I Saw That!

One woman's opinions about popular entertainment.

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Amateur boxing coach, Christian (but not so heavenly-minded that I'm no earthly good) singer, writer, self-defense advocate, childfree. feminist www.smartwomenboxingtraining.org

Thursday, June 07, 2012

TV Episode: "Mama's Baby, Daddy's Maybe" from "Sanford and Son"

This episode originally aired on January 4, 1974, and it is my number one favorite episode from "Sanford and Son". 

The day starts off pleasantly enough with Fred (Redd Foxx) anticipating a visit from one of his old friends from St. Louis, MO named Grip Madlock (Sonny Jim Gaines).  When Grady (Whitman Mayo) hears this, he tells Fred that the purpose of Grip's visit is to see his son -- Lamont (Demond Wilson).  Grip has a reputation as a practical joker, so Fred dismisses this as just another one of them.

When Grip arrives, Fred laughs as he tells him what Grady said.  The laughter turns to anger when Grip announces that he believes that he is Lamont's real father.  Grip maintains that he and Fred's late wife, Elizabeth, had a night together that produced Lamont.  Lamont comes in from working, and after having his memory jogged, he remembers who Grip is and warmly welcomes him.  Fred is steamed when it appears that Grip is making comparisons in an attempt to prove that Lamont looks like him.  But neither man says anything to Lamont about their conversation.

Later, Fred invites his sister-in-law Esther (LaWanda Page) over to the house to see Grip.  "Big Money Grip?  My sister Elizabeth was crazy about you!" she says upon seeing Grip.  Fred demands that his old friend tell Esther the reason for his visit.  When he does, it's Esther's turn to be angry, and her reaction to the news sounds like an ad-lib that wasn't in the script; the audience howls.  She goes on to declare that Elizabeth was as pure as the driven snow, to which Fred replies, "And you're looking at the only driver she ever had!"

Grip will not back off of his story, so Esther suggests to Fred that they both give Grip a beat down.  Lamont comes home, saving Grip.  Fred explains the situation to Lamont.  Lamont gives a heartfelt speech to Fred, stating that he'll always recognize him as his dad.  He also tells Grip that whatever happened between him and his late mother is their business, and he had nothing to do with it. 

Grip will not be swayed.  "Do I have to give the time, the date. . .?" he says.  He describes the house that Esther and her family lived in, and tells her that he came around to the window of the bedroom that belonged to Elizabeth.  Esther says that Grip is lying because that bedroom was hers.  It dawns on them that the woman Grip was with that night was Esther.  Fred, always eager to pick on Esther, tells her to give the full story.  Esther quotes Bible scripture then storms out of the house, as Grip looks horrified.

At the end of the episode, Lamont and Fred stop to think about what transpired between Esther and Grip and they shudder. 

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"Here Come The Monkees" from "The Monkees" (1966-68)

This was the pilot episode for the sitcom, but it did not air until November 14, 1966. In this episode, the band has a manager named Rudy, who was never seen again during the series. Rudy lines up a gig for the guys to play at a sweet sixteen party. They initially balk at the job, but decide to take it once they hear what the birthday girl's dad wants to pay.

The birthday girl, Vanessa, and Davy hit it off. Vanessa spends so much time with Davy and thinking about him that she neglects her studies. Naturally, her grades slip, and her dad, Mr. Russell hits the roof. The Monkees are fired from the gig, and Vanessa is forbidden to see Davy anymore.

Feeling bad about this, Davy, Mike, Micky and Peter devise a plan to help her pass her big history test. They actually act out some of the key facts she has to know. Some of the things go a little overboard, however. An reenactment of a duel scares off people having a picnic nearby when they hear the gunshots. Mr. Russell catches on the guys' scheme and runs them off.

Vanessa passes the test, but her dad will not reconsider hiring The Monkees for her birthday party at the country club. Instead, he has hired a dreadful polka band. The guys show up to the party anyway, determined to play, but a guard chases them throughout the place. Mr. Russell gives chase as well. The guys run into the party, and the guard blocks the door, gloating over having cornerned them. Mr. Russell informs the guard that the band is welcomed to stay. The guard treats this as an act of treachery against the country club, and tells Mr. Russell so before storming off.

There's still the matter of the polka band -- how to get rid of them? Even Mrs. Russell is displeased with them. Mike makes an annoucement that war has been declared on Poland. The band members stiffen their backs and march off to join their countrymen. The stage is left open for the Monkees to perform. Everything is cool, until another girl flashes her eyes at Davy, and he takes the bait. Before he can get them into another mess involving a girl, the other guys grab him and run out of the place.

This episode was short, and there are rumors that some editing was the cause of it. The time left was filled with amusing interviews of Davy and Mike that were done during the audition process for the sitcom.

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Bright Road (1953)

I had heard about this movie for years.  Finally, I got a chance to see it uncut on one of my favorite cable channels, Turner Movie Classics.  It was a little sad to watch Dorothy Dandridge, knowing about her tragic history.  She's been acknowledged as one of the first Black movie sex symbols.  Ms. Dandridge may have gone farther if she had received help for her personal problems, and if she didn't have to deal with the blatant racism that was going on during her career. 

Jane Richards (Dandridge) is a new teacher in a grade school that is predominately Black.  She takes particular interest in a male student, C.T. (Philip Hepburn) who doesn't seem to be interested in class.  She learns the student has been held back several times due to failing grades.  The other teachers are cynical about her believing she can make a change in the kid's life, and the principal (Harry Belafonte, in his first film) doesn't have high hopes regarding her efforts, either.  Jane works with C.T., encouraging his interests.  But her efforts become in danger of being undone when tragedy strikes Tanya (Barbara Randolph), the student whom C.T. is most close to at school.

This is a rather simple story, and some of the acting is not on point.  But it's an interesting look at Blacks in a small southern town in the middle of the last century.  It highlights what is known from history - that Black people had to be more cohesive and supportive of each other as segregation was a fact, and people of color were shut out of the mainstream.

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