Family Affair Friday: Season 3, Episode 7, “Christmas Came a Little Early,” 11/11/1968

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Written by: Elroy Schwartz. Directed by: Charles Barton.

On Easter weekend, it’s fitting that we have a holiday episode this week, even if that holiday is Christmas. As the title and air date indicate, however, this isn’t exactly a Christmas episode.

We open this episode in the classroom, where the twins are studying geography.

We begin in the classroom, where the twins are studying geography.

Buffy knows that Central America lies between Mexico and South America. (The twins’ IQ fluctuates wildly from episode to episode; she’s having a relatively smart week.)

Buffy can’t name the countries of Central America, though. Only one of Miss Cummings’ students can.

The disembodied voice of Jan Brady!

It’s the disembodied voice of Jan Brady!

Actually, the student is Eve, a sickly child who’s sort of teleconferencing in from home. I wonder if any real schools actually offered this service. When I was growing up, kids who couldn’t come to school got “home-bound instruction” from a tutor.

Later, Miss Cummings asks Buffy to stop by Eve's apartment after school to drop off a new textbook.

Later, Miss Cummings asks Buffy to stop by Eve’s apartment after school to drop off a new textbook.

None of the kids have ever seen Eve, and Buffy is a bit reluctant to make her acquaintance.

“It’s hard to like someone who knows all the answers,” she observes.

When she actually meets Eve, though, she hits it off with her immediately.

Eve's sick room has the same creepy clown artwork as the hospital children's ward we saw when Buffy had her tonsillectomy. Don't sick children have enough to worry about?!

Eve’s sick room has the same creepy clown artwork as the hospital children’s ward we saw when Buffy had her tonsillectomy. Don’t sick children have enough to worry about?!

Eve asks Buffy if she can stay for a while. Buffy says she can if she calls Mr. French to let him know. That leads to an amusing exchange:

Eve: Who’s he?

Buffy: Well, he’s not exactly our butler…and he’s not exactly our nanny… and he’s not exactly a relative.

 Eve: Oh.

Buffy: “Oh” what?

Eve: I don’t know who he is.

Buffy: Oh.

Eve: “Oh” what?

Buffy: I still have to call him, whoever he is.

The girls have fun playing word games, a favorite pastime for Eve. Though she looks fairly robust, she's apparently too weak to get out of bed.

The girls have fun playing word games, a favorite pastime for Eve. Though she looks fairly robust, she’s apparently too weak to get out of bed.

(Another creepy clown on the dresser–yikes!)

Eve says doctors haven’t been able to help her, but Buffy assures her that Uncle Bill can fix anything. Oh, dear.

That night at dinner, she tells Bill about Eve and re-states her confidence in his ability to fix the situation.

That night at dinner, she tells Bill about Eve and re-states her confidence in his ability to fix the situation.

That earns a big sigh from Bill, who tries unsuccessfully to explain that some problems are beyond his capabilities.

Some time later, Bill goes to the Bowers’ home to pick up Buffy and Jody, who have been playing with Eve.

It's an awkward moment when Mrs. Bowers describes how Buffy has been promising Eve that he could help.

It’s an awkward moment when Mrs. Bowers describes how Buffy has been promising Eve that he could help.

After meeting Eve, Bill goes above and beyond the call of duty by arranging for an eminent physician he knows to examine her. He even tells the doctor to bill him, while explaining to the Bowers family that a research foundation will pick up the cost.

Random fashion note: Nice tam, Buffy.

Random fashion note: Nice tam, Buffy.

Mr. and Mrs Bowers tell Bill that his efforts have given them renewed hope.

Mr. and Mrs Bowers tell Bill that his efforts have given them renewed hope.

“To have a little hope again is a wonderful thing,” Mr. Bowers says. Unfortunately, that hope doesn’t last long.

Dr. Flanders and a nurse bring Eve home.

Dr. Flanders returns with Eve. (Her blanket looks like Buffy’s tam outfit.)

Wait, Eve has been at the hospital having medical tests while her parents chat with Bill? And a doctor and a nurse brought her home? That’s odd.

As the nurse takes Eve to her room, a grim-faced Dr. Flanders delivers the bad news. “I wish you could tell you what you want to hear,” he says.

When Mr. Bowers asks, “How long?” the doctor has no real answer.

Eve’s decline from her unspecified illness is a rapid one, however.

One night, Mrs. Bowers drops by the Davis apartment to tell Bill that Buffy should probably stop visiting Eve.

One night, Mrs. Bowers drops by the Davis apartment to tell Bill that Buffy should probably stop visiting Eve.

Her daughter has grown “noticeably weaker,” Mrs. Bowers says, implying that the end is near. She thinks stopping the visits will make the situation less traumatic for Buffy.

Bill is moved that Mrs. Bowers is thinking about Buffy's feelings.

Bill is moved that Mrs. Bowers is thinking about Buffy’s feelings.

He tries to explain to Buffy that Eve may be too tired to play anymore.

Buffy argues that Eve needs a good friend now more than ever.

Buffy argues that Eve needs a good friend now more than ever.

