It’s another month and that means it’s time to team up with my friends over at Longbox Heroes After Dark and the once a month year long series looking at failed attempts at spin offs from successful series. This month the guys will be taking a look at the attempt to spin off popular character Grady from Sanford and Son.
If you would like to follow along, watch the shows, and listen to the podcast when it drops this coming Friday, head over to Longbox Heroes and click on After Dark episode 231 and the upcoming 232.
The story starts, for some reason, with the season 4 episode “The Stung”. Lamont and friends are going to have a poker game but Fred is banned. He can’t play, he borrows money and doesn’t pay it back. He isn’t an easy mark, he is instead an annoyance preventing a truly enjoyable night for the rest of them. Coincidentally, Fred’s old friend Al Banks shows up. A man who was known to hustle back in the day. Fred and Al hatch a scheme to teach these young kids a lesson and grift them for all their money. Then Al finishes his own scam and takes off with the money.
Fred while cantankerous gets a real job in order to earn the money back for everyone who got swerved. There’s a heart inside him. Sure, it’s always about to attack him and one of these days will be the big one but today is not that day. Today is the day though that Al on his way out of town catches Fred working hard to make up for his dastardly ways and is inspired to return and make things right.
What this has to do with Grady, I’m unsure.
Grady shows up in the next episode, “The Family Man”. Redd Foxx would occasionally pull a diva card and leave his starring show for awhile. Until more money showed up. Grady would fill in and grew to be immensely popular. Talk about a “that guy”. I’ve never watched Sanford and Son on purpose but it was one of those shows on in the background growing up.
The actor who portrays Grady, Whitman Mayo, I’m sure I have seen hundreds of times in my life. Somehow it was comforting seeing him on here. Like Grandma’s house, or a Muppet. It’s easy to see where Mayo was able to stand in for Foxx. While Foxx was rude, selfish, over the top, Grady was the opposite. His love and caring came through in every second he’s on camera. The way his body moves, his delivery, everything. I know the show is only from the 70’s but this feels like a discovery. An unearthed treasure. Watching an artist at work. Somehow so forgotten an actor could completely rip off his style in present day and become a star.
The spin off attempt however is awful. Grady is living with his daughter and son in law who work in a university and are about to host a party for their uptight colleagues. He purchases the most beautiful hideous work of black velvet nude art you’ve ever seen. And places it above the mantle in the front room. Hijinx ensue, things are said, hugs heal everything at the end. Mayo takes everything he is given and delivers quality as Grady.
However, the show itself is awful. Maybe due to the show being over 40 years old these set ups were original at the time but it is a tired set up in 2019. Sanford and Son felt like watching a play. Every actor working effortlessly and tight with the others. Perfect timing, delivery, all of it. But the point of Grady was making fun of the simple old man (who wasn’t actually that old in real life) and pretending that the rest of the cast were cool hip stars when really he was slumming his talents sharing a stage with them.
Nothing however in either of these episodes is possibly any better than the fashion statement known as sleeveless turtleneck. Only people with nicknames like “Arms” who are well over six foot can pull off that name.