Family Affair Flashback: Season 3, Episode 26, “The Matter of Dignity,” 3/31/1969

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I apologize for the unplanned hiatus from my Family Affair series. Health issues and a hectic day job put blogging on a back burner for a while. To increase the frequency of these posts, I am trying to cut back on their length, which has ballooned considerably since I started the series (and surely pushes into tl;dr category at times). Also, I’ve changed the series name to abandon the pretext that these posts will always appear on Fridays. I hope to bring them to you every week or two, on whatever day I get the chance.

Teleplay by: Peggy Chantler Dick and John McGreevey. Story by: Peggy Chantler Dick and Douglas Dick. Directed by Charles Barton.

As we open, French is entertaining a fellow gentleman’s gentleman, Alfred Dimsdale. French’s digs impress his old friend.

"This establishment has style," he says. "It's not quite Glenmore Castle, but..."

“This establishment has style,” Dimsdale says. “It’s not quite Glenmore Castle, but…”

He also admires the way French manages the Davis children.

Especially when French opens the door to this.

Especially when French opens the door to this.

The caller’s name is Gopher Resnick, and he has come to see Cissy.

Pay particular attention to the young man's lack of footwear. Walking around the sidewalks of Manhattan in bare feet? Eww.

Pay particular attention to the young man’s lack of footwear. Walking around the sidewalks of Manhattan in bare feet? Eww.

“Whistle for the little bird, man,” Gopher orders French. “I’m ready to fly.”

Such a charmer.

“Is it possible that this Gopher proposes to escort you to a public place?” French asks when Cissy arrives on the scene.

“Is it possible that this Gopher proposes to escort you to a public place?” French asks when Cissy arrives on the scene.

No shirt, no shoes, no date with Cissy, is French’s motto.

“You got something against feet, man?” an aggrieved Gopher asks.

In response, we get an all-time great Frenchism: “Not in their proper place, no. The cradle, the seashore, or the shower.”

In response, we get an all-time great Frenchism: “Not in their proper place, no. The cradle, the seashore, or the shower.”

When Gopher asks if French is “for real,” French assures him he is as real as the Davis front door–which he then closes in his face.

Luckily, Cissy is relieved because she didn't want to go out with Gopher anyway.

Cissy is relieved because she didn’t want to go out with Gopher anyway.

I would have lost all respect for her if she felt otherwise.

Alfred leaves soon after Gopher, but not before meeting Bill and letting him know that he's looking for a position in New York.

Alfred leaves soon after Gopher, but not before meeting Bill and letting him know that he’s looking for a position in New York.

We next see Bill in his office, where he has apparently acquired a new secretary.

Or, judging by her robotic manner of speaking, he has built one.

Or, judging by the secretary’s robotic manner of speaking, built one.

She gives him his mail, which includes this shocking missive:

Oh, my.

At home, Bill shows the letter to French.

French apologizes to Bill, but Bill says there's no need--the letter is obviously the work of a "sick mind."

French apologizes to Bill, but Bill says there’s no need–the letter is obviously the work of a “sick mind.”

The sick mind is soon at work again.

This time Cissy is the recipient of its ravings.

This time Cissy is the recipient of its ravings.

She heads straight to Uncle Bill, who informs her about the letter he received.

Cissy has a hunch about the culprit.

Cissy has a hunch about the culprit.

She thinks the shoeless wonder felt disrespected by French and is trying to get him fired.

Nobody puts Gopher in a corner, I guess.

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Cissy heads to what is obviously the hippie section of Central Park.

But Gopher has only a vague recollection of French as “the cat with the beaver and the hangup about shoes.”

He’s been preoccupied thinking about his new girlfriend, Jenny.

She's a better match for him than Cissy would be, certainly.

She’s a better match for him than Cissy would be, certainly.

Meanwhile, Bill is putting his number one suspect to the test.

He offers Dimsdale French's position, adding that rumors from England have persuaded him to dismiss French.

He offers Dimsdale French’s position, adding that rumors from England have persuaded him to dismiss French.

Dimsdale urges Bill to ignore rumors and turns down the job–he only like children from a distance and wants to work for an uncomplicated bachelor.

That let’s him off the hook.

At home, Jody gets the mail and lets Buffy open an unaddressed, unstamped letter. Cissy enters the room as Buffy is reading it.

When Buffy asks her what "set his cap" means, Cissy reacts with such shock that you'd think Buffy asked her to explain "throbbing member" or something.

When Buffy asks her what “set his cap” means, Cissy reacts with such shock that you’d think Buffy asked her to explain “throbbing member” or something.

This third letter is more detailed in its accusations.

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Showing the letter to French, Cissy bubbles with anger about the person spreading lies.

To her surprise, French says the message is true.

To her surprise, French says the message is true.

Lord Glenmore did dismiss him with cause. He was lucky that Bill hired him shortly thereafter on the basis of an interview, without checking references.

Cissy's opinion of French takes such a nosedive that she doesn't want him to take the twins to the park--she insists on taking them herself.

Cissy’s opinion of French takes such a nosedive that she doesn’t want him to take the twins to the park–she insists on taking them herself.

Just how young is she imagining that “Lord Glenmore’s young daughter” was?

At the park, she runs into Miss Faversham and Alfred Dimdale's sister Alice, another nanny.

At the park, she runs into Miss Faversham and Alfred Dimdale’s sister Alice, another nanny.

When they ask where French is, Cissy says she’s going to be taking more responsibility for the children.

(As a knitter myself, I watched this scene closely to see if Heather Angel is actually knitting. She’s doing something with the needles, but it looks awkward.)

At home, Cissy pours her heart out to Bill.

At home, Cissy pours her heart out to Bill.

“What kind of man is Mr. French?” she wonders.

Bill replies that French is intelligent and honest, and that there has to be more to the Glenmore story than it seems.

They get interrupted by the twins, who have sensed how worried Bill and Cissy are.

They get interrupted by the twins, who have sensed how worried French, Bill and Cissy are.

They are tired of being told that nothing is wrong.

Bill says that three people worrying is enough for one family, so they should let the older people handle it. The twins agree and secure Bill’s promise to tell them when it’s time to start worrying.

Bill goes to see French and listens as his French confirms again that the letter is true. When French offers to quit, Bill goes into mock-annoyed mode.

"Don't start talking about leaving!" he grumbles.

“Don’t start talking about leaving!” he grumbles.

He lets French know that he still doesn’t believe the letter writer. French, who is obviously moved by him employer’s faith in him, says that is his privilege.

Bill then joins a still-brooding Cissy for another conversation.

She feels like there are two Mr. Frenches, and she wishes he would prove that the good French they've known all along is the real one.

She feels like there are two Mr. Frenches. She wishes French would prove that the good one  they’ve known all along is the real one.

That’s exactly what French won’t do, Bill says:”If he has to prove himself to keep your respect, your respect isn’t worth anything to him.”

Chastened, Cissy finds French and apologizes to him.

She thanks him for being the kind of person he is--and for being "very tolerant of emotional teenage girls."

She thanks him for being the kind of person he is–and for being “very tolerant of emotional teenage girls.”

Now that French feels trusted, he’s willing to tell Bill and Cissy the whole story.

Lord Glenmore’s shy and overprotected daughter Evelyn had hardly any contact with men. She enjoyed talking to French about books and eventually believed herself to be in love with him.