“She would still come and visit me,” Buffy says.

Bill agrees that the friendship can continue.

One afternoon, when the kids return home from school, Bill makes a surprise announcement: They are going Christmas shopping.

One afternoon, when the kids return home from school, Bill makes a surprise announcement: They are going Christmas shopping.

The kids are, indeed, surprised, since it’s not particularly close to Christmas. Bill says an upcoming work project might take him to South America, and he won’t make it home in time for Christmas. He wants to celebrate early. He tells Buffy that they should include Eve in the party, and since Eve can’t leave her apartment, they will have the party there.

Cissy’s expression shows that she understands what’s really going on, but the twins seem to buy Bill’s story.

Soon the whole family is trimming a tree at the Bowers apartment.

Eve says it's the most beautiful tree she's ever seen.

Eve says it’s the most beautiful tree she’s ever seen.

She's seen some pretty ugly trees, I guess.

She’s seen some pretty ugly trees, I guess.

Jody thinks the tree look terrible–because it has no presents under it.

That's the cue for this strangely familiar Santa Claus to arrive.

That’s the cue for this strangely familiar Santa Claus to arrive.

He gives Eve a doll that delights her.

He gives Eve a doll that delights her.

The adults look on sadly, but the children seem oblivious.

The adults look on sadly, but the children seem oblivious.

When the Davises get home, and the kids are in bed, Bill helps French de-Santa-fy himself.

They express relief that Buffy and Jody were too young to understand the real reason for the early celebration.

They express relief that Buffy and Jody are too young to understand the real reason for the early celebration.

But when Bill goes out into the hallway, he hears sobs coming from the girls’ room.

The episode ends with Bill embracing Buffy, who obviously knew the truth all along.

The episode ends with Bill embracing Buffy, who obviously knew the truth all along.

Commentary

This episode is difficult for me to evaluate. The story idea is rather maudlin, and it is handled in a superficial way that doesn’t generate much real emotion in the viewer. On the other hand, it is so very Family Affair. Can you imagine any other sitcom from the same era telling this story? Especially in a (sort of) Christmas episode?!

I like the fact that the dialog is subtle; the episode conveys Eve’s fate through knowing glances and awkward pauses.

I can’t help wondering how Brian Keith, who had lost a young son, felt about this episode’s subject.

Guest Cast

Eve Bowers: Eve Plumb. Miss Cummings: Joan Vohs. Mrs. Bowers: Ann McCrea. Dr. Flanders: Ivan Bonar. Mr. Bowers: Paul Sorensen.

Eve Plumb, of course, would go on to play Jan Brady in The Brady Bunch, which debuted about 10 months after this episode aired. (“Christmas Came a Little Early” has another Brady connection–writer Elroy Schwartz is the son of Brady Bunch creator Sherwood Schwartz. This is the third of six Family Affair episodes Elroy Schwartz wrote.)

All the other guest actors are Family Affair “repeat offenders,” except Paul Sorensen. Late in his career, he had a recurring role in Dallas as Andy Bradley.

Family Affair Friday(ish): Season 3, Episode 6, “Oliver,” 11/5/1968

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Written by: Joseph Hoffman. Directed by: Charles Barton.

We start this episode with a familiar set-up: The kids rushing in from the park and overwhelming a busy Uncle Bill. This time, they’re babbling about a new friend they made in the park–Oliver.

Nope, not that Oliver. But the results will be similarly unlucky.

No, not that Oliver. But the results will be similarly unlucky.

Oliver’s family is going away for the weekend, and the kids want to know if he can stay over. The last time his family went away, they note, Oliver got a broken heart.

Bill thinks the boy sounds 'a little sensitive."

Bill thinks the boy sounds “a little sensitive.”

Buffy, in a total non-sequitur,  replies that Oliver is not exactly little. A distracted Bill doesn’t pick up on this odd comment and gives his permission for Oliver to stay.

(He’ll learn an important lesson here–in the future, talk to the other parents directly before issuing an invitation.)

The kids rush off to Buffy’s room, where their excitement gives way to guilt. Oliver, it seems, is a dog. The kids purposely avoided telling Bill the truth, while stopping just short of telling any actual lies. They manipulated him into agreeing to Oliver’s visit because they know Bill believes, as Jody says, “When a man gives his word, he keeps it, no matter what.”

Hmmm. They are craftier--and smarter--than they look.

Hmmm. They are craftier–and smarter–than they look.

Meanwhile, Bill gives French a heads-up that Oliver will be arriving soon.

When French fails to remember a child named Oliver, Bill says the kid probably goes by a nickname, like Skinny or Curly.

When French fails to remember a child named Oliver, Bill says the kid probably goes by a nickname, like Skinny or Curly.

Soon, however, they get to meet the mysterious Oliver.

Yay--a Scotty sighting!

Yay–a Scotty sighting!

“This great beast is Oliver?” French cries.

(Something about the way Sebastian Cabot says the word “beast” tickles me to no end. Luckily, this is the first of four times he’ll use it in this episode.)

Bill’s not amused about the situation. He says Oliver can’t stay because it’s against building rules. (This is debatable.)

