Redd Foxx revolutionized prime-time television with his sitcom Sanford and Son in 1972, paving the way for future funnymen on the small screen. When he died in 1991, he left behind a treasure trove of comedy gold…along with crippling debt.
In the new REELZ profile Redd Foxx: Life, Death & Money, airing on May 22, fans will learn the true story behind the man of many laughs.
"In the case of Sanford and Son, which was based on a British TV series called Steptoe and Son, Norman Lear imagined a junk dealer in Watts and his son, and the perfect person to play the lead character, Fred Sanford, was Redd Foxx," says pop culture insider Michael Pagnotta in the doc.
Redubbed Sanford and Son, the sitcom premiered on January 14, 1972 and was an immediate hit.
"American audiences, they'd never seen anything like it before on television," says entertainment journalist Kiyra Lynn. "It was an overnight sensation."
While other comic actors, like All in the Family’s Carol O'Connor, were earning large paychecks, Foxx had to fight for his salary and his rights.
"He was the star of his own hit show. Meanwhile, Carol O'Connor was getting paid substantially more than Redd Foxx," recalls comedy historian Kliph Nesteroff.
According to Jill Stanley, Celebrity Legal Analyst for the REELZ Celebrity legal series, Life, Death & Money, Foxx fought with his own unique style. "You cannot have Sanford and Son without Redd Foxx, so he said to NBC, 'You know what? You either give me more money, or I'm not working.'"
In 1991, the beloved comedian and TV star suffered a massive heart attack on the set of his new sitcom, The Royal Family. He would be remembered for his quick timing and comedic genius, but he also left behind a string of failed marriages and debt upwards of $3.6 million.
Money troubles would plague Redd Foxx for years even after his death. His friends and family aren't fighting over his riches. Instead, they are trying to cancel the debt he accrued due to a lavish lifestyle.
There is much more to learn in Redd Foxx: Life, Death & Money on May 22 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on REELZ.
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