With this episode, we reach the end of Family Affair‘s first season! Thanks to all of you who have followed along so far. The second season includes some of my favorite episodes, so I’m excited to get it under way next week.
Written by: George Tibbles. Directed by: William D. Russell.
Two threads run through this episode and come together by the end–almost.
First, a well known actor friend of Uncle Bill’s is observing French to prepare for a theatrical role.
Guess who’s coming to dinner?
Second, Cissy is indecisive about her choice for a Sadie Hawkins-type dance.
Luckily for Cissy, she has a friend to help her through this crisis. Unluckily for Cissy, it’s Wanda, who is an even bigger nuisance than Cissy’s other friends.
Cissy hesitates too long in finding a date and misses out on the desirable boys. Wanda, who acts more quickly, lands a good catch.
Yep, this is definitely a work of fiction.
Uncle Bill reminisces to his house guest about his own Sadie Hawkins experiences. Even back then, it seams, he had to fight the girls off with a stick. Sometimes he would go as far as claiming a broken leg to avoid “dancing with a giraffe.” Real nice, Bill!
In the featurette included with the Season 1 DVDs, Kathy Garver says that Brian Keith would avoid making eye contact with guest stars he didn’t like. I get the feeling throughout this episode that Christopher Dark isn’t a personal favorite of his.
When Cissy finally stoops so low as calling her last-resort boy, Virgil, he has to decline: It seems he has a broken leg.
Cissy takes this news about as well as a careful viewer of Season 1 would expect.
Believing that Virgil is lying, Cissy takes to moping around the apartment.
Wanda helps Cissy’s funk along by showing off her own dress for the dance and offering to tell Cissy all about the fun she’ll be missing.
French thinks that Uncle Bill should offer to escort Cissy to the dance, and Bill does so.
Cissy declines. She has the good sense to realize that showing up at a dance with your uncle is worse than not showing up at all.
Eventually, another answer to the problem dawns on Uncle Bill–he asks his celebrity friend to escort her.
Cissy surprises everyone by turning the actor down. He’s way too old–or, she puts it, she’s way too young.
Uncle Bill finds his friend’s discomfort rather amusing.
Just then, Virgil appears at the Davis door with a very real broken leg and a doctor’s permission to attend the dance anyway.
That night, Cissy and Virgil are all smiles as they head off for the dance. Apparently, Cissy has forgotten that she didn’t want to ask Virgil in the first place.
As you can see, the twins don’t figure much in this episode’s plot. They do have a cute running gag, however.
At the beginning of the episode, they leave their school books on the hall table.
In response, they receive an intense French glare.
“He’s yelling at us with his eyes,” Buffy whispers to Jody, just before the kids scoop the books up.
Later, Cissy and Wanda leave their books on the table, and French fails to react.
Buffy and Jody are quick to point out the injustice.
Near the end of the episode, they let themselves in after school and observe that French is nowhere to be seen.
For a few seconds, they glory in their freedom.
Then their own sense of responsibility kicks in, and they pick the books up.
French is amusing when he describes his efforts to keep the twins happy while Wanda sleeps over with Cissy for two nights. He manages to convince an exiled Buffy to play “hotel” in Jody’s room the first night, but by the second night his game of “castle” fails to keep the peace.
This episode seems to head in a very predictable direction.The “date-with-a-middle-aged celebrity” idea is the kind of thing that usually makes sense to everyone in old sitcoms, even though it would be make for a very strange occurrence in real life. Cissy’s refusal to go out with the movie star saves this episode.
Also, it’s always nice to see Cissy prettied up for a big date.
Orson: Christopher Dark. Virgil: Patrick Moore. Wanda: Lynette Winter. Patrick Moore would appear one more time on Family Affair, and then vanish from the world of screen acting forever. Christopher Dark’s TV appearances include many westerns and two episodes of The Rogues, in which John Williams–the other Mr. French–had a regular role. Winter is familiar from her role as best friend LaRue in the series Gidget and as Henrietta Plout on Petticoat Junction. She also had a small part in The Parent Trap, but she didn’t share any screen time with Brian Keith.
Winter’s character in this episode is supposed to be annoying–and, boy, does she nail it.
French isn’t a movie buff. He only likes to watch Sir Laurence Olivier in Hamlet and color footage of the coronation. Oh, French.
Isn’t a fake broken leg a particularly lame excuse? You would have to keep the ruse up at school for a fairly long time.
Also, if Bill was so popular, why did he once have to take his aunt as his date to a track meet?