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Sanford And Son Moments That Sent Fred Off The Rails

This content was paid for by Netflix and created by Looper.

When it comes to classic TV, Norman Lear's catalog of small screen creations still stand out as some of the best of all time. One of his most trailblazing and popular shows was "Sanford and Son," which ran for six seasons on NBC in the 1970s.

The series centers on a pair of Los Angeles salvage yard owners, Fred G. Sanford (Redd Foxx) and his son Lamont (Desmond Wilson), and every episode features the two getting into some kind of funny mess — usually thanks to Fred's impulsiveness or wisecracking — and their unusual relationship is one for the ages. While Lamont is usually subdued and sensible, Fred is fiery, sarcastic, and full of histrionics. To say this is not your typical father-son story is an understatement, and the fact that they're also business partners makes their relationship even more primed for comedy. So to celebrate the enduring legacy of the show, here's a look at some "Sanford and Son" moments that really showed Fred at his best — or worst, depending on how you look at it.

The fake robbery

Accidents happen to everyone, and even a person's most prized possessions can sometimes fall victim to some unintentional destruction by a roommate. While most people might tend to accept that reality and take the blame when they do a little damage around the house, Fred takes a pretty different approach after inadvertently destroying his son's valuables.

Yep, in the first season's aptly titled episode "We Were Robbed," Fred knocks over a table full of Lamont's treasured porcelain pieces, and, after hilariously convincing himself that his son won't believe it was an accident, he decides to stage a robbery.

Not only does he proceed to knock over a few more things in the house, but Fred also hides the evidence of broken glass and then puts on a very spirited performance as a man who's been knocked unconscious by a gaggle of attackers. When Lamont finds him, Fred can't help but oversell this on-the-spot story to the point that it becomes unbelievably absurd. The drama of his little display in this scene is only bested when, in Season 6's "Here Today, Gone Today," Fred walks in to find that his place actually has been emptied of his possessions and, as is his signature, he immediately clutches his chest and falls apart.

The television addict

Speaking of broken wares, Fred might've spent 40 years building up his business by the start of "Sanford and Son," but when we first meet him, there are really only a few things he likes to do anymore: lounge, complain, make fun of folks — particularly poor Aunt Esther (LaWanda Page) — and watch television.

His fascination with the tube is delightfully meta, considering, well, Fred is part of a groundbreaking television series himself. But it also causes a boatload of problems for himself and Lamont. In the first season, he fakes a case of amnesia to convince Lamont to buy a TV instead of a car, for example, and in Season 3's "This Little TV Went to Market," Fred's decision to buy a nice used set from a shady seller results in him accidentally purchasing his own pal Grady's (Whitman Mayo) stolen television... "Good googly goop" indeed! Things go truly off the rails, though, when Lamont accidentally breaks Fred's TV in Season 5's "The TV Addict."

Given Fred's notorious concerns about his heart, it's hardly any wonder Lamont wants him to take a break from his chair from time to time for a little exercise. But the only working out Fred likes to do is reaching for the dial. So when Lamont accidentally knocks the set over during an argument and it breaks apart on the floor, it's Fred who really falls to pieces spectacularly. Later, when he comes to terms with the fact that he's a full-on screen-addict, Fred has another of his major chest-clutching sessions and dramatically braces his late wife Elizabeth for his imminent arrival.

The cheapskate

You gotta hand it to Fred that whenever he makes up his mind about something, it pretty much stays made up for good. Yes, his stubbornness is so severe to the point of being almost impressive. And that inflexibility sure does make for some memorable moments throughout the series.

In Season 6's "The Reverend Sanford," for example, Fred decides that he is going to stave off the inevitable and stop paying his taxes. Inspired by a screening of "Robin Hood," Fred wants to take from the rich and give to the poor — as in, himself — and he'll do anything to make it happen.

No, Fred isn't going to go to war with the tax assessor's office; he knows full well that's a fight he cannot win. Instead, he's gone and gotten himself ordained as a mail-order minister, and he's ready to turn his home into the official Chapel on the Junkpile for the church of Seventh Day Junkists ... all to save a buck. And, of course, his tenure as a man of the cloth is just as unhinged and ridiculous as you'd expect, with wild outfits, silly sermons, and one very confused congregation.

The knockout

Another moment of holy hijinx comes along in Season 6's "The Will." Fred's long standing hatred of Esther is always a consistent source of humor, but usually it's just a war of words between the two. However, in this episode, Esther reaches the limit of how much trash talking she can take and decides to smack him on the back of his head with her silver-plated Bible ... and it's a clean shot indeed.

Fred immediately collapses into hysterics, once again convinced that he's going to be reunited with his late wife by succumbing to "the big one." Only, instead of recuperating and going right back to his old ways, this time, Fred's knockout has him truly convinced that he's in the twilight of his life and needs to get his affairs in order. From there, he proceeds to invest in some estate planning and makes a terribly big fuss about having his last will and testament read in front of his people because Fred can't do anything half measure.

The protection detail

Speaking of Fred's wildest overreactions, he has a very hard time grappling with his son's newfound interest in the theater, and things go spectacularly awry as a result of Lamont's rehearsals for a big play. To be fair to Fred, it does look a bit suspicious when, in Season 3's "Lamont as Othello," Fred comes home to find his son putting his hands around a woman's neck. Both he and Grady have a fairly strong reaction to the sight of that.

After spending a beat trying to settle his heart once more, Fred bursts into the house and tries to peel Lamont away and hold him back to save the day, pleading with the woman for mercy and insisting that Lamont simply has some "spells." However, when the truth of the situation comes through, and Lamont explains that he and his female friend are simply practicing a scene for a play, he still can't cope with the concept of having this woman come to his house to rehearse — or the idea that they might be welcome in her house, either. Things of course continue to spiral out of control from there, and soon, Fred finds himself stumbling into the bedroom of the girl's sleeping parents and scaring the daylights out of everyone in the house.

The first flight

Perhaps the biggest freakout Fred ever experiences in "Sanford and Son" takes place when he and Lamont decide to fly out to St. Louis, which marks Fred's first time in an airplane. Naturally, the situation is a complete mess right from the start, when Fred has trouble cooperating with the usual security protocols and behaving appropriately around the on-flight stewardesses and other passengers.

Things get especially hectic once it's time for the flight to get into motion, and he begins to fully panic about the process. Fred finally gets a bit more comfortable once he learns that his first class ticket means he gets a free meal, but then, in typical Fred fashion, he loses absolutely all chill once he hears a worrying noise from the flight, forming the ultimate fright face in front of everyone. In this moment, Lamont is absolutely right: Fred really doesn't know how to behave himself in public.