Reviews

All in the Family: Second Season

Stephen Tropiano

In the case of All in the Family and Sanford and Son, 'groundbreaking' is not an overstatement.


All in the Family

Cast: Carroll O'Connor, Jean Stapleton, Rob Reiner, Sally Struthers
MPAA rating: N/A
Network: Columbia TriStar
Creator: Bud Yorkin
First date: 1971
US Release Date: 2003-02-04
Amazon

SANFORD AND SON: SECOND SEASON
Executive Producer: Bud Yorkin
Cast: Redd Foxx, Demond Wilson
(Columbia TriStar, 1972)
DVD release date: 4 February 2003

by Stephen Tropiano

All in the Family: Second Season


Sanford and Son: Second Season

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Name-callers

"Groundbreaking" is one of those overused adjectives television critics like to toss around whenever a new series has something fresh, different, or provocative to offer viewers. In the case of All in the Family and Sanford and Son, the most popular situation comedies of the early 1970s, "groundbreaking" is not an overstatement.

When Family debuted in December of 1971, it was an immediate critical and ratings success. During its second season (1971-72), the series topped the Nielsen ratings, and continued to do so for the next five years. At the 1972 Emmy Awards ceremony, Family garnered 7 statuettes, including Best Comedy, Directing, Writing, and Sound Mixing as well as honors for stars Carroll O'Connor, Jean Stapleton, and Sally Struthers.

In the middle of the 1971-72 season, producers Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin unveiled their second in a long line of hit situation comedies. Sanford and Son debuted in January of 1972 and by the end of its sophomore year, it finished right behind Family as the second highest rated show of the season. Although not as popular with the critics as Family, Sanford enjoyed a healthy five-season run, due to the popularity of its star, Redd Foxx.

Taking a look at the second season of both sitcoms, which were recently released on DVD by Columbia-TriStar Home Video, one can understand why they were considered groundbreaking by audiences when they first debuted. Based on the British sitcoms 'Til Death Do Us Part (Family) and Steptoe and Son (Sanford), both shows focused on working class families. The Bunkers -- Archie (Carroll O'Connor), his wife Edith (Jean Stapleton), daughter Gloria (Sally Struthers), and her husband Mike (Rob Reiner) -- reside in the Corona section of Queens, New York. The Sanfords -- widower Fred (Foxx) and son Lamont (Demond Wilson) -- are owners of a junkyard in South Central Los Angeles.

There's nothing extraordinary about either family. They represent a segment of society who, up to that time, was underrepresented by sitcoms, which focused on squeaky-clean suburban families like the Nelsons, the Cleavers, and the Bradys. More importantly, Family and Sanford were adult-oriented, addressing current political issues that would have been unsuitable discussion topics for the Brady dinner table.

While they live 3,000 miles apart, Archie Bunker and Fred Sanford essentially have the same temperament. They are habitual name-callers: Archie refers to his wife Edith and son-in-law Mike as "Dingbat" and "Meathead," while Fred calls Lamont a "dummy." Archie and Fred are also cut from the same cloth when it comes to their intolerance toward anyone different. Archie's world is divided into white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants and everyone else. Fred thumbs his nose at anyone who is not black, such as his new Puerto Rican neighbor, Julio (Gregory Sierra), whom Fred tries (and fails) to get evicted.

One major difference between the sitcoms lies in their approaches to racial and political themes. In Family, the conflict introduced in each episode (a local election, gun control legislation) serves as a catalyst for an ideological debate between Archie and someone who is politically left of center, such as his son-in-law or Edith's cousin Maude (Bea Arthur), who is featured in two second season episodes. The better of the two Maude episodes concerns her arrival at the Bunkers, to help Edith take care of her flu-stricken family. Maude and Archie know exactly how to push each other's buttons. She criticizes the Nixon Administration and he gets under her skin by attacking her favorite president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Their exchange is hilarious, thanks to the impeccable timing of O'Connor and Arthur. You can understand why CBS insisted Lear immediately develop a spin-off for Arthur.

But the season's most memorable altercation occurs between Archie and guest star Sammy Davis, Jr., playing himself and visiting the Bunkers to retrieve the briefcase he left in the back of Archie's cab. Davis sits in disbelief as Archie attempts to justify segregation using the Bible, and then matter-of-factly asks the entertainer, "You had no choice being colored, but why did you turn Jew?" The fun really begins when Davis starts to play along, concluding with one of the most memorable TV moments of the 1970s: when Archie insists on having his picture taken with the entertainer, Davis plants a kiss on a shocked Archie's cheek.

Two of the most provocative episodes deal with topics once considered too taboo for primetime comedy: impotence and menopause. Nervous about his final exams, a frustrated Mike is having trouble in the bedroom. Gloria seeks help from her mother, who explains what's going on to Archie, who, in turn, suggests jogging as a cure. Archie also has little patience in dealing with a menopausal Edith, who, overpowered by hot flashes and mood swings, keeps running around the Bunker house at lightening speed. The episode, for which Stapleton won an Emmy, showcases her versatility, as a brilliant comic and dramatic actor.

While Stapleton and her co-stars are stage and film actors, Sanford star Redd Foxx is a seasoned stand-up performer who recorded over 50 comedy albums before landing the series. Fred is a widowed junk dealer who lives with his son in a house so messy, it seems like an extension of their junkyard. Like Archie and Mike, Fred and Lamont view the world very differently. Fred is horrified when Lamont decides to go on a date with Julio's sister, so he follows them to the restaurant to make sure nothing develops (Julio's mother does the same; she and Fred end up having dinner together).

The second season also includes an appearance by Lena Horne, who, in a funny episode is tricked by Fred into visiting his house so she can meet his poor, disabled son. When she discovers he has lied to her to win a bet, he has no choice but to donate the money to her favorite charity.

For the most part, the second season episodes rely on such conventional sitcom devices (mistaken identities, get-rich-quick schemes go bad, etc.). Sanford is at its best when Foxx tries to manipulate his good-hearted son (he attempts, but fails, to elicit his sympathy by faking a heart attack) or swaps insults with his Bible-thumping sister-in-law, Esther, played by LaWanda Page. Their exchanges get downright nasty. A childhood friend of Foxx, Page (like Whitman Mayo and Slappy White) was one of the many talent African American performers who appeared on Sanford (one up-and-coming comedian named Richard Pryor was one of the series' writers).

Although reruns of Family and Sanford are not difficult to find now, Columbia TriStar deserves credit for preserving (and organizing) such an important part of our television history on DVD. Let's hope that season three is soon available.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.


In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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