The twins move back into manipulative mode.

“We don’t mind if you don’t keep your word,” Jody sighs.

“I guess that only goes for kids,” Buffy agrees.

Does this predicament leave Bill rubbing his head?

Yep?

Yep.

He gives in and says he’ll convince the apartment manager to let Oliver stay for a few days.

Cissy, who has just come in, shows her usual knack for stating the obvious.

Cissy, who has just come in, shows her usual knack for stating the obvious.

“That’s what I’d call a big dog!” she exclaims. (Oliver really is quite large. He’s downright Putin-worthy.)

That evening, the twins fret about whether Bill would still like them if he knew they tricked him.

I don't usually like big dogs, but Oliver looks cute here.

I don’t usually like big dogs, but Oliver looks cute here.

When Bill comes in to say goodnight, it becomes obvious that Oliver hates the sound of his voice. He hustles Jody off to bed, leaving Oliver with Buffy.

She tries to reason with the dog in an attempt to improve his relationship with Bill.

She tries to reason with the dog in an attempt to improve his relationship with Bill.

French was supposed to retrieve Oliver from Buffy’s room and confine him somewhere for the night.

Whatever he tries doesn't work, though. Oliver barges into Jody's bed in the middle of the night.

Whatever he tries doesn’t work, as Oliver later barges into Jody’s bed.

Jody hushes Oliver and tells him not to wake up Bill, who has a big meeting the next morning.

The, inexplicably, Jody barges into Bill's room and wakes him up himself.

The, inexplicably, Jody barges into Bill’s room and wakes him up himself.

(I wouldn’t want to share a twin bed with Oliver, either, but Jody could have moved to the sofa or the girls’ room if he didn’t want to disturb his uncle.)

A lonely Oliver then tries his luck in French's room.

A lonely Oliver then tries his luck in French’s room.

“How dare you take liberties?!” French shouts, sending Oliver scurrying for the door. (I bet it’s been a long time since anyone took liberties with Mr. French.)

Oliver, of course, winds up in Bill’s room. Does Bill get a good night’s sleep?

Nope.

Nope.

He can’t focus on his work, so he heads home to get some rest. (If one sleepless night throws Bill so far off his game, he’s lucky he missed the newborn stage of parenting. My daughter didn’t sleep through the night for two and a half years!)

Oliver doesn't give him a warm welcome.

He doesn’t exactly get a warm welcome from Oliver.

Bill and French discuss the situation and brainstorm ideas for getting through another night.

French’s first idea is having the dog stuffed, but he admits that might not be practical.

With a twinkle in his eye, he offers another suggestion: “Perhaps a sleeping pill in that beast’s great mound of meat, sir?”

Bill rejects that idea, too.

Finally, French volunteers to run the dog around the park to tire him out. “He will sleep the sleep of the well-worn beast,” French promises.

After an hour and thirty-one minutes--and, I suspect, little actual running--French thinks Oliver should be sufficiently exhausted.

After an hour and thirty-one minutes–and, I suspect, little actual running–French thinks Oliver should be sufficiently exhausted.

Oliver has other ideas, though–he spies another dog and takes off chasing it.

French feels guilty about letting Oliver get away, although Bill assures him that nothing human could hold the dog back.

Bill reports the disappearance to the proper authorities and waits by the phone for news.

Bill reports the disappearance to the proper authorities and waits by the phone for news.

Eventually, gets a call from an irate dress shop owner.

When the porter left the door open for a moment, Oliver chased a cat into the shop.

It seems that when the porter left the door open for a moment, Oliver chased a cat into the shop.

French and Bill have to head out before dawn to retrieve the dog..

The whole thing takes a predictable toll on Bill.

The whole thing takes a predictable toll on Bill.

He tries to explain what’s been going on at home to his co-workers.

I love their reaction.

I love the looks on their faces.

At home, Buffy and Jody are running Oliver around the apartment in another attempt at tiring him.

French approves of the idea but not the noise. He tells them to exhaust Oliver "pianissimo."

French approves of the idea but not the noise. He tells them to exhaust Oliver “pianissimo.”

It’s too late, though. Complaints from the downstairs neighbors bring the apartment manager to door.

Comparing the Oliver's noise to that of a horse, he orders the family to evict the dog.

Comparing the Oliver’s noise to that of a horse, he orders the family to evict the dog.

Bill tells the kids Oliver will have to spend the last night before his family returns in a kennel. Of course, he nearly caves again when the twins tug at his heartstrings.

It’s up to French to make the ultimate sacrifice. “The clumsy beast seems to like me,” French sighs.

So, that night…

...Bill sleeps peacefully...

…Bill sleeps peacefully…

...and Buffy sleeps peacefully....

…and Buffy sleeps peacefully…

...and Jody sleeps peacefully...

…and Jody sleeps peacefully…

...while French sits up with Oliver in a noisy, crowded kennel. Awww.

…while French sits up with Oliver in a noisy, crowded kennel. Awww.

(I bet French doesn’t shirk his duties the next day, either.)