"I was younger then and my figure a bit trimmer," he explains sheepishly.

“I was younger then and my figure a bit trimmer,” he explains sheepishly.

He and Lord Glenmore were afraid that if French merely quit, Evelyn would continue to pine for him. Instead, they cooked up a story that French was a married cad scheming to extort money from his employer.

Things turned out okay for Evelyn, who is now happily married with a lovely family.

That rules her out. So who wrote the letters?

French says he's known all along that it was Alice Dimsdale.

French says he’s known all along it was Alice Dimsdale.

Alice probably feels it’s her duty to protect Cissy and the children, he says.

The next day, French is back on park duty.

When Alice expresses surprise that he's still taking care of the children, he returns her letters.

When Alice expresses surprise that he’s still taking care of the children, he returns her letters with thanks.

“They served a purpose–oh, not necessarily the one you had in mind,” he crows.

Then he joins a beaming Miss F to share what he calls "in every way, an exceptional day."

Then he joins a beaming Miss F to share what he calls “in every way, an exceptional day.”

Aww.

Commentary

This episode fills in a crucial hole in French’s back story–how he made his way from a British castle to a New York bachelor pad.

A mystery is always fun, although I feel confused about Alice’s motives. French’s explanation that she was protecting the children makes it sound like she doesn’t know the true story. His confrontation of her in the park, however, suggests that he ascribes malice to her actions. I suppose the details don’t matter, since this episode is really about French’s need to feel trusted by the Davis family.

I enjoy the scene where Buffy and Jody express frustration when no one will tell them what’s wrong. It’s realistic for kids to pick up on tension, and Bill handles the situation well.

There’s a slight oddity in the final park scene–Buffy, Jody and French talk about a game Jody invented called “I Know.” It seems to be a followup to an earlier conversation, one we didn’t see.

Even by their standards, the twins seem overdressed. Buffy looks like she's going to see a performance of The Nutcracker.

Also even by their standards, the twins are overdressed. Buffy looks like she’s going to a performance of The Nutcracker.

Guest Cast

Miss Faversham: Heather Angel. Miss Grayson: Annette Cabot. Alfred Dimsdale: David Montresor. Alice Dimsdale: Irene Tedrow. Gopher: Gary Tigerman.

According to a bio of Irene Tedrow, “Her features grew more severe with age, which ultimately typed her as puritanical meddlers and no-nonsense matrons.”

She was certainly playing to type as Alice.

She was certainly playing to type as Alice.

Before TV, she was active in radio, with a regular role on Meet Corliss Archer and frequent appearances on such shows as Suspense, Family Theater, and Crime Classics. She worked steadily in television throughout the 1980s; her more memorable appearances include playing Aunt Martha on an episode of Leave it to Beaver—and reprising the role in twice on the 1980s comeback series—and attending two of Mary’s disastrous parties as Congresswoman Margaret Geddes on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. She had a recurring role as Mrs. Elkins on Dennis the Menace. She appeared once on Sebastian Cabot’s earlier series Checkmate and crossed professional paths with Brian Keith in The Parent Trap (her role was tiny and uncredited) and Centennial.

Gary Tigerman’s screen career was short—Oggo the Caveboy on Lost in Space was probably his best role—but his life has gone in interesting directions. He served jail time for refusing to serve in Vietnam, and after his release he got involved in music and songwriting and later wrote a sci-fi novel, The Orion Project.

David Montresor didn’t have much of a screen career. His most intriguing credit is the 1960 Italian-made sci-fi film Space Man, a.k.a. Assignment Outer Space.

My 5 Favorite…Things About Get Smart (in one episode)

Get Smart marker

This entry is part of the Summer of MeTV Classic TV Blogathon, hosted by the Classic TV Blog Association. Click here to check out this blogathon’s complete schedule.

When I was a kid, Get Smart was one show I just didn’t get. With no experience of spy or action genres, I didn’t understand what was being spoofed. In the few minutes I caught here and there, before switching to another channel, I felt mystified and vaguely annoyed.

My attitude changed completely in 1991, when Nick at Night presented a week-long marathon called Maximum Smart. Watching each night, I found the show great fun and surprisingly subversive.

There are many things to love about Get Smart–Don Adams’ approach to comedy, the wacky gadgetry, even the gorgeous cars Max drives in the opening credits. For this post, I focused on five things that I especially enjoy, as seen in Season 2’s “Island of the Darned,” which originally aired November 26, 1966. I picked this episode because it includes my favorite quote from the series (see Number 5); as a good-but-not-great episode, it also provides a good example of some elements that kept Get Smart engaging week in and week out.

1. Action tropes, spoofed

The more you’ve seen of James Bond and other 1960s spy thrillers, the more you can enjoy Get Smart‘s parody of the genre. The show’s spoofs actually go beyond the spy genre to incorporate just about every variety of action cliche that turns up in mid-century entertainment. “Island of the Darned” is based on what TV Tropes calls “Hunting the Most Dangerous Game,” a scenario in which “the villains are hunters and the hero is the prey – the game – in a formalized hunting motif.” The trope is based on the 1924 short story “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell, which has been adapted for film several times. It’s also inspired episodes on TV shows that cross a range of genres, including Star Trek, Bonanza, The Avengers, and (in a tamer form) The Partridge Family.

Hans Hunter is played by Harold Gould, who is probably best known for playing Rhoda Morgenstern's father on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rhoda. His Get Smart role shows a much more youthful and vigorous side of him.

Hans Hunter is played by Harold Gould, who is probably best known for playing Rhoda Morgenstern’s father on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rhoda. His Get Smart role shows a much more youthful and vigorous side of him.

In “Island of the Darned,” KAOS operative Hans Hunter kills a CONTROL agent and has him stuffed and sent to the Chief’s office. Hunter’s goal is to lure Maxwell Smart to his island headquarters; when Max and 99 do show up there, he captures them and then offers a chance at freedom if they can elude his chase across the island until sundown.

2. Amusing Dialogue and Memorable Catchphrases

Get Smart abounds with fun exchanges. Here’s a good example from “Island of the Darned,” as the Chief fills in Hunter’s villainous backstory:

Chief: He was, at various times, a Nazi, a communist, a member of the mafia, and is right now one of the top executives of KAOS.

Max: If there’s anything I hate, it’s a joiner.

Max is also fond of what TV Tropes calls “reverse inflationary dialogue,” in which he begins with a strong statement followed up by increasingly less impressive ones. In this episode, one occurs when Max asks the Chief to send him after Hunter:

Max: Chief, you have to let me go after Hunter. I want to get that madman no matter how dangerous it is. I don’t care if he is one of the world’s greatest killers. I don’t care if he is a master of fiendish torture and death. I want him, Chief. You’ve got to let me have that assignment.

Chief: You’ve got it, Max.

Max: Of course, if you’d rather send someone else…

Chief: It’s all yours.

Max: I mean, I don’t want to force you into anything, Chief.

 Max’s famous “Would you believe?” routine is his ultimate example of reverse inflationary dialogue and represents one of the many catchphrases the show popularized. In this episode it comes just after Hunter captures Max and 99, as Max tries to convince the villain that backup is on the way. Hunter’s only response throughout is increasingly maniacal laughter.

Max: In a very short while, General Crawford and a hundred of his crack paratroopers will come crashing into this landing.

Would you believe J. Edgar Hoover and 10 of his G-men?

