanders off into the night to a nearby bar to drown his sorrows, but returns later to pass out on the couch. The episode ends with the morning after and Fred's massive hangover.
    • In "The Oddfather," Donna pays Fred a visit one night to discover he's been rushed to the hospital after getting involved with a crime involving an innocent bystander being killed by a notorious local mobster; the rest of the episode deals with Fred's night in the hospital being monitored and protected by the LAPD, and also receiving visits from Donna and Esther, and later the media for him to identify the mobster to have him convicted of his crime. Unfortunately, when it comes time for him to identify the man, he chickens out and Esther steps up and identifies him, and as a result, Esther gets the reward money while Fred gets charged for his hospital stay since he spent all that time in the hospital, only to miss out on the opportunity when receiving a threatening message from the mob.
  • Perpetual Poverty: Fred and Lamont are poor, and always trying to get money. Incidentally, they never get bankrupt.
  • Pig Latin: Fred a few times throughout the series, most notably in "Lamont Goes African" and "The Puerto Ricans Are Coming!".
  • Playing Gertrude: Whitman Mayo was only 40 when he portrayed Grady Wilson.
    • Redd Foxx himself was only 50 when he played Fred Sanford.
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: "The Family Man", for Grady
    • There was an episode where Lamont was about to marry longtime girlfriend Janet. Before they could wed, Janet's assumed dead husband returns and she and Lamont do not marry. This was the basis for the show Baby I'm Back, in which things were changed around and Demond Wilson played the role of the the presumed dead husband after Sanford And Son was cancelled.
  • Precision F-Strike: In "Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe", when Grip comes over to Fred's place, claiming to be Lamont's father:
    Aunt Esther: What the hell did you just say, nigga?
  • Property Line: "This Land Is Whose Land?" Fred gets a surveyor to measure his and Julio's property line so he can get Julio to keep his stuff out of the junkyard. It turns out Julio legally owns most of the yard.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Whenever Fred spells his last name "Sanford: S-A-N-F-O-R-D, Period."
  • Put on a Bus: Literally, as Fred look a long trip to St. Louis while Redd Foxx was holding out for a raise.
    • Lamont in both Aftershows. In The Sanford Arms, he and Fred have both moved to Arizona while in Sanford he's said to be working on an oil pipeline in Alaska.
    • Bubba and Grady seemed to take turns Commuting on a Bus throughout the series; one season will feature Grady more than Bubba, while Bubba is seen more often than Grady in other seasons. Although rare, there are a few occasions where Bubba and Grady appear in the same episode, such as "The Surprise Party", "The Masquerade Party", and "School Days".
  • Real-Life Relative: Redd Foxx's daughter, Debraca, appears in the episode, "Fred Meets Redd", as part of in-universe Redd Foxx's personal staff.
  • Religious Stereotype: Aunt Esther is portrayed as a judgmental, Bible-thumping loudmouth who usually wears a very unpleasant lemon-lips facial expression.
  • Retcon: Grady Wilson was originally Fred's cousin, married, and had a daughter with designs on Lamont. By his second appearance, the wife, daughter and blood relationship with Fred had been dropped, with Grady now an old family friend.
    • This is also a case of The Other Darrin, as Grady was played by a completely different actor in his debut episode. Later still, Grady has a family again—Season 4's "Family Man" was essentially a Poorly Disguised Pilot for Grady's own spinoff, in which he visits and stays with his well-off daughter and her family.
  • Revival: Sanford
  • Rock Bottom: After a disastrous camping trip, Lamont notes that it could be worse. When Fred asks how, Lamont notes "It could snow." Sure enough, it instantly starts snowing right there and then.
  • Running Gag: In the last couple of seasons, whenever there's a knock at the door, Fred will tell Lamont that he'll get it, only to then call out, "Come in!"