Once Oliver is home safely with his owners, the twins come clean about deceiving Uncle BIll.

They even come up with their own punishments: No dessert and no TV for a week. (French thinks the TV ban is “cruel and unusual punishment.” He’s probably sad about losing his usual quiet hour during Captain Hippopotamus.)

A stoic Bill agrees to their plan. Nervously, they ask him if he still likes them.

He responds quickly: “No.”

Ha! They didn't see that coming.

Ha! They didn’t see that coming.

Of course, Bill soon breaks into a laugh, giving this episode a typical hugs-and-kisses ending.

I'm glad they at least avoided the too obvious "I don't like you...I love you" schtick.

I’m glad they avoided the too obvious “I don’t like you…I love you” schtick.

Commentary

This isn’t a great episode, but it’s an entertaining one, thanks mainly to Sebastian Cabot. It’s also fun to watch Bill run and cower in Oliver’s presence. It makes a nice comic contrast with Brian Keith’s usual hyper-masculine persona.

Guest Cast

Madame Antoinette: Danielle Aubry. Policeman: David Brandon. Mr. Ross: Richard Bull. Mr. Brown: Hap Holmwood. Mr. Rogers: Vince Howard. Scotty: Karl Lukas.

Richard Bull, who makes his second of three appearances as the apartment manager, died in February at age 89.

With these glasses and this mustache, he doesn't look much like his most famous character, Nels Oleson from Little House on the Prairie.

With these glasses and this mustache, he doesn’t look much like his most famous character, Nels Oleson from Little House on the Prairie.

Vince Howard had a prolific career in television. It’s surprising that he doesn’t play the police officer here because that was by far his most typical role. For instance, he played Police Officer Vince on Emergency!

 

Family Affair Friday(ish): Season 3, Episode 5, “The Substitute Teacher,” 10/21/1968

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Written by:  John McGreevey. Directed by: Charles Barton.

Unlike most episodes, this one opens away from the Davis apartment.

I like the "Knowledge is Power" engraving on Buffy and Jody's school. I would love to know what school is actually pictured there--anyone recognize it?

I like the “Knowledge is Power” engraving on Buffy and Jody’s school. I would love to know what this building really is–does anyone recognize it?

Inside the classroom, the twins are surprised to see a new face.

It's June Lockhart! Well, that is a surprise.

It’s June Lockhart! That is a surprise.

For our story’s purposes, she is Miss Evans, and she is spending a few days substituting for the twins’ regular teacher, Miss Cummings.

Things get off to an awkward start when Miss Evans tells the kids to work on spelling, and Jody stands up and heads toward the back of the classroom instead.

Things get off to an awkward start when Miss Evans tells the kids to work on spelling, and Jody stands up and heads toward the back of the classroom instead.

Not listening to his explanation, she gently orders him to sit down. At recess, he attempts to explain his actions again.

Miss Evans just wants to forget the whole thing, but Jody eventually gets out what he wanted to say--it was his turn to feed the fish, and they're probably starving by now.

Miss Evans just wants to forget the whole thing, but Jody eventually gets out what he wants to say–it was his turn to feed the fish, and they’re probably starving by now.

Of course, Miss Evans is all, “Why didn’t you tell me?” Grrr. But when he points out that he tried to, she responds with good grace, and they go off together to feed the poor fish.

As they go, lets take a lingering look at the world's lamest playground--I think the look on the African-American boy's face says it all about the fun to be had here.

Before they go, lets take a lingering look at the world’s lamest playground–the look on the African-American boy’s face says it all about the fun to be had here.

At home that night, Bill is getting ready for another evening out. (Dinner jacket laid out, theater tickets in the pocket, dinner reservations confirmed–I need a Mr. French so badly.)

After proving to French that they are in "suitable" condition for dinner, the twins settle in for a quick chat with Bill.

After proving to French that they are in “suitable” condition for dinner, the twins settle in for a quick chat with Bill.

Buffy wants to “talk and talk” with her uncle, but she’s stumped for conversational topics.

When Bill asks how school is going, the kids fill him in about Miss Evans.

When Bill asks how school is going, the kids fill him in about Miss Evans.

Buffy says she prefers Miss Cummings to the substitute, but Jody argues that Miss Evans is just as good.

The next day, we see that Jody is actually quite taken with Miss Evans. On the playground, he’s paying more attention to her than his keep-away game.

This gives another boy a chance to knock Jody flat and then blame Jody for being inattentive. Brat.

This gives another boy a chance to knock Jody flat and then blame Jody for being inattentive. Brat.

Miss Evans takes a woozy-looking Jody aside to comfort him.

I bet this kind of comfort wouldn't fly for teachers today.

I bet this kind of comfort wouldn’t fly for teachers today.

The next day, Jody’s fondness for his teacher shows through again.

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During the class’ drawing time, he produces this.

Just for fun, here is Buffy's picture. As she says, "I know trees don't look like that, but it would be nice if they did.

Just for fun, here is Buffy’s picture. As she says, “I know trees don’t look like that, but it would be nice if they did.”

