Family Affair Friday: Season 3, Episode 8, “The Unsound of Music,” 11/18/1968

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

This is the first Family Affair episode whose original air date falls after my birth. I don’t think I was watching much TV my first few days, though.

We open in a nightclub, where a red-haired woman is singing.

Or at least lip-syncing awkwardly to what may or may not be her own voice.

Or at least lip-syncing awkwardly to what may or may not be her own voice.

Hey, it’s that lady who was on Match Game sometimes–presumably when Fannie Flagg wasn’t available.

It seems she's one Bill's squeezes. When she finishes her set and joins him, they reminisce about the times they've shared in London, Paris, Madrid, and Acapulco.

Here, her name is Julie Madden, and it seems she’s one of Bill’s squeezes. When she finishes her set and joins him, they reminisce about the times they’ve shared in London, Paris, Madrid, and Acapulco.

Unlike some of Bill’s girlfriends, she shows an interest in his kids. She wants to know if Jody still likes finger-painting and Buffy still has the “funny-looking doll with the glasses.” (Bill, who has strangely specific ideas of age-appropriateness, says boys give up finger-painting around age 6, and Buffy will probably give up Mrs. Beasley at age 10.) He encourages Julie to come and visit the kids soon.

The next morning at breakfast, Bill gives Cissy an autographed copy of Julie’s latest album.

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Cissy, who has entered her unfortunate side-bow period, observes with a trace of snarkiness that Julie has been making a comeback lately. Bill responds that he didn’t know she ever left.

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Here’s the album, in all its “living stereo” glory.

Buffy is taken with the idea of being a recording artist and asks Bill if he would be proud of her if she was a famous singer. Unwisely, he says yes. (With “I’m always proud of you” he might have saved himself some trouble.)

That day in school, Buffy is so excited about music class that she's singing under her breath before the music teacher even arrives.

That day in school, Buffy is so excited about music class that she’s singing under her breath before the music teacher even arrives.

When the teacher does show up (for what she calls the children’s first music lesson–don’t you think they would have been having music class throughout the school year?), she announces that she’s forming a girls’ glee club.

Buffy can't wait to show off her skills.

Buffy can’t wait to show off her skills.

Unfortunately, when the class starts singing “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean,” we find out that Buffy has no skills.

Miss Cummings' face says it all.

Miss Cummings’ face says it all.

In fact, she finds Buffy’s singing so offensive that she asks Buffy to step out into the hall with her for a moment. That’s never good.

Miss Cummings explains that Buffy’s singing is off-key, and that when one person sings off-key, the “harmony of the composition is destroyed.” She suggests that Buffy just move her lips while everyone else is singing.

Harsh.

Harsh.

A miserable Buffy gets through music class and, surprisingly, still tries out for the girls’ glee club after school. She’s unsuccessful, of course.

She's unsuccessful of course.

She asks French if he thinks Julie Madden used to “mix everyone up” with her singing when she first got started.

French says it’s possible; no one achieves instant perfection.

Tucking Buffy in that night, Bill notices how sad she is.

Tucking Buffy in that night, Bill notices how sad she is.

When he asks her to smile, this is the best she can do.

When he asks her to smile, this is the best she can do.

When she asks Bill if he still likes her, even though she didn’t make the glee club, he has a cute response: “Yeah. I even sort of love you.”

He tries to get her to shake off her defeat, but when she can’t, he promises to try to get her into the glee club. (That’s his second mistake in this episode.)

He arranges for Julie to teach her, but Buffy doesn't improve with teaching.

He arranges for Julie to teach her, but Buffy doesn’t improve with teaching.

We'll let French's face sum things up this time.

We’ll let French’s face sum things up this time.

It’s amusing to watch Anissa Jones try to sing as badly as possible.

When Bill comes home, Julie tell him that Buffy is a hopeless case.

When Bill comes home, Julie tells him that Buffy is a hopeless case.

It’s up to Bill to break the news to Buffy.

After he explains that everyone has different talents, and that lots of people can't sing, Buffy seems to accept her limitations.

After he explains that everyone has different talents, and that lots of people can’t sing, Buffy seems to accept her limitations.

Well, that wrapped up quickly. What do we do with the 12 minutes we have left?

Actually, Buffy is still a bit upset, as we see at school the next day when she mopes on the playground.

Jody, in supportive brother mode, tries to comfort her.

Jody, in supportive brother mode, tries to comfort her.

He tells her that he can sing, and since she’s his twin, she should be able to sing, too.

When he demonstrates his singing, it attracts the music teacher's attention.

When he demonstrates his singing, it attracts the music teacher’s attention. She seems strangely excited about singing that is passable at best.

She wants Jody to sing a solo at Parents’ Night. This not only adds salt to Buffy’s wounds but upsets Jody, as well. He doesn’t want to be a “sissy” and sing with the glee club girls.

With Buffy willing but unable to sing and Jody able but unwilling, Bill finds himself at a loss.

With Buffy willing but unable to sing and Jody able but unwilling, Bill finds himself at a loss.