    S-Z 
  • Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: In "Fred the Activist", when an appliance dealer refuses to offer Fred a chance to buy a stereo on an installment plan due to his age, Fred leads a group of seniors known as the "Gray Panthers" to picket the store in order to convince the store management to change their policy.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Officers Hopkins and Swanhauser tended to fill their explanations with so much police jargon and legal terminology that Officer Smitty had to translate.
  • Shout-Out: Both Hawaii Five-0 and Mission: Impossible in the 2 part "The Hawaiian Connection".
    • Fred also mentions Deep Throat by name in "The Members of the Wedding".
  • Silent Snarker: At Fred's award banquet given by the Watts Businessmen's Association, Esther manages to get the last word, in a manner of speaking:
    Esther: Lord knows, I've had my differences with Fred Sanford, but tonight is a happy occasion. So rather than speak on his bad points, I'll just dwell on his good points. [She pauses for a few seconds of silence] Thank you.
  • A Simple Plan: Whenever Fred and Lamont don't go with the Zany Scheme approach, they usually do this instead. For example, Lamont once brought home a rifle hoping to sell it, but Fred accidentally shot it at the their neighbor's house, and they worry that they might've killed theie neighbor.
  • Sit Comic: Redd Foxx, Slappy White, LaWanda Page, Pat Morita
  • Sliding Scale of Beauty: Aunt Esther, although certainly no all-American beauty, was in the very least tolerable to look at. But that didn't stop Fred from constantly making cruel comments comparing her physical looks to such creatures as King Kong and Godzilla. In "My Fair Esther", however, Fred decides to help Esther try to win the Mrs. Watts Businessman's beauty pageant, and Fred beats up the judges when they choose a younger, prettier woman as the pageant winner.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Where a fair amount of Norman Lear shows were either fairly idealistic or Maude, Sanford and Son is the most neutral out of all his shows.
  • Smart Cop, Dumb Cop: Smitty and Hoppy, in spades. Smitty is very much the Straight Man of the two, while Hoppy is more of a Genius Ditz who's unfamiliarity with slang makes him a Malaproper. In earlier seasons, their schtick would include Hoppy trying to explain a situation to Fred and Lamont using a lot of police jargon and terminology, prompting Smitty to "translate" for them in simpler, easier-to-understand words. Later, however, the routine was mostly Smitty constantly correcting Hoppy's misuse or mispronunciation of slang talk to relate to Fred and Lamont.
  • Spin-Off: Grady, The Sanford Arms, and Sanford, with the last one featuring older characters Aunt Esther, Rollo, Hoppy & Smitty, and Grady making frequent appearances alongside some of the newer cast members.
  • Spit Take: From "Pops 'N' Pals":
    : Fred: [sipping sangria at a Mexican restaurant] Say, what does sangria mean?
    Julio: It means "blood".
    Fred: [spews out most of his glass, his face seemingly turned inside-out]
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Julio Fuentes, Grady, Bubba and Aunt Esther
  • Stealth Insult: In "A Pain in the Neck", Esther delivers a subtle one when it's her turn to speak at the Watts Businessmen's Association's Man of the Year award dinner honoring Fred:
    Esther: Lord knows, I've had my differences with Fred Sanford, but tonight is a happy occasion. So rather than speak on his bad points, I'll just dwell on his good points. [She pauses for a few seconds of silence] Thank you.
  • Surprise Party: An episode features Fred returning home from St. Louis and being welcomed back with a surprise party.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Grady Wilson, who was eventually un-substituted and given a spinoff creatively entitled Grady for all of four episodes.
    • Aunt Ethel, by Aunt Esther, who was much fiercer than Ethel by a longshot.
    • Officer "Swannny" Swanhauser, "Smitty" Smith's Straight Man partner, by "Hoppy" Hopkins, with hilarious results when Smitty frequently corrected Hoppy's malapropisms.
    • Averted in The Sanford Arms when Fred and Lamont are replaced by a widower named Phil Wheeler and his children, and averted even harder in Sanford where Lamont is replaced as Fred's business partner by Cal, a fat white redneck.
