Today, we look at how Grady briefly spun out of of Sanford and Son to go live with his daughter’s family.
This is Back Door Blues, a feature about “backdoor pilots.” Backdoor pilots are episodes of regular TV series that are intended to also work as pilots for a new series. Sometimes these pilots get picked up, but a lot of times they did not get picked up. I’ll spotlight examples of both successful and failed backdoor pilots.
December is a month of Back Door Blues!
CONCEPT: Grady – Whitman Mayo’s Grady moves in with his daughter and her husband and kids in the more affluent Westwood area of Los Angeles.
SERIES IT AIRED ON Sanford and Son
Sanford and Son technically only had two “official” cast members in Redd Foxx as Fred Sanford and Demond Wilson as Lamont Sanford (Fred’s son), but it had a rich group of recurring characters who all became famous enough that a lot of fans basically treat them AS cast members, from Fred’s late wife’s sister, Esther (LaWanda Page) to Lamont’s best friend, Rollo ((Nathaniel Taylor). Fred had two best friends on the show, Bubba (Don Bexley) and Grady (Whitman Mayo). Grady was simple-minded, but very friendly. He was the perfect counterpart to the irritable Fred.
Sanford and Son was big on over-the-top characters, and Grady was certainly over-the-top, complete with MULTIPLE catchphrases (including “Great googly moogly!”). During a period in Season 3 when Foxx was fighting over his contract, Grady even briefly took over his spot on the series. This likely made the producers feel that Grady could star in his own series, so the final episode of Season 4, “The Family Man,” was built around a backdoor pilot for Grady.
The series was based on the idea that Grady moves in with his daughter (Carol Cole) and her UCLA track coach husband (Joe Morton) in the much more affluent Westwood area of Los Angeles. He has two grandkids, with one of them played by Haywood Nelson, who would later co-star as Dwayne on What’s Happening!! (by the same producers of Sanford and Son and Grady).
Neither Foxx nor Wilson appeared in the episode (making it the only episode of Sanford and Son to feature neither Sanford nor Son), but when Grady visits the Sanford store, he runs into Rollo, who talks Grady through Grady’s worry that he is just a burden on his daughter and her family. Rollo inspires Grady to make a grand gesture by buying the family something with his whole savings (all $67.80 of it), and he does so, buying them an “expensive” oil painting right before the family is about to host a cocktail party with a bunch of stuff professors. And, well, the painting is a bit…different.
DID THE PILOT GO TO SERIES? Yes, but it lasted just ten episodes. When it was canceled, Mayo returned to Sanford and Son for the rest of its run (he later appeared on the spinoff series, Sanford Arms).
SHOULD IT HAVE? The supporting cast was excellent (Joe Morton is always amazing, and he’s really good here), so I think it was worth a shot. Mayo’s Grady was probably a bit too much, but with that supporting cast, it at least had a real shot, so I think it should have, yes. And I imagine that’s why it WAS picked up.
Okay, that’s it for this installment of Back Door Blues! I KNOW the rest of you have suggestions for other interesting backdoor pilots, so drop me a line at email@example.com (don’t suggest in the comments, as this way, it’ll be a surprise!).