How about Tarzan and a couple of his apes?

Bomba the jungle boy?

Some of this episode’s jokes are obvious but still somehow amusing. When Hunter challenges Max to a game of Russian roulette, Max asks if they couldn’t switch to checkers.

This week's secret weapon from the CONTROL crime lab is a set of "bazooka butts," grenades disguised as cigarettes. When Max is told that if he fails to release the cigarette in time, it will blow a hole in the back of his head the size of a basketball, he inevitably replies, "Well, that's one way to quit smoking."

This week’s secret weapon from the CONTROL crime lab is a set of “bazooka butts,” grenades disguised as cigarettes. Max is told that if he fails to release the cigarette in time, it will blow a hole in the back of his head the size of a basketball; he inevitably replies, “Well, that’s one way to quit smoking.”

More unexpected is this exchange–it’s not exactly PC by modern standards, but I’m surprised it made it to the air at all in 1966:

Hunter: As you can see, Mr. Smart, my trophy collection includes one of almost every kind of animal…except one. You—a homo sapien.

Max (indignant): Now just a minute, Hunter. I’m as normal as you are.

3. Bureaucratic Inanities

Perhaps because my career history includes time in a government setting, I find myself tickled by the mundane bureaucratic details that bog down the battle between CONTROL and KAOS.

In this episode, the courier delivering the package that contains Agent 27's stuffed body insists on getting a real signature on his form--"The Chief" won't do.

In this episode, the courier delivering the package that contains Agent 27’s stuffed body insists on getting a real signature on his form–“The Chief” won’t do.

I especially enjoy the courier’s parting remarks:

Delivery Man: I’ve delivered a lot of packages in my time, some here to CONTROL and some over to KAOS headquarters, and I’ll tell you this: Crime may not pay, but it sure tips a lot better.

4. Agent 99

Barbara Feldon’s Agent 99 is an admirable example of a smart, hard-working, courageous woman by the standards of the time. American TV was apparently not ready for a true female badass like The Avengers‘ Emma Peel, so 99 spends a lot of time showing off her feminine side. In this episode, she screams when Agent 27’s body is revealed, and during the long outdoor chase scenes, she occasionally whines about her ability to go on (although she does keep going).

As usual, she also spends a lot of time juggling the need to keep Max on track with her wish to protect his ego.

As usual, she also spends a lot of time juggling the need to keep Max on track with her wish to protect his ego.

Still, it’s always clear that 99 is more intelligent and competent than her partner (admittedly, not a high bar). At this episode’s climax, she has to prod him several times before he remembers the existence of the Bazooka butts, the weapon that saves their lives.

We don't get to see much of 99's fun 1960s fashions in this episode, which she spends mostly in a safari suit as she runs through woods and slides down hills. (Actually, that doesn't look much at all like Barbara Feldon sliding down that hill, does it?)

We don’t get to see much of 99’s fun 1960s fashions in this episode, which she spends mostly in a safari suit as she runs through woods and slides down hills. (Actually, that doesn’t look much like Barbara Feldon sliding down that hill, does it?)

5. A Strain of Subversion

My favorite thing about Get Smart is the mildly subversive nature of a show produced at the height of the cold war that made the cold war look ridiculous. Most likely, show co-creators Mel Brooks and Buck Henry set the tone. Brooks explained in 1965, “It’s a show in which you can comment, too. I don’t mean we’re in the broken-wing business. We’re not social workers, but we can do some comment such as you can’t inject in, say, My Three Sons.”

This episode’s script (which Henry had a hand in writing) ends with my favorite exchange from the series. It takes place just after gets blown up.

99: Oh, Max, how terrible.

Max: He deserved it, 99. He was a KAOS killer.

99: Sometimes I wonder if we’re any better, Max.

Max: What are you talking about, 99? We have to shoot and kill and destroy. We represent everything that’s wholesome and good in the world.

We, and the agents, are left with a moment of moral confusion.

We, and the agents, are left to sort out the implications.

This is a pretty bold line for mainstream TV at a time when the Vietnam War was still escalating. (I must not have been the only one who liked the line because it showed up again, in a slightly different form, in the 1989 reunion movie Get Smart, Again!)

I hope this brief celebration of Get Smart whets your appetite to watch the show on MeTV this summer. And I hope you let me know your favorite things about the series!

Some of my other posts related to shows on MeTV’s summer schedule:

Gilligan’s Island Game

H.R. Pufnstuf Game

H.R. Pufnstuf and the Best School Library Book Ever

Batman Game

Gomer Pyle Game

Alice: An Appreciation (The Brady Bunch)

Everything is Gray: Five Moral Lessons from Naked City

The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Family Affair Connections, Part 1

Spin Again Sunday: Batman Game, 1966

batman box

 

 

Today’s Game: Batman Game.

Copyright Date: 1966.

Manufacturer: Milton Bradley.

Recommended Ages: 8 to 15.

Game Box: Bold primary colors predominate, with Batman front and center. He’s looking ripped and, based on his body posture, feeling a bit cocky. Below the big red title, we see Batman and Robin in action against a Gotham City skyline. (I like the Joker-faced jack-in-the-box jumping out at Robin.) Above the title, we see spaceships, Saturn, and other cosmic orbs. I’m sure space-age imagery appealed to boys, but is space really in Batman’s purview?

batman board

Game Board: The central portrait shows Batman and Robin, um…leaping off a building into the path of the Joker’s car? That seems risky, but I’m sure they have a reasonable plan. Except for the Batman lettering, the colors seem washed-out on the board compared to the box lid. In the four corners of the playing grid, we see some Gotham City locales.

bat control board 2

Game Pieces: Each player gets a Bat Control Board, which shows the six villains who need to be captured. My husband is something of a comic book expert (at least based on the square footage that his collection takes up in our house), so I ran these villains by him to double-check my sense that they seemed strange. Besides commenting that “they look like they were drawn by a fifth grader,” he said The Blockbuster and The Calendar Man never appeared on the 1966-68 TV series, and the Penguin and the Riddler look very different from their TV counterparts. That’s not surprising, I suppose, because this game was probably in the works before the show debuted. But he didn’t think any of the characters looked much like their 1960s comic-book counterparts, either.

batman game pieces

Game Play: Players move a plastic “pedestrian” around the board’s outside track. Their goal is to land on a corner space that contains a Batmobile piece. If they do so, they roll again and move into the board’s circular track. On their next turn, they can finally move into the 36-square grid, onto which villain tiles have been placed. (These match the pictures on the Bat Control Board.) Players capture the villain tiles they land on. There are also Super Crime Lab tiles that act as wild cards, substituting for any villain on a player’s Bat Control Board.

Winning the Game: The first player to capture all six different villain tiles wins.

My Thoughts: Game play is simple and some of the art work is questionable, but I think target-age superhero fans would have enjoyed this one.

Other Spin Again Sunday posts you might enjoy:

Gomer Pyle

Planet of the Apes Game

Dragnet

Family Affair Friday(ish): Season 3, Episode 25, “The Flip Side,” March 25, 1969

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Written by: Roy Kammerman. Directed by: Charles Barton.

We open with a TV show within a TV show.

This guy is singing a song with lyrics that include, "I never shave or comb my hair, but I do think of her."

We’re watching a guy sing a song with lyrics that include, “I never shave or comb my hair, but I do think of her.”