Around this time, Miss Evans announces that her stint as a substitute is ending, as Miss Cumming is ready to resume her duties.

Jody couldn't be happier.

Jody couldn’t be happier.

That night, Cissy regales her family with the story of her life. She talks about her nine “attention-crowded, love-filled” years before the twins’ arrival, and the sense of “loneliness and longing” she nevertheless felt.

Yes, Uncle Bill, I agree.

Yes, Uncle Bill, I agree.

Only French really seems interested in her story, which is an assignment for her English class. He says her style has echoes of Emily Bronte, or perhaps Charlotte.

I love the bemused look Bill shoots him.

I love the bemused look Bill shoots him.

Buffy is happy that at least Cissy’s story is nearing “the good part”–her own birth.

Jody is even less interested than Bill, however.

Jody is even less interested than Bill, however.

He wanders off to his room just before Cissy breaks out some old family photographs.

This is Buffy, who's older self wonders why her parents kept her if she looked like that.

This is Buffy, whose older self wonders why her parents kept her if she looked like that. (Aww, Olan Mills. Who didn’t have their photo taken there?)

This is Jody.

This is Jody.

(I wonder if these are really photos of the actors. I see more of a resemblance in the Buffy one than the Jody one.)

While they laugh over the pictures, Bill and Buffy talk about Jody's current dazed demeanor.

While they laugh over the pictures, Bill and Buffy talk about Jody’s current dazed demeanor.

When Buffy explains how much Jody likes Miss Evans, Bill naturally assumes Jody’s dealing with a schoolboy crush.

Soon, however, he learns that it is a bit more serious.

Miss Cummings calls him to a meeting in a Family Affair green teachers' lounge.

Miss Cummings calls him to a meeting in a Family Affair green teachers’ lounge.

Jody hasn’t been doing his homework or paying attention in class since Miss Evans left.

When Bill approaches Jody, the boy says that thinking about Miss Evans gives him a funny feeling--like he's lost and can't find his way home.

When Bill approaches Jody, the boy says that thinking about Miss Evans gives him a funny feeling–like he’s lost and can’t find his way home.

Bill asks him if he would like to see her again, and suggests that French could take Jody by Miss Evans’ apartment after school for a visit.

Jody's thrilled, and I'm sure French and Miss Evans will be, too.

Jody’s thrilled, I’m sure French and Miss Evans will feel the same.

Cut to Miss Evans’ apartment, which abounds with greenery, in more ways than one.

She claims the place is messy--ha! She should see the room where I'm writing this. I do like her Renoir print.

I like her Renoir print.

When Jody arrives, he presents her with a seashell and stares at her in a creepy way.

When Jody arrives, he presents her with a seashell and stares at her in a creepy way.

Miss Evans hints to French the boy needs more attention at home. When French tells her Jody’s an orphan, she notes that Bill and French will have to be the ones to give him attention. (Left unsaid but implied: “Duh.”)

That night, while tucking Jody in, French attempts to provide “the kind ministrations of motherhood.” This takes the form of humming Brahms’ Lullaby.

Jody responds, fittingly, with a WTF look.

Jody is, understandably, all “WTF?”

Declaring his attempt at nurturing a fiasco, French runs to Bill for guidance. Bill doesn’t understand the power Miss Evans has over Jody, so French suggests that he witness it with his own eyes. Bill agrees to invite the teacher over.

I bet Miss Evans is thinking about changing her phone number about now. I am impressed, at least, that Bill is making this awkward call himself instead of foisting the job on French.

I bet Miss Evans is thinking about changing her phone number about now. I am impressed, at least, that Bill makes this awkward call himself instead of foisting the job on French.

When Miss Evans arrives, an excited Jody rushes to answer the door.

He also insists on taking her coat himself, which is cute.

He also insists on taking her coat himself, which is cute.

Bill reacts to the teacher with the same glassy-eyed expression Jody gets in her presence.

Bill feels he's met her somewhere before, but he can't place it.

He feels he’s met her somewhere before, but he can’t place it.

It’s not until Cissy comes into the room, that the mystery is finally solved.

Kathy Garver does a good job with Cissy's first reaction to seeing Miss Evans.

Kathy Garver does a good job with Cissy’s reaction to Miss Evans.

Bill catches on, then, and Cissy explains the situation to Miss Evans by showing her another of those old family photos.

This is the kids' mother.

This is the kids’ mother.

Cissy is surprised that Jody remembers their mother at all, but Bill says he must have some memories, even if he doesn’t quite understand them.

"Now you know," Miss Evans says. Left unsaid, but implied: "What are you going to do about it, that doesn't involve calling me every other day?"

“Now you know,” Miss Evans says. Left unsaid, but implied: “What are you going to do about it, that doesn’t involve calling me every other day?”

(Random observation: In this scene, Lockhart gets the soft-focus treatment that 40-plus females usually get on this show. It’s jarring, though, because she didn’t get it in any of her earlier scenes.)

That night, Bill has a heart-to-heart with Jody.

He starts by showing him the picture and explaining why Jody feels so strongly about Miss Evans.

