This was a typically fun outing of this little-seen but much maligned series. While SANFORD could never hope to equal the charm and chemistry of SANFORD & SON, it nonetheless provided a lot of laughs and allowed the character of Fred G. Sanford to mature and mellow (though without losing his trademark cynicism and bite).
As the title indicates, Fred suffers an actual heart attack and tries to place a call for help, but collapses while on hold waiting for his call to be taken, a scary scene contrasting with the cheerful Hawaiian muzak blaring through the phone. Cal and Cliff return from the laundromat to find Fred sprawled unconscious on the floor (and the muzak still playing through the phone!). Cal saves Fred's life by performing CPR and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, following which they rush Fred to the hospital.
The bureaucracy that could have cost Fred his life only continues at the hospital as the emergency room is staffed by cold and Kafkaesque Nurse Ratchits concerned only with completing their paperwork and getting insurance information, blind to the human suffering around them. Only Cal's volcanic anger startles them out of their complacency.
The writers Douglas Arango and Phil Doran deserve credit for balancing humor with drama, never letting the show slip into one of those "very special episodes" that were all the rage circa 1980, but at the same time creating some stomach-tightening suspense and sincerely moving moments. When Fred collapses to the floor the studio audience gasps, as did I. It was scary. And later when Cal tells Fred just how much he cares for him it is genuinely moving, not schmaltzy. (And I suspect Cal cared enough never to tell Fred he gave him mouth-to-mouth, which would've killed him faster than a shopping bag full of Fat Burgers and warm menudo.)
Fans of the original series will enjoy seeing two of its guest stars back and working alongside Redd Foxx in this episode. James A. Watson, Jr. who played Janet's ex-husband in "When John Comes Marching Home" is on hand here as a doctor. And playing the role of the ER receptionist is Kim Hamilton, who played the charming door-to-door saleswoman Carol in "Fred & Carol & Fred & Donna" and later the "cougar" Grace with whom Lamont was in love in "The Older Woman."
A fun episode of a fun series that serves as a worthy sequel and companion to the original.
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