(Interestingly, this actor had a minor hit years earlier with a song called “Ain’t Gonna Wash for a Week.” Hygiene was an issue for him, apparently.)

So, why are we watching him?

Because Cissy and this guy with a beard are sitting in a Family-Affair-green office and watching him.

Because Cissy and the singer’s bearded manager are sitting in a Family-Affair-green office and watching him, too.

Cissy has somehow got the chance to interview the teen heartthrob for her high school newspaper.

When Charlie enters the room, Cissy compliments him on his TV performance. He jokes that his band hit a few clinkers but the audience probably just thought it was a modern arrangement.

As we will see throughout this episode, Charlie is the world's most self-effacing pop star.

As we will see throughout this episode, Charlie is the world’s most self-effacing pop star.

He’s also straightforward when interviewed.

Our budding Rona Barrett leads off by asking him if he's in love.

Our budding Rona Barrett leads off by asking him if he’s in love.

Yes, he says, “with whatever girl I’m talking to at the moment.”

The full implications of this remark go whizzing right past Cissy's head, especially when he adds that she's pretty.

The full implications of this remark go whizzing right over Cissy’s head, especially when he adds that she’s pretty.

Back at home, the twins are building a block tower, and Buffy's predicting that it will fall if it get's any taller.

Back at home, the twins are building a block tower, and Buffy’s predicting that it will fall if it gets any taller.

Jody disagrees, but Buffy turns out to be correct, proving once again that she’s the brains in this duo.

"You weakened the lateral resistance," Uncle Bill observes to Jody.

“You weakened the lateral resistance,” Uncle Bill observes to Jody.

Sigh–I love it when he talks physics.

A euphoric Cissy breezes in and starts squeeing about Charlie.

A euphoric Cissy breezes in and starts squeeing about Charlie.

Bill and the twins don’t know who Charlie is. With an eye roll, Cissy informs them that he’s the only Charlie in the world–Charlie Higgins of Charlie and the Unsung Heroes.

That rings a bell for Buffy--she's familiar with his song "Let's Go Swinging in My Yellow Submarine with a Purple Balloon."

That rings a bell for Buffy–she’s familiar with his song “Let’s Go Swinging in My Yellow Submarine with a Purple Balloon.”

Cissy tells Bill that Charlie asked her out for a date. Bill asks if this isn’t rather sudden, but she assures him that it’s a great honor to get an invitation from Charlie Higgins. He then asks if Charlie isn’t a little “sophisticated” for her, but she insists he’s sweet and shy.

Brian Keith adopts some great facial expressions in this scene.

I love Brian Keith’s facial expressions in this scene.

Cissy goes on to say that 19 girls fainted when Charlie played Madison Square Garden.

"If you like him, I'll like him," Bill says, though he slips in a "Maybe" under his breath.

“If you like him, I’ll like him,” Bill says, though he slips in a “Maybe” under his breath.

After Cissy leaves, Buffy announces that she’d like to skip her teenage years–she doesn’t want to be so excitable.

A cute line, but it causes me a painful wince thinking about Anissa Jones' future.

A cute line, but it makes me wince when I think about Anissa Jones’ future.

When Charlie shows up, his dress and manners are so conservative that even French can’t find fault.

When Charlie shows up, his dress and manners are so conservative that even French can't find fault with him.

“Hey, you sound English,” Charlie says, adding in his disarming style. “That’s kind of what we speak back in St. Louis but not really.”

(French gives a weird response: “I spent several years in Mayfair in service.” Makes it sound like he isn’t English but picked up the accent while working in London.)

Talking with Bill, Charlies continues in a humble vein.

Two years ago, he'd never even seen the inside of such a posh apartment, he admits.

Two years ago, he’d never even seen the inside of such a posh apartment.

“Now, I’m visiting like I belong here,” he says in astonishment.

When Bill notes how quickly Charlie achieved fame, Charlie shows that he’s fully aware of a teen idol’s short shelf-life.

"I could be a has-been at 20," he laments.

“I could be a has been at 20,” he laments.

(Around this point, I start to wonder if he’s not just but humble but clinically depressed.)

When Buffy averts her eyes from their guest to avoid fainting, Charlie even admits that his manager pays to "faint" at his concerts.

When Buffy averts her eyes from their guest to avoid fainting, Charlie even admits that his manager pays girls to “faint” at his concerts.

When the twins ask him how you write a song, he says you have to start with something beautiful…

...like Cissy.

…like Cissy.

Bill’s impressed enough that he gives the couple permission to go out. Charlie asks when he should have Cissy home, and Bill says 11 o’clock since it’s a school night.

He actually gets her home one minute early, which pleases French.

Charlie actually gets Cissy home one minute early, which pleases French.

Cissy’s predictably ecstatic about her evening. Fans overran the place they’d planned to go, so Cissy and Charlie got hot dogs and sneaked into a movie theater balcony.

He’s invited her out again, to a party this time, and Bill gives his blessing.

Later, he wonders aloud to French about what Cissy will do when Charlie moves on.

Later, he wonders aloud to French about what Cissy will do when Charlie moves on.

When party night arrives, Buffy and Jody watch Cissy get ready.

They tell her they like Charlie and don't mind if she marries him.

They tell her they like Charlie and don’t mind if she marries him.

The whole family seems excited about the date.

Bill gives Cissy a pair of sparkly clip-on earrings.

Bill gives Cissy a pair of sparkly clip-on earrings.

“May I venture to say that Master Charlie is a very lucky young man?” French asks as Cissy is leaving.

You may...but it sounds a little creepy.

You may…but it sounds a little creepy.

When the doorbell rings, Buffy and Jody want to rush out and see Charlie, but Bill asks if they wouldn’t rather let Cissy have a moment alone with him.

"Not particularly," Buffy answers, which leads into this week's twin hug scene.

“Not particularly,” Buffy answers, which leads into this week’s obligatory hug.

So what does a 1969 rock star party look like?

A lot of neatly dressed people sitting around on sofas, apparently.

A lot of neatly dressed people sitting around on sofas, apparently.

Charlie gets out his guitar and announces that’s he’s written a new song. Everyone can listen, but he’ll really be singing it for Cissy.

As the party guests bob their heads and tap their feet, he launches into the ballad he wrote just for her.

As the party guests bob their heads and tap their feet, he launches into the ballad he wrote just for her.

It’s a lucky thing for him that “Cissy” rhymes with “kiss me.”

Sample lyrics: "My world is aglow/My actions must show that I'm in love."

Sample lyrics: “My world is aglow/My actions must show that I’m in love.”

Listening, Cissy looks slightly pained--probably not the expression Kathy Garver was going for, but oh-so-appropriate nonetheless.

Listening, Cissy looks slightly pained–probably not the feeling Kathy Garver was going for, but appropriate nonetheless.

(The guests' expressions crack me up, too.)

(The guests’ expressions crack me up, too.)

When we next see Cissy, she really is pained. Charlie’s moved on to Boston and hasn’t been in touch for weeks. He didn’t even send a thank-you note when she sent him some cookies that French baked.

Buffy and Jody show a surprising passive-aggressive streak, torturing Cissy with comments like "Friends usually write" and "It doesn't take long to say thank you."

Buffy and Jody show a surprising passive-aggressive streak, torturing Cissy with comments like “Friends usually write” and “It doesn’t take long to say thank you.”

A letter from Charlie does arrive later that day–a form letter.