He starts by showing him the picture and explaining why Jody feels so strongly about Miss Evans.

He talks about how wanting something you can’t have may trick you into believing things that aren’t true. He points out that while Miss Evans is happy to be Jody’s friend, she can’t be his mother.

When Jody thinks about Miss Evans and gets a sad feeling, Bill says, remembering this photo might make him feel better. Jody suggests that he can also think about Bill and French at those times, which actually seems a lot more comforting than Bill’s idea.

This is a moving scene, like so many Jody and Bill scenes.

This is a moving scene, like so many Jody and Bill encounters.

Also sweet: Jody looking at his mother's picture again before he drifts off to sleep.

Also sweet: Jody looking at his mother’s picture again before he drifts off to sleep.

Commentary

This episode represents everything I love about Family Affair. Three seasons in, they are still dealing with the ramifications of the kids’ loss. I tear up at both Cissy’s reaction to Miss Evans and the Bill-Jody conversation. I like that Bill doesn’t have any easy answers to offer Jody–grief is just something to live with, day by day.

Of course, the episode does raise a question. Jody and Buffy were five when their parents died–not babies–but I can believe their memories are fading. Wouldn’t they have seen family photos around the house, though?

Guest Cast

Miss Evans: June Lockhart. Rand: Michael Barbera. Miss Cummings: Joan Vohs.

The daughter of actors Gene and Kathleen Lockhart, June Lockhart has had a long and productive career. (And she’s still alive and working–yay!) She was a child actress herself, making her stage debut at age 8 at the Metropolitan Opera and her screen debut at age 13 in A Christmas Carol. She had small roles in several memorable movies, including Sergeant York, Miss Annie Rooney, and Meet Me in St. Louis, although she is best remembered for her TV roles on Lassie and Lost in Space. She also went on to play the teacher of another motherless TV moppet–Michelle Tanner from Full House.

Family Affair Friday(ish): Season 3, Episode 4, “Your Friend, Jody,” 10/14/1968

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Written by: Phil Davis. Directed by: Charles Barton.

We open this week’s episode in one of those old-school male gyms.

Uncle Bill's sparring partner gets a bit carried away and lands a solid punch to Bill's chin.

Uncle Bill’s sparring partner gets a bit carried away and lands a solid punch to Bill’s chin.

Ruby apologizes profusely, explaining that he’s too distracted by worry to know what he’s doing.

Bill soon meets the source of the man's worry--his son, Michael.

Bill soon meets the source of the man’s worry–his son, Michael.

Is Michael sick? Is he getting into serious trouble? No…he just plays with his three sisters too much.

“It ain’t a good idea for boys to be around girls too much,” Ruby explains. (He says he found Michael playing 1, 2, 3, O’Leary with the girls, and “he wasn’t even O’Leary.” I’m not familiar with that game, but I did find a description, complete with a demonstrative video.)

Bill seems bemused by Ruby’s concerns. He’s not at all worried about his own son, who’s at home playing house with his sister. When Ruby still insists on sending Michael away to a boys’ camp, Bill recommends one run by a friend.

Bill might be more concerned than he lets on, though--when the men resume sparring, he lands an accidental punch this time.

Bill might be more concerned than he lets on, though–when the men resume sparring, he lands an accidental punch this time.

(I wonder if some 1960s viewers would have objected to a scene involving a black man delivering an unanswered punch upon a white man, even if the blow was accidental.)

At home, Bill reacts with dismay to the news that Jody is modeling an apron for dressmaker Buffy.

At home, Bill reacts with dismay to the news that Jody is modeling an apron for dressmaker Buffy.

He suggests to French that camp might do Jody some good.

French is all for it, and not just because it will lighten his work load.

French is all for it, and not just because it will lighten his work load.

In England, he says, people send their sons off to boys’ schools and camps at the earliest opportunity. There, “they indulge in all sorts of masculine activities.” (So I’ve heard.)

We get a fun Frenchism here: “Roast beef and boys’ schools–that’s what won at Waterloo and Trafalgar!”

Bill heads into the girls’ room to broach the camp issue with Jody.

"Look at me--I'm a dummy!" Jody announces to his uncle.

“Look at me–I’m a dummy!” Jody announces to his uncle.

(I’ll refrain from commenting on that one.)

When Bill tells Jody about camp, the boy is excited. He assumes, however, that his sisters will be going, too. Buffy assumes so as well and begins rhapsodizing about the pleasures of swimming and hiking.

(The kids also say they’ve never been to camp before–a major continuity error. The same actor even plays the camp director in each of these episodes.)

When Bill informs them it's a boys' camp, a dejected Buffy asks, "You mean, no girls?"

When Bill informs them it’s a boys’ camp, a dejected Buffy asks, “You mean, no girls?”

(And to think: She’s the smart twin.)

Jody is crestfallen, too, but he quickly puts on a brave face for his uncle’s benefit.

Soon, Jody's bidding a sad farewell to the family.

Soon, Jody’s bidding a sad farewell to the family.

