StoryThough conflict erupted between comic Redd Foxx and the producers of Sanford and Son during its third season, viewers of this three-disc set, which compiles all 24 episodes of the 1973-74 season, are spared the backstage rancor and instead enjoy more hilarious episodes, fueled as always by Foxx's Emmy-nominated performance as cantankerous junkman Fred Sanford. Sanford and Son was a solid ratings hit as it entered its third season (ranked third among network shows) and Foxx had won a Golden Globe the previous year, but a contract dispute had driven a wedge between him and series producers Bud Yorkin and Norman Lear (who also ran the season's top-rated program, All in the Family). Negotiations would eventually break down, and Foxx would be absent from six episodes (Fred was said to be visiting relatives in St. Louis) and did not return to the show until season 4 was underway.
Foxx's departure allowed the spotlight to shine more brightly on co-star Demond Wilson (who would soon launch his own contract disputes, which prompted his leaving the series in 1976) as well as new cast member Whitman Mayo, who joined the show that season as Fred's pal Grady. While series aficionados are firmly divided over Grady, Mayo is quite funny, especially during the final six episodes (in particular "Will the Real Fred Sanford Please Stand Up?" and season closer "Hello Cousin Emma, Goodbye Cousin Emma"). Other standout episodes include "The Blind Mellow Jelly Collection" (in which Fred attempts to reclaim his donated record collection) and "Fred Sanford, Legal Eagle" (Fred defends Lamont in traffic court), which features Starsky and Hutch's Antonio Fargas. The third-season scripts, penned mostly by story editor Ilunga Adell (Moesha), remain sharp, as does the direction (the lion's share is handled by Peter Baldwin, though Bud Yorkin helms two episodes). Fans and first-timers alike will find plenty of laughs among the three discs, which unfortunately lack any extras. --Paul Gaita