It even has blank space to fill in whatever gift Charlie is thanking the recipient for. Ouch.

It even has blank space to fill in whatever gift Charlie is thanking the recipient for. Ouch.

Cissy is sure that Charlie never even saw her letters or he would have replied personally. Bill tries to point out gently that Charlie would have written to her if he really cared about her, but Cissy still makes excuses for him.

“I was with him for two whole evenings, and I know how much I meant to him,” she says.

As a parent, hearing that statement might make me want to pry a little deeper into what went on those evenings.

He calls his office and orders Miss Grayson to track down Charlie or his manager in Boston.

In Bill’s case, though, it spurs him to action. He calls his office and orders Miss Grayson to track down Charlie or his manager in Boston.

Miss Grayson, huh? Did Miss Lee quit because she was tired of thankless assignments like this?

They get Charlie's phone number, but Cissy can't convince his secretary to put her through.

They get Charlie’s phone number, but Cissy can’t convince Charlie’s secretary to put her through.

The most the secretary will do is offer to ship her a free copy of “Cissy, My Love.” (Apparently, Charlie is offering it free to any girl named Cissy…so basically Cissy Houston and Bobby’s dance partner from the Lawrence Welk Show?)

Bill and Cissy won't give up. Through a complicated chain of connections, Bill makes contact with Charlie and takes Cissy to Boston to see him.

Bill and Cissy won’t give up. Through a complicated chain of connections, Bill makes contact with Charlie and takes Cissy to Boston to see him.

She gets cold feet when the moment arrives, so she asks Bill to meet Charlie first and see if he’s still interested.

Charlie's as pleasant and earnest as ever, but he's clearly not pining for Cissy.

Charlie’s as pleasant and earnest as ever, but he’s clearly not pining for Cissy.

He doesn’t even seem to feel awkward about introducing Bill to Pamela, the girl he’s writing a song for now.

That's going to be a challenge. "You make my heart go wham-ela?" "Don't let this be a sham-ela?"

That’s going to be a challenge. “You make my heart go wham-ela?” “Don’t let this be a sham-ela?”

(Pamela’s last name is Grayson, which makes me think that the writer just got confused when he had Bill refer to his secretary as Miss Grayson.)

Bill has to give Cissy the bad news that she’s “not exactly the love of (Charlie’s) life.”

In addition to feeling sad, Cissy is sorry that Bill spent so much time and energy helping her through a teenage romance "that's not really important to anyone."

In addition to feeling sad, Cissy is sorry that Bill spent so much time and energy helping her through a teenage romance “that’s not really important to anyone.”

“It’s important to you,” Bill replies.

Aww.

Aww.

Fortunately, it’s easy for Bill to cheer Cissy up. Since, like him, she goes for any halfway-presentable member of the opposite sex, he just brings home the son of a visiting business associate.

He asks Cissy to show Steve around the city. It's a school night, but he says missing a little sleep won't hurt her.

Bill asks Cissy to show Steve around the city. It’s a school night, but he says missing a little sleep won’t hurt her.

(Strangely, we never get a direct look at Steve’s face. Maybe producers thought the actor looked too old for Cissy, although he’s really only a year older than the actor playing Charlie.)

In the end, everyone's happy, including Buffy and Jody.

In the end, everyone’s happy, including Buffy and Jody.

They’ve started a second-grade fan club for Charlie, and now they can wear their club buttons again without Cissy bursting into tears.

Commentary

I always love a good Cissy episode! Bill’s the ultimate fantasy father for a teenage girl–dashing, sensitive, rich, and perfectly willing to use all his resources to further Cissy’s romance with a rock star.

Once again, Family Affair avoids the extremes that other shows might go for. Maybe it’s the years I spent watching Very Special Episodes of 1980s sitcoms, but I expect a pop star who’s so polite to adults to turn into a rape-drug-wielding monster when he gets a girl alone. Charlie is a perfectly nice guy who told Cissy right from the start how seriously she should take his attentions. It’s not his fault she didn’t listen.

Fun fact: Kathy Garver got a writing credit on "Cissy, My Love."

Kathy Garver got a writing credit on “Cissy, My Love.”

(Not sure who Richard Simon was, but Gary LeMel had an interesting career.)

Guest Cast

McGregor: Warren Berlinger. Charlie Higgins: Eddie Hodges. Pamela: Patricia Lee. Steve: Thomas Ormenyi.

Warren Berlinger, a nephew of Milton Berle, was in the original Broadway cast of Annie Get Your Gun. Later he appeared in Neil Simon’s first play, Come Blow Your Horn and both the stage and screen versions of Blue Denim. He popped up all over TV in the 1970s and 1980s. He also had Disney connections, with roles in Herbie the Love Bug and The Shaggy D.A. In 1965, he played Oscar Kilroy in a four-episode arc on Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color. That year, he also appeared in Billie, a ridiculous movie that I highly recommend to classic TV fans–what a cast.

Warren Berlinger

                          Warren Berlinger

Eddie Hodges also got his start on Broadway, playing Winthrop Paroo in the original cast of The Music Man. His first film role came in 1959’s A Hole in the Head; he and co-star Frank Sinatra sang “High Hopes” together. The next year, he starred in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn on the big screen before transitioning mostly into television roles. Like Berlinger, he appeared in Disney films–in Hodges’ case, Summer Magic and The Happiest Millionaire. He also had a modest recording career in the 1960s. You can find a lot of his songs on Youtube. You can even find a clip him performing on Swedish TV in the 1990s, and he doesn’t sound bad. In the years after this Family Affair episode, he quit show business and focused on his education, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees and building a new career as a mental health counselor.

I think Thomas Ormenyi became this Tom Ormeny, who is active in Los Angeles theater and has made appearances on shows such as Gray’s Anatomy and Mad Men.

Stay tuned…

I just wanted to apologize for not updating the blog lately due to family and professional obligations. On Friday, April 10, my Family Affair series will resume on a WEEKLY basis, and I will be reviving other popular features, too. As they said back in the day, don’t touch that dial…

Wishing a happy holiday to everyone celebrating Easter this weekend,
Amy

Family Affair Friday(ish): Season 3, Episode 24, “Speak for Yourself, Mr. French,” 3/17/1969

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Written by: Edmund Beloin and Henry Garson. Directed by: Charles Barton.

Before we dive into this week’s episode, I wanted to alert Family Affair fans that Kathy Garver has written a memoir called Surviving Cissy. It will be published in September and is available now for pre-order on Amazon. Check it out!

We open this week in the park, as Mr. French reminds Jody about an upcoming dental appointment.

Jody hopes he'll get his with a ball in the park so his loose tooth will come out. Then the dentist won't have to pull it.

Jody hopes he’ll get hit by a ball in the park so his loose tooth will come out. Then the dentist won’t have to pull it.

French assures Jody that the dentist won’t be pulling any teeth–he’ll only be checking Jody’s bite.

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“Bite him good,” Buffy urges.

(She has a bit of a biting fixation–remember her early encounter with French?)

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That night at dinner, Bill reproves Jody for not eating his meat.

Jody claims his mouth hurts too much from the dentist, but Cissy disputes this.

The dentist only made a wax impression of Jody's teeth, she says. Any pain Jody's in is purely psychosomatic.

The dentist only made a wax impression of Jody’s teeth, she says. Any pain is purely psychosomatic.

Someone’s been paying attention in psychology class again, I see.