Walking down to the lobby, where Jody’s ride is waiting, an obviously ambivalent Bill tries to suss out Jody’s true feelings. Jody continues to put up a positive front, even when he gets his first look at the kids who’ll be his cabin mates.

Not exactly happy campers.

Not exactly happy campers.

The driver assures a worried Bill that the kids’ homesickness is normal, and that they will soon be having a great time.

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Bill puts Jody in the car, but he’s in a worried mood when he returns to the apartment.

Buffy’s upset, too. She’s slipped back into her “Yes, sir,” mode of communicating that always emerges in times of distress. That’s a nice touch, especially coming from writers who can’t even remember a previous camp-themed episode.

In Jody’s cabin at camp, the only repeat camper provides a discouraging report.

Allen's been to Camp Anawanda twice before, and he hates it. He says he wouldn't stay if he had a family to go home to. (His family dumps him at camp so they can visit Europe.)

Allen’s been to Camp Anawanda twice before, and he hates it. He says he wouldn’t stay if he had a family to go home to. Alas, his parents dump him at camp so they can visit Europe.

Jody is determined to make the best of things, however.

He even tries to develop a taste for calves' liver. You're a better man than I am, Jody.

He even tries to develop a taste for calf’s’ liver. You’re a better man than I am, Jody.

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When Bill places a call to camp, Jody gushes about how much fun he’s having.

His postcards from camp also accentuate the positive, but Bill questions his over-working of the phrase “wonderful time.” (French’s explanation: Children have a limited vocabulary.)

Reading Jody's postcards is apparently a big event for the whole family.

Reading Jody’s postcards is apparently a big event for the whole family.

Don't you think at least Cissy might have something else to do occasionally?

Don’t you think at least Cissy might have something else to do occasionally?

When Bill meets up with Ruby at the gym again, Ruby says that Michael cried non-stop the first three days of camp. All’s well that ends well, though. Bill is glad to hear that Michael is doing better now.

Ruby agrees that the boy's much happier now--hanging out with his sisters, since he came home from camp early.

Ruby agrees that the boy’s much happier–hanging out with his sisters, since he came home from camp early.

Bill’s startled by this news, and even more startled when Michael tells him that cabin-mate Charlie also left early after crying his eyes out.

Jody didn't cry, Michael says--he "held it in."

Jody didn’t cry, Michael says–he “held it in.” (Hmm…doesn’t Jody have a sweater like that?)

The Davis family hustles up to Camp Anawanda to see how Jody is really doing.

The camp director is sure that Jody is having a ball. This guy's pretty smug considering that rate at which children are fleeing his camp.

The camp director is sure that Jody is having a ball. This guy’s pretty smug considering the rate at which children are fleeing his camp.

Jody does seem enthusiastic about everything as he shows Bill around the camp grounds.

Who wouldn't be enthusiastic about a lovely spread like this?

Who wouldn’t be enthusiastic about a lovely spread like this?

Bill finally finds a clever way to assess Jody’s true feelings. He says that after the boys’ camp ends, Camp Anawanda will be having a girls’ camp, and he plans to send Buffy.

“You wouldn’t do that to Buffy?!” Jody blurts out.

We get a sweet father-son scene as Bill assures Jody that it's okay if he comes home.

We get a sweet father-son scene as Bill assures Jody that it’s okay if he comes home.

Without directly referring to the kids’ traumatic past, he says that some kids do better being at home with their families. (Presumably for the benefit of camp-averse kids in the audience, he takes pains to say that camp is great for most kids.)

Back at home, Bill is off to the gym again.

Back at home, Bill is off to the gym again.

He and French have an amusing exchange:

Bill: Did you remember to put a fresh perspiration garment in there?
French: If you are referring to the, um, sweatshirt, sir, the answer is in the affirmative.
Bill: I didn’t think you would use that word.
French: When in Rome, sir…

Meanwhile, Jody’s helping Buffy cut out construction-paper contact lenses for Mrs. Beasley.

He jumps at the chance to go to the gym with Bill instead.

He jumps at the chance to go to the gym with Bill instead.

(I guess the writers wanted to be sure we know he’s a normal red-blooded American boy.)

Buffy, who can't understand why Jody wants to get all sweaty and dodge punches, closes the episode with one of those precocious TV-kid moments: She proclaims she'll never understand men.

Buffy, who can’t understand why Jody wants to get all sweaty and dodge punches, closes the episode with one of those precocious TV-kid moments: She proclaims she’ll never understand men.

Commentary

If you didn’t know the Davis family backstory, Bill would appear to be inventing helicopter parenting here. I believe camp was a standard experience for city kids of the twins’ social class, and kids usually do get over their homesickness. Jody does such a good job convincing everyone he loves camp that he appears to have almost convinced himself. If Bill hadn’t continued probing for his real feelings, I think Jody would have survived the camp without any lasting trauma. This episode does a good job reflecting ongoing Davis family issues–their separation anxiety and their impulse to protect one another’s feelings.

Continuity Note

Jody still has a turtle.

Random Observation

Jody’s camp was supposed to last more than three weeks. It must be summer, so seasons in the Davis world don’t match up with real world at all.

