Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Grady : The First Sanford & Son Spin-Off

There were two 1970s spin-offs of NBC's hugely popular 'Sanford & Son' (1972-1977) the first of which was 'Grady'.

The character of Grady was introduced on 'Sanford & Son' during season three, he basically replaced Bubba (Don 'Bubba' Bexley) as Fred Sanford's Ethel Mertz. After the 18th episode of the third season Grady replaced Fred himself when Redd Foxx boycotted the series in a dispute over money and other issues.

Unfortunately for Foxx 'Sanford & Son' earned its highest ratings while Whitman Mayo was mouthing his lines. It was a natural for NBC to order a spin-off of their biggest hit and who better than Grady, at least from their standpoint, to anchor the series.

A pilot was incorporated into a bonus 25th episode to finish out 'Sanford & Son's fourth season, one of the rare, unfunny shows of the period. In it, Grady moves from Watts to upscale Westwood to live with his daughter, her husband and their two kids.

'Grady' was readied as a 1975 mid-season replacement, the first production from Bud Yorkin after his split with Norman Lear. A theme song that was close to the iconic Quincy Jones 'Sanford' theme was composed, titles were created using the same font that 'Sanford' used, and the guys who wrote and produced many of the best early 'Sanford' storylines penned the opening script.

What went wrong? A lousy timeslot for one thing - against 'The Waltons' and 'Barney Miller' - and a bland supporting cast, with the exception of Haywood Nelson as Grady's nephew.

Grady was never a well developed character anyway, just a utilitarian player with no remarkable qualities, so this sitcom lasted just a few weeks. Mayo's last episode of 'Sanford & Son' would be the first of the fifth season; after his show flopped Grady was nowhere to be seen until 'The Sanford Arms' debuted, the show that replaced 'Sanford & Son' when Redd Foxx left the production for good in 1977. 'Sanford Arms' also tanked and was gone in a few weeks.

Grady also appeared on two episodes of 'Sanford' in 1981. (Haywood Nelson moved over to 'What's Happening!!' in 1976 from the same producers as 'Grady'.)

 Whitman Mayo was a regular on two short-lived series - 'Hell Town' in 1985 and 'The Van Dyke Show' in 1988 but he was a guest star on dozens more.

In early 1996 Conan O'Brien instigated a national search to find Whitman Mayo and featured the actor on his show after weeks of build up. Coincidentally, Whitman Mayo died in 2001 at Grady Memorial Hospital in the city of Atlanta where he taught drama.

Did you know: Redd Foxx' real last name was Sanford.

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