The word "psychosomatic" leaves the twins predictable clueless.

The word “psychosomatic” leaves the twins predictable clueless.

"It's all in your head," Cissy explains.

“It’s all in your head,” Cissy explains.

Of course it’s all in his head, Jody agrees–that’s where his teeth are. Ba-dum-bump.

Somehow, the conversation shifts to Cissy’s intention to become a nurse. That surprises Bill, who notes that she wanted to be an actress the week before. (Cissy’s very practical plan is to become a nurse, then use her nursing salary to put herself through dramatic school.)

Buffy announces that she wants to be a secretary, which finally leads us into this week’s main story.

Buffy wants to be like Miss Travers, a pretty young secretary that French met in the park that day.

Buffy wants to be like Miss Travers, a pretty young secretary that French met in the park that day.

French explains to Bill that Miss Travers recognized the twins’ names when she heard French talking to them. She’s a secretary at a construction company, and her boss is an acquaintance of Bill’s.

Well, Buffy and Jody are rather odd names, so I guess that makes sense.

Bill's attempts to recall Miss Travers to mind are amusing. Is she the one that's very short  and a little too...?

Bill’s attempts to recall Miss Travers to mind are amusing. Is she the one that’s very short and a little too…?

He gestures with his hands, ever so briefly, in the way that conveys the ampleness of the female form.

Oh no, French replies, in a slightly salacious and un-French-like way. Emily Travers is not "too" anything--she's just right.

Oh no, French replies, in a slightly salacious and un-French-like way. Emily Travers is not “too” anything–she’s just right.

Bill finally remembers her as an attractive blond with blue eyes, but French says they are aquamarine–“the limip hue one associates with tropical reefs in the Caribbean.”

Picking up on French's infatuation with Miss Travers, Cissy says she wishes a boyfriend would describe her eyes so poetically.

Picking up on French’s infatuation with Miss Travers, Cissy says she wishes a boyfriend would describe her eyes so poetically.

Buffy adds to French’s embarrassment by observing that he and Emily shook hands for a long time before parting.

“I don’t know which one was holding on,” she says. “Maybe both.”

As usual, Bill finds some amusement in French's discomfort.

As usual, Bill takes some amusement in French’s discomfort.

Next, we find ourselves back in the park, this time with the British servant contingent.

French's encounter with Emily has already become gossip fodder for them.

French’s encounter with Emily has already become gossip fodder for them.

“He’s quite crackers about the young woman,” Mr. Tyburn burbles, noting that she is half French’s age.

"Let him chase her--he'll never catch her," a smug Hardcastle says.

“Let him chase her–he’ll never catch her,” a smug Hardcastle says.

Quick to defend her friend, Miss Faversham says she heard Miss Travers was doing the chasing. Tyburn and Hardcastle decide then that Miss Travers must be frumpy–“thick glasses and flat shoes.”

After Miss Faversham leaves, French comes along and endures some teasing from his frenemies.

After Miss Faversham leaves, French comes along and endures some teasing from his frenemies.

They aren’t laughing for long, though, because the woman in question soon makes an appearance.

Well, here she is--the long-awaited Emily.

Well, here she is–the long-awaited Emily.

French and Emily walk on, leaving behind two stunned butlers.

"They say that love is blind, but this is ridiculous," Hardcastle grumbles.

“They say that love is blind, but this is ridiculous,” Hardcastle grumbles.

Later, Bill comes home to wait for a long-distance business call and encounters Cissy.

He compliments her on cute outfit.

He compliments her on a cute outfit.

(I don’t think I share his opinion.)

She’s heading off to the library to study psychology with a cute boy, Freddie. She gets insulted, though, when Bill assumes that Freddie is her main focus, rather than studying.

"Freddie is incidental," she says, none to convincingly.

“Freddie is incidental,” she says, none to convincingly.

After she leaves, it’s not long before Bill hears a knock at the door.

It's Emily, ostensibly looking for French and bearing a present for Buffy and Jody.

It’s Emily, ostensibly looking for French and bearing a present for Buffy and Jody.

(The wardrobe in this scene makes it fitting that this episode first aired on St. Patrick’s Day.)

French and the kids are out, but Bill invites Emily in to talk for a few minutes.

She passes the present along to Bill and tells him how much she likes the children. Jody is "all boy," but so polite, and Buffy is adorable.

She passes the present along to Bill and tells him how much she likes the children. Jody is “all boy,” but so polite, and Buffy is adorable.

Bill deflects credit for their politeness, saying manners are French’s department.

Ignoring the reference to French, Emily gushes that she has admired Bill from a distance for years.

Ignoring the reference to French, Emily gushes that she has admired Bill from a distance for years.

He’s surprised, but she tells him how impressive it is that a busy professional like him with no parenting experience took on the job of raising three children.

Modestly, Bill says that he and French do all right with the kids.

Modestly, Bill says that he and French do all right with the kids.

(It’s nice how he considers French a co-parent.)

Sometimes, they probably need a woman’s touch around the house, Bill admits.

He's not flirting, although it may read that way on paper.

He’s not flirting, although it may read that way on paper.

“Maybe someday you’ll find just the right girl,” Emily replies.

Now, she's definitely flirting.

Now, she’s definitely flirting.

Oh, dear.

When French and the kids return, Emily is gone. The twins play with her gift, a game of quoits.

When French and the kids return, Emily is gone. The twins play with her gift, a game of quoits.

(That’s not a term I’m familiar with. I would have called it ring-toss, I guess.)

French takes a moment to talk to Bill about Emily. He asks whether Bill finds it odd that such a young and attractive girl is interested in him.

French takes a moment to talk to Bill about Emily. He asks whether Bill finds it odd that such a young and attractive girl is interested in him.

Bill assures French that many women prefer older men.

Relieved, French decided to ask Emily to accompany him to the theater for an outing with the British gang to see The Barretts of Wimpole Street.

Emily enjoys the play, finding that the traditional British reserve conceals a strong romantic streak.

Emily enjoys the play, finding that the traditional British reserve conceals a strong romantic streak.

(Tyburn, for his part, faults the play for “far too much display of sentiment.”)

When French leaves to get Emily some orangeade, Emily chats with Miss Faversham.

Miss F, who's feeling protective and perhaps a bit jealous, tries to suss out Emily's feelings for French.

Miss F tries to suss out Emily’s feelings for French.

Emily says she admires his style, which must have come from being around rich and sophisticated people so much.

Miss F notes that "working among them" would be a more accurate description.

Miss F notes that “working among them” would be a more accurate description.

Nevertheless, Emily responds, French has traveled the world. She herself has been nowhere.

She wants to see the world, but not as a tourist, she explains. She wants to be one of the beautiful people--like Mr. Davis' friends.

She wants to see the world, but not as a tourist, she explains. She wants to be one of the beautiful people–like Mr. Davis’ friends.

Of course it’s not possible on a secretary’s salary, she adds.

"Well, you're young yet," Miss F observes drily, and Emily replies that she plans to make the most of it.

“Well, you’re young yet,” Miss F observes drily. Emily agrees–and says she plans to make the most of it.

Returning from the theater, Miss F meets Bill in the apartment building lobby.

She asks Bill what he thinks of Emily. Typically taciturn, he only says that she seems nice and pretty.

She asks Bill what he thinks of Emily. Typically taciturn, he only says that she seems nice and pretty.