He asks French what “the child-raising books” say about such a situation. (It amuses me that French is the keeper of “the child-raising books.”)

Bill tells Jody he doesn’t have to sing, but Bill would be proud of him if he did. As needy as these kids always are for approval, it’s no surprise that Jody gives in. He doesn’t really seem to mind much, since he’s grinning by the end of the scene.

At least I think this is a grin.

At least I think this is a grin.

Buffy is feeling better, too. The music teacher has given her a role in the Parents’ Night concert–as page-turner at the piano.

The night of the show, after the be-sashed glee club performs, Buffy introduces Jody for his solo.

The night of the show, after the be-sashed glee club performs, Buffy introduces Jody for his solo.

He screeches out a tune called "Every Little Boy Can Be President."

He screeches out a tune called “Every Little Boy Can Be President.”

If you asked a little kid to come up with a song about U.S. presidents on the spur of the moment, it might resemble this annoying ditty. George Washington…Thomas Jefferson….Abe-Abe-Abraham Lincoln…cherry tree…log cabin. It ends with several shrill repeats of the question “Why not me?” I was asking “Why me?” by the end.

(It would be fun to think that seven-year-old Barack Obama saw this episode when it originally aired. Unfortunately, he was living in Indonesia at the time.)

The Davis family enjoys the performance though. (I like the way Brian Keith looks proud but slightly bemused, as well.)

I like the way Brian Keith looks proud but slightly bemused by Jody’s performance.

The episode ends with Buffy asking whether anyone ever made the cover of a record album by turning music pages.

Commentary

This episode feels choppy, with everyone’s problems resolving more quickly and easily than they should. I suppose it was just an excuse for Johnny Whitaker to sing that dreadful song, which was released as a single.

Continuity Note

Bill mentions Buffy’s ballet performance as Little Red Riding Hood.

Inconsistency Alert

We’ve heard Buffy sing before. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as her efforts in this episode.

Guest Cast

Julie Madden: Kaye Stevens. Miss Scranton: Irene Hervey. Miss Cummings: Joan Vohs.

When I was a kid, I would see people like Kaye Stevens on game shows and wonder what they were famous for. Well, according to her 2011 obituary, Kaye Stevens “performed a solo cabaret act at some of the most celebrated clubs and showrooms in the nation, including Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas and the Plaza Hotel’s Persian Room in New York City.” She often performed with the Rat Pack, and she helped Bob Hope entertain the troops in Vietnam. She also had a five-year stint on Days of Our Lives in the 1970s. Later in life, she was active in Christian ministries.

Irene Hervey in her heyday.

Irene Hervey in her heyday.

Irene Hervey was the mother of another nightclub singer, Jack Jones. Hervey appeared in feature films such as Destry Rides Again in the 1930s, then transitioned into B movies and television. She had a recurring role as Aunt Meg on Honey West. A year after this episode aired, she received an Emmy nomination for a guest appearance on My Three Sons.

Bonus Feature

I’m really sorry that Johnny Whitaker’s song from this episode isn’t on Youtube. If you really want to hear him sing, though, there’s always this.

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4 thoughts on “Family Affair Friday: Season 3, Episode 8, “The Unsound of Music,” 11/18/1968

  1. Orschel52 says:

    I can’t sing – my 1st grade (!) teacher made that very clear, rather mockingly. My brother can sing – even played in one of the first rock bands founded in my town in the wake of ‘The Beatles’. My mother is as talent-free as I am, while my dad was able to sing and played the violin. Thus, musical skills were handed out pretty inequitably to the male and female members of my family, like they were to Buffy and Jody, in spite of their being twins.

    French’s reaction to Buffy’s ‘performance’ is simply great, isn’t it?

    As a side note: this week, I obtained the recently released second (and last) German Family Affair DVD box so that I now have all 70 original episodes aired 68-72, i.e. after more than 45 years I can now watch the Christmas episode up to the very last scene!. Funny thing about the present episode: I was 100% convinced that ‘The Unsound…’ was one of those 70 original episodes. I clearly remembered Jody (i.e. Johnny Whitaker and not his German voice) singing this ‘President’ song and realizing for the first time that singing parts are not dubbed. (‘My Bonny …’ was dubbed, though, I guess because, unlike the ‘President’, it is a well known song in Germany that is taught to all English beginners classes). But ‘The Unsound…’ is not included on any DVD of the set! So I rewatched the episode I videoed in the 90s and found that it featured that awfully poor RTL dubbing!!! So much for remembering something well! However, despite all the evidence, I’m still not quite convinced…. It would have been so very late in my life to realize this song dubbing thing for the first time!!!

    • Amy says:

      I can’t sing, either, so I really shouldn’t complain about Johnny Whitaker. In my family, the musical talent was handed out fairly–no one got any!

      That’s mysterious about the dubbing. I’m famous for misremembering things I saw on TV long ago, but maybe in your case there is another explanation.

  2. I liked your reference to Buffy’s “side-bow period”.

    The reaction screencaps you’ve posted are hilarious!

    • Amy says:

      This episode definitely has some great facial expressions–some intentional and some not, such as during Kaye Stevens’ singing.

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