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: In one episode, Lamont steps into the kitchen to fix himself breakfast, Fred mutters to himself, mocking Lamont, "Pop, there's not a clean dish in the whole kitchen"; sure enough, Lamont calls from the kitchen, "Pop, there's not a clean dish in the whole kitchen!"
  • Thicker Than Water: Lamont is very patient with Fred's plots and schemes due to the father son relationship. During Season 3, Redd Foxx goes on strike and its written that Fred is visiting relatives in St. Louis. Grady goes to watch the house for Fred. Lamont doesn't extend his tolerance to Grady and is much more openly angered by Grady's plots than he is with Fred's.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: In "A Guest in the Yard", a bum who has been sleeping in an old bathtub claims to be injured. The Sanfords give him some beer, then pretend to leave the house; sure enough, he's faking it, and they catch him when he goes upstairs to use the restroom.
  • The Tooth Hurts: Fred once went to great pains to avoid the dentist when troubled with a bad tooth, even specifically requesting a black dentist to treat it.
  • Those Two Guys: Officers Smitty and Swanny (Season 1); Smitty and Hoppy (Season 2 onward).
  • Token White: Officer "Hoppy" Hopkins is the only recurring white character.
  • Transatlantic Equivalent: Of the UK's Steptoe and Son.
  • Translator Buddy: Officer Smitty often translated Officer Hoppy's words in simpler terms:
    Lamont: [to Smitty] What's this dude look like?
    Smitty: [to Hoppy] Do we have a make on the suspect?
    Hoppy: [to Smitty] The suspect is a male Caucasian with no distinguishing marks or features.
    Smitty: [to Lamont] He's a white dude.
  • Tuckerization:
    • Grady was actually named after Demond Wilson; Demond is actually his middle name, his full name is Grady Demond Wilson.
    • A subtle example, but Fred was named after Redd Foxx'snote  father, Fred G. Sanford, and his real-life brother, Fred G. Sanford, Jr.
    • Bubba Bexley was played by actor Don Bexley.
  • Two-Timer Date: This happens in an episode where Fred becomes a gigolo. He makes dates with three women and has them meet him in the same restaurant and goes from table to table without them noticing.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Fred was a sexist, racist, misanthropic old coot...but somehow we never held that against him. And when the chips were down, he could be pretty decent.
    • In a few episodes, Lamont took on this role, especially the early ones involving Donna.
  • Volleying Insults: Nearly every Fred/Esther scene ended this way.
  • We Were Rehearsing a Play: Inverted when Lamont is preparing for the title role in Shakespeare's Othello. Fred witnesses Lamont and his acting teacher Marlene rehearsing the scene where Othello strangles Desdemona, and mistakes it for an actual murder. Fred freaks out.
  • Weird Trade Union: In "The Hawaiian Connection", Fred and Lamont go to Hawaii to attend a "Junk Men of America" convention.
  • When Elders Attack: Fred whenever he whips out his baseball bat.
  • White Dude, Black Dude: Officers Hoppy (and Swanhauser, whom he replaced) and Smitty.
  • Who Would Want to Watch Us?: In Steinberg and Son, A cousin of Rollo's creates a show about a Jewish version of Fred's life. When asked why he didn't just make it a black version, the cousin replied this trope's title as Fred turns to the camera in disbelief.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: "Superflyer" has Fred inheriting money from an uncle, with the hitch being that he has to fly home to St. Louis to collect it. Fred is afraid to fly in the airplane.
  • Written-In Absence: After Redd Foxx got into an argument with the producers over his salary, the writers decided to have Fred go on a trip to St. Louis at the end of Season 3 (initially for a funeral, then for who knows what). He came back in the Season 4 premiere.
  • Yet Another Christmas Carol: "Ebenezer Sanford". Fred is visited by three spirits (all just Lamont in costume) and learns to be nicer for Christmas.
  • You Just Ruined the Shot: In "Lamont as Othello", Fred mistook Lamont's rehersal for a murder.
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