The situation itself has great potential for comedy—the generation gap, an offbeat way of life, a kind of "anti-establishment" way of thinking. Best of all, perhaps, is the fact that Sanford and Son is a network show that treats black people with respect and affection. It isn't "true to life." What situation comedy is? But it's a lot less phoney than Julia was.
That's why I hate to see it fail in what I consider some important areas. It is basically a two-character comedy. For this kind of comedy to work, on a weekly basis, it seems to me there should be some kind of balance. I don't want to laugh at Fred Sanford every week. If I'm to laugh at him because he's old and out of touch, shouldn't I sometimes be able to laugh with him and say, "Hurray for you, Fred Sanford, you really showed them"? Shouldn't he sometimes show traces of intelligence, compassion, humor—and maybe even spunk?
One of the strengths of All in the Family is that no matter how much Archie rants and raves, you know the rest of the family can take care of themselves…. There is a balance in the characterizations—each one has its particular strong points. The cards haven't been stacked against any one of the various characters.
They have been stacked pretty heavily against Fred Sanford and I hope he'll break loose. Sanford and Son has great potential, but it's going to need more than funny one-liners to keep it going. (pp. 22-3)
Peggy Hudson, in Senior Scholastic (copyright © 1972 by Scholastic Magazines, Inc.; reprinted by permission), May 8, 1972.