She says she thinks French is falling in love with the girl, and Bill admits that wouldn’t surprise him.

Miss F claims that her womanly intuition gives her a bad feeling about Emily's motives.

Miss F claims that her womanly intuition gives her a bad feeling about Emily’s motives.

She’s afraid Emily doesn’t care one bit about French. “Isn’t it possible,” she asks, “that she isn’t after the gentleman’s gentleman, but after the gentleman?”

Bill finds this conversation all kinds of awkward.

Bill finds this conversation all kinds of awkward.

He seems to take it to heart, however.

Later, French returns bubbling with enthusiasm about Emily and the passion they share for Browning and Keats.

Later, French returns bubbling with enthusiasm about Emily and the passion they share for Browning and Keats.

The next day, Bill pays a visit to Emily’s office.

He tells her he feels unsure about what he wants to say and hopes he doesn't come across as a "fathead."

He tells her he feels unsure about what he wants to say and hopes he doesn’t come across as a “fathead.”

You can feel Emily’s hopes rising that he’s about to make some kind of pass.

Instead, he begins to quiz her about her feelings for French.

Instead, he quizzes her about her feelings for French.

When she’s vague, he tells her how happy French has been since meeting her. Emily wonders why that’s a bad thing.

French is way up on a cloud, Bill says. If he falls off, it will be a long drop.

Emily says she considers French her friend, like Buffy and Jody and Cissy.

Emily says she considers French her friend, like Buffy and Jody and Cissy.

(Hey, when did she meet Cissy?)

Bill says French is much more serious. He wouldn’t be surprised if he starts shopping for a ring soon. How would that make Emily feel?

“Flattered,” is all she can come up with.

When Bill asks where that leaves French, a chastened Emily says, "Nowhere, Mr. Davis."

When Bill asks where that leaves French, a chastened Emily says, “Nowhere, Mr. Davis.”

She promises she won’t let things get that far, and a relieved Bill tells her he thinks she’s okay. She says she’s not so sure.

Later, French is waiting around the park for another chance to see Emily.

Later, French is waiting around the park for another chance to see Emily.

He’s been there so long that Buffy and Jody are bored and want to leave and do their homework.

When he's just about given up, he finally sees Emily coming.

When he’s just about given up, he finally sees Emily approaching.

(She loves that green suit, doesn’t she?)

She wastes no time in telling him that she won't be seeing him again. She doesn't want to give explanations and hopes he'll accept this as final.

She wastes no time in telling him that she won’t be seeing him again. She doesn’t want to give explanations and hopes he’ll accept this as final.

Heartbroken but ever-the-gentleman, French does so.

At home, French tells Bill what happened and conjectures that Emily found someone else.

At home, French tells Bill what happened and conjectures that Emily found someone else.

Bill comforts him by saying that while it hurts now, he will soon recover.

French surprises Bill by saying that, on the contrary, he feels wonderful--he's just had the best week of his life.

French surprises Bill by saying that, on the contrary, he feels wonderful–he’s just had the best week of his life.

Commentary

This isn’t the kind of episode that would have appealed to me as a child. The kids’ roles are incidental (like Freddie), and the script’s light on humor. Surprisingly, we don’t even get many good Frenchisms. But as an adult what I most appreciate is the episode’s restraint. Other shows might have gone for melodrama, making a Emily a conniving femme fatale and having French undergo the humiliation of discovering her true motives. Instead, Emily comes across as young and misguided. Leslie Parrish’s acting in the final scene with Uncle Bill, as Emily becomes ashamed of her actions, is nicely subtle. Heather Angel also does a good job of conveying Miss F’s concern about French, along with just a touch of jealousy. (I’m on Team Fraversham, all the way!)

We get a new spin on Uncle Bill's famous head rubs this week--the one-fingered version.

We get a new spin on Uncle Bill’s famous head rubs this week–the one-fingered version.

Inconsistency Alert

Miss Faversham mentions Peter as the child she’s watching. Didn’t his family let her go?

Guest Cast
Emily Travers: Leslie Parrish. Mr. Hardcastle: Noel Drayton. Mr. Tyburn: Leslie Randall. Miss Faversham: Heather Angel.

Leslie Parrish was one of those promising mid-century starlets who never quite broke through to full-fledged stardom. Her most memorable film appearance was as Jocelyn Jordan in The Manchurian Candidate. She also played Daisy Mae in the 1959 musical Lil Abner. Her TV roles included three Batman appearances and the Star Trek episode “Who Mourns for Adonais?” Later, she ended up in some B movies such as 1975’s The Giant Spider Invasion. She retired from acting in the late 1970s, around the time she married Richard Bach, author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull. (They divorced 20 years later.)

Let's end with some Uncle Bill eye candy, just because.

Let’s end with some Uncle Bill eye candy, just because.

Everything is Gray: Five Moral Lessons from Naked City

Classic TV Detectives Blogathon bannerIn an Italian restaurant near the New York City Criminal Court Building, Detective Adam Flint is brooding about the nature of guilt.

“I deal with guilt every day, and it’s been years I thought about what it really is,” he muses to his actress fiancée Libby.

At this moment, Detective Flint has good reason to wonder. He’s in the restaurant during the lunch recess of a murder trial—the re-trial, actually, of a thief and murderer named Joseph Creeley. Detective Flint apprehended Creeley years earlier, in a violent confrontation that followed Creeley’s robbery of a jewelry store. In the course of the robbery, Creeley killed the old man who owned the store and permanently crippled his widow.

Flint is a prosecution witness in this trial, as he was in the previous one that sent Creeley to death row. But this time, Flint is hoping that the defense will prevail.

You see, shortly before Creeley’s scheduled execution, doctors found a tumor growing in the criminal’s brain. When they removed it, they also removed the past 10 years from Creeley’s memory, as well as the violent impulses that took over his life in the months leading up to the robbery.

Creeley’s defense attorney is arguing that the tumor caused that violent behavior—that the tumor, in fact, was the real murderer.

230px-Title_Card_to_Naked_City_(TV_Series_1958-1963)

This kind of complicated moral dilemma is a defining feature of Naked City, which began life as a half-hour series based closely on the 1948 Mark Hellinger film of the same name. John McIntire recreated Barry Fitzgerald’s role as the wise and experience Lieutenant Muldoon and dimply James Franciscus played rookie detective Jimmy Halloran.

Like the motion picture Naked City, the series filmed in New York City, largely on the city’s streets.

Critics embraced it from the beginning.

UPI’s William Ewald praised the show’s layered treatment of crime and justice: “It recognizes that not all juvenile delinquents are punks, that violence is a symptom of something out of joint, that life isn’t merely a matter of the good guys versus the bad guys. And although its plots are usually thin, sorrow and pity wash over its flesh. It faces up to the human condition, unlike slicker action shows…”

The show died after one season. Producer Herbert Leonard and frequent writer Stirling Silliphant went on to create another acclaimed series, Route 66, then got the green light to revive Naked City in an hour-long format.

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Debuting in 1960, this version starred Paul Burke as sensitive young Detective Adam Flint opposite Horace McMahon’s crusty Lieutenant Mike Parker. (Harry Bellaver played another 65th precinct officer, Detective Frank Arcaro, throughout both versions of the series.)

This version aired for three seasons, and its 1963 cancellation surprised its cast and outraged critics.

