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GRADY
by Billy Ingram

Sanford & Son with Whitman May as GradyThere were two spin-offs of NBC' hugely popular Sanford & Son (1972-1977) the first of which was Grady.

The character of Grady was introduced in season three, he basically replaced Bubba (Don 'Bubba' Bexley) as Fred Sanford's Ethel Mertz. After the 18th episode of the third season Grady replaced Fred himself when Redd Foxx walked off the series in a dispute over money and other issues.

Unfortunately for Foxx Sanford & Son earned its highest ratings while Whitman Mayo was mouthing his lines. If I'm not mistaken the episode of Sanford & Son embedded below is one of the highest rated TV shows of all time.

It was natural for NBC to want a spin-off from their biggest hit and who better than Grady, at least from their standpoint.

A pilot was incorporated into a bonus 25th episode to finish out Sanford & Son's fourth season, one of the rare, unfunny shows of the period. In it, Grady moves from Watts to upscale Westwood to live with his daughter, her husband and their two kids.

Grady was readied as a 1975 mid-season replacement, the first production from Bud Yorkin after his split with Norman Lear. A theme song that was close to the iconic Quincy Jones Sanford theme was composed, titles were created using the same font that Sanford used, and the guys who wrote and produced many of the best early Sanford storylines penned the opening script.

What could go wrong? A lousy timeslot for one thing - against The Waltons and Barney Miller - and a bland supporting cast, with the exception of Haywood Nelson as Grady's nephew.

Grady was never a well thought out character anyway, just a utilitarian player with no remarkable qualities, so the series lasted just a few weeks. Mayo's last episode of Sanford & Son would be the first of the fifth season; after his show flopped Grady was nowhere to be seen until The Sanford Arms debuted and quickly disappeared in 1977. He also appeared on two episodes of Sanford in 1981. (Haywood Nelson moved over to What's Happening!! in 1976 from the same producers as Grady.)

Whitman Mayo was a regular on two short-lived series - Hell Town in 1985 and The Van Dyke Show in 1988 and was a guest on dozens more.

In early 1996 Conan O'Brien instigated a national search to find Whitman Mayo and had the actor on his show after weeks of build up. Coincidentally, Whitman Mayo died in 2001 at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta where he was teaching drama.

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Grady
NBC / December 1975 - March 1976

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