2. 'Sanford & Son' (1972-1977)
The casting of Redd Foxx — a stand-up comedian notorious in the Fifties and Sixties known for his "party records" — as Fred Sanford was a risky move on the part of producers Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin; this was a guy known to work as "blue" as possible and get down and dirty in his monologues. It turned out to be a stroke of genius: Foxx toned his raunchy ways down just enough for television, yet still retained enough of his rawness to make you believe that he really was an irascible junkman from Watts. It was arguably the least likely stand-up-stage-to-small-screen success story you could possibly imagine at the time.
Even more importantly, the enormously popular show made no apologies for the blackness of its characters or the funkiness of its urban setting, and thus influenced nearly every black sitcom that came after it. Sanford & Son also exposed mainstream America to such brilliant "chitlin' circuit" comedians as LaWanda Page, Don Bexley and Slappy White, none of whom would have likely ever made it to prime time without Foxx's intercession on their behalf. But the show was, and still is, a tribute to the charisma of its star — a comic who could move you without getting sentimental, then turn around and knock you over with a salty zinger.