In a way, though, it seems fitting that Naked City died when it did, before the assassination of John F. Kennedy ended the brief era of idealism it represents, and before the rapid cultural shifts of the late 1960s polarized our national discourse in ways that still reverberate today.

Naked City’s vision of the human experience is as complex as the city in which its stories unfold, as varied as those 8 million people who populate it.

Since this is the Classic TV Detectives Blogathon, I prepared by focusing on the detectives themselves. This isn’t easy because Naked City does not dwell on its officers’ backstories and personal motivations. In Season One, we get occasional glimpses of Detective Halloran’s wife; she mostly waits at home and worries about him. Subsequent seasons give a more substantial role to Detective Flint’s fiancée Libby, who’s living a proto-That Girl life as an aspiring actress. Nancy Malone imbues Libby with warmth and intelligence, and she and Paul Burke make Libby and Adam a believable couple. Libby still mostly exists to be a sounding board and solace for Adam, though.

Adam and Libby in their typical attitudes--he worrying about work, she worrying about him.

Adam and Libby in their typical attitudes–he worrying about work, she worrying about him.

As I watched episodes whose events touched the show’s detectives in a more personal way than usual, I learned little about their lives but a lot about the moral vision that guides them—and, by extension, the show itself:

1. “Everything is gray.”
Those are the words that Joseph Creeley mutters as he awakens after surgery and finds a 10-year void in his memory. Struggling with the nature of guilt, Adam repeats these words during his lunch with Libby. His ability to see so many sides to an issue frustrates him, although Libby assures him it’s one of his finest qualities.

This is one of Naked City’s finest qualities, too. Its stories evoke a measure of our sympathy for nearly every character, even those we first encounter during brutal acts of violence.

Consider this 10-minute opening sequence from 1961’s “Requiem for a Sunday Afternoon.” We feel the wronged husband’s pain but can’t see the young man dragged into this situation (Burt Reynolds!) as a villain. We can even find some understanding for the wife, trapped in a marriage she never wanted.

2. When you want to know who you are, look inward.

In “Bullets Cost Too Much,” Adam endures the shifting winds of public opinion. Paying a visit to a bar that hasn’t been closing on time, he witnesses an armed robbery. A mouthy drunk gets in the thieves’ way and gets shot, while Adam sits and watches, unable to intervene without endangering other bar patrons. The thieves get away, although Adam shoots one during the escape.

The jeering crowds that gather around Adam even toss out the ultimate Cold War-era insult, comparing him to Communist security forces.

The jeering crowds that gather around Adam even toss out the ultimate Cold War-era insult, likening him to Communist security forces.

In a parallel story, the doctor brother of one of the thieves struggles with his conscience as he treats the wounded man and avoids alerting the authorities.

In the end, Adam helps capture the thieves and earns headlines as glowing as previous ones were critical.

nc bullets 2

Libby frames both to remind Adam to rely on his own sense of integrity, rather than external assessments.

(In the show’s typically complex way, we are left to doubt whether Adam’s original judgment in the bar was correct. The doctor’s girlfriend, a sympathetic and unbiased character, tells Libby that she studied bar diagrams closely and believes that Adam could have used the element of surprise to save the drunk’s life.)

3. “Life is precious, every hour of it.”

Those are Adam’s words in the Joseph Creeley trial, as he explains why he authorized Creeley’s risky brain surgery. (Unable to decide for himself about the surgery, Creeley had given Adam his power of attorney.)

Adam’s reverence for life faces its toughest test in “Prime of Life” when Lieutenant Parker orders him to witness an execution.

As moments pass slowly in the death chamber, Adam has flashbacks to the condemned man’s crime, as well as to his own agonized soul-searching in the weeks leading up to the execution.

As moments pass slowly in the death chamber, Adam has flashbacks to the condemned man’s crime, as well as to his own agonized soul-searching in the weeks leading up to the execution.

After the execution, as Adam drives away from the prison, we are left to reflect on the words Lieutenant Parker used when tasking Adam with this duty: “That gun you carry gives you the power of life and death…maybe it’s a good thing to think about life and death.”

4. “We are all responsible for each other.”

Describing a 1958 episode about juvenile delinquency, TV critic Fred Remington described the main character’s problem as “a terrible, aching loneliness.”

Naked City rarely attaches labels or diagnoses to its criminals, but a lack of human connection seems to drive many of them.

In the first-season episode “ And a Merry Christmas to the Force on Patrol,” an officer subbing for Detective Halloran on Christmas Eve gets shot during a liquor store stake-out. One thief, Marco, is captured, but he refuses to help police identify or locate his brother. Halloran is shaken and angry, but Lieutenant Muldoon takes a softer approach. When Marco learns that his brother was shot while fleeing, Marco breaks down and tells Muldoon where to find him.

Later, Muldoon has to return to Marco’s cell to inform him that his brother died before police got to him.

Marco, shattered that his brother died alone, reaches out to the only person can—Muldoon.

Marco, shattered that his brother died alone, reaches out to the only person can—Muldoon.

(By the way, Frank Sutton plays Marco. If, like me, you know him mainly as Sergeant Carter in Gomer Pyle, his dramatic acting in this and other Naked City episodes will amaze you.)

“We are all responsible for each other,” is what Adam tells Libby after the Joseph Creeley case goes to the jury. She doubts whether she could handle the responsibility of deciding a man’s fate, but Adam argues that judging and being judged is part of our human compact.

5. There are no easy answers—and sometimes no answers at all.

Naked City doesn’t paint criminals as monsters, but it does not downplay crime’s horror. When violence erupts on this show, it is usually sudden and brutal.

The 1962 episode “A Case Study of Two Savages” has a particularly high body count. Arkansas’ Ansel Boake (Rip Torn) arrives in New York with his teenage bride and begins shooting everyone who gets in his way. This includes Detective Frank Arcaro, who merely stops to tell the youth that his license plate is loose.

This gun store owner, relishing Ansel's country bumpkin humor, has only a few seconds left to live.

This gun store owner, relishing Ansel’s country bumpkin humor, has only a few seconds left to live.

A convalescing Arcaro tells Adam to find out why the young man shot him. When police finally catch up with Ansel and kill him during a bank robbery, his wife (Tuesday Weld) can’t offer much of an answer.

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“Just for the hell of it, I guess,” she says.

Likewise, Jimmy Halloran comes up short during the first-season episode “Burst of Passion,” which concerns the kind of mass shooting we see all too often today. Jimmy’s friendly, church-going neighbor snaps, embarking on a shooting rampage. Witnesses debate the killer’s mental state, while Jimmy tracks the man down to the deserted off-season environs of Coney Island. (I love the scenery in this one.)

Halloran ends up shooting his neighbor; before dying, the man rambles semi-coherently about mankind’s failures and the need to begin again.

We’re left with narrator’s observation that sometimes there are no answers, at least not comforting ones.

We get no answers in the Joseph Creeley case, either.

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After the jury gets the case, Adam and Libby leave it and the New York Criminal Court Building behind. Due to his faith in the jury system, Adam conveys a renewed sense of peace.

My first reaction on watching this episode was annoyance that we didn’t learn the jury’s decision. Then I realized that this story’s thorny moral dilemma doesn’t lend itself to a simple answer—it is something viewers need to think through for themselves.

In the world of Naked City, asking questions is more important than finding answers.

Read more entries from the Classic TV Detectives Blogathon.