Guest Cast

Charlie: Michael Barbera. Counselor: Robert Broyles. Allen: Ricky Cordell. Driver: John Lawrence. Ruby: Archie L. Moore. Mike: Ezekiel Williams. George Sperling: L.E. Young.

Moore, a champion prize-fighter in the 1950s, turned to acting in 1960 with a strong performance as Jim in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Through the early 1980s he made a series of TV series appearances, mostly in boxing-themed roles like this one.

Most of this week’s guest actors are Family Affair veterans. Cordell had a memorable role as Pepino in the first-season episode “Love Me, Love Me Not.” We’ll see Barbera again next week, but his character will have a different name.

Family Affair Friday(ish): Season 3, Episode 3, “A Waltz from Vienna,” 10/7/1968

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Written by: Hannibal Coons and Charles R. Marion. Directed by: Charles Barton.

Some awkwardly expository dialog in the opening scene sets the tone for this bizarre Family Affair outing.

iuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuc e4r ]]]]]]t55555555555555555555555555555555555555555555555 "Oh, Karl, I've had such a marvelous time these past three months," Cissy coos to this guy we've never seen before.


“Oh, Karl, I’ve had such a marvelous time these past three months,” Cissy coos to this guy we’ve never seen before.

Cissy mentions the New York night spots they’ve visited together: The Colony, the Four Seasons, the Persian Room, and 21.

We quickly learn that Karl is one of those sophisticated, European types--he tries to order an after-dinner liqueur for the two of them.

We quickly learn that Karl is one of those sophisticated, European types–he tries to order an after-dinner liqueur for the two of them.

When the waiter raises an eyebrow, Cissy quickly changes her order to an ice cream parfait, while Karl complains that Cissy is being treated like a child. Cissy points out that the legal drinking age is 18. Fun fact: New York raised the minimum age to 19 in 1983 and to 21 in 1985.

Somehow the conversation shifts to Karl’s impending return to Vienna. He just can’t bear the thought of leaving Cissy, so he takes a very reasonable course of action concerning this underage girl he’s know for three months–he proposes.

"Yes!" Cissy exclaims.

“Yes!” Cissy exclaims.

Hell-to-the-no, Uncle Bill counters.

Hell-to-the-no, Uncle Bill counters.

Bill is the voice of reason, bringing up Cissy’s tender age and the fact that she and Karl don’t know one another well. Strangely, he omits what I consider the strongest argument–that she should finish her education before she thinks about marriage.

Karl's parents are no help to Bill--they assure him that teenage marriage is the done thing in Austria. Karl's mom claims that she married at 15 and has been blissfully happy for 23 years.

Karl’s parents are no help to Bill–they assure him that teenage marriage is the done thing in Austria. Karl’s mom claims that she married at 15 and has been blissfully happy for 23 years.

So, aristocratic Austrian girls routinely married in their mid-teens in the 1940s? Okay, Frau Really-I’m-Under-40-Do-the-Math.

Bill holds firms, though, even when he later finds Cissy pouting on the terrace. He explains that while he may seen like an “an old fuddy-duddy,” marriage is a big responsibility, she’s just “in love with love,” etc.

Cissy's not buying it.

Cissy’s not buying it.

The next day, Bill’s still feeling bad about the situation.

French doesn't help by pointing out that marrying into one of "the oldest and wealthiest continental families" would be a dream come true for many girls.

French doesn’t help by pointing out that marrying into one of “the oldest and wealthiest continental families” would be a dream come true for many girls.

It’s enough to send anyone running for the cigarettes.

See the penguin logo shirt Bill is wearing. I remember my dad having golf shirts like that, so of course I had to look up the history of it.

See the penguin logo shirt Bill is wearing. I remember my dad having golf shirts like that, so of course I had to look up the history of it.

Bill still feels in his bones that this marriage is wrong for Cissy. A good Frenchism follows: “Let us trust that your bones have good judgment.”

Poor Bill can't even escape from this weird situation at work.

Poor Bill can’t even escape from this weird situation at work.

Karl’s mother drops by the office with a new plan–let “Catherine” visit their family in Vienna for three weeks to see if she would like living there.

Bill's instincts tell him this is a bad idea, and that the Viennese atmosphere will only increase Cissy's romantic frenzy.

Bill’s instincts tell him this is a bad idea, and that the Viennese atmosphere will only increase Cissy’s romantic frenzy.

He agrees to think about it, though. And while he does so, Cissy is cultivating a new mature image. As everyone knows, maturity is best expressed through…

...slinky dresses...

…slinky dresses…

...and an up-do of adultishness.

…and an up-do of adultishness! Nice Family Affair green on those salon walls. Strange, though, how Cissy’s hair has briefly turned as red as the hairdresser’s.

Strangely enough, her approach works on Bill, who agrees to let her visit Vienna.

Inexplicably, her approach works on Bill, who agrees to let her visit Vienna.

It also inspires French to describe her as “a marriageable young lady.” Um…ew. French insists that there’s no danger of Cissy and Karl eloping during the visit, though–such things just aren’t done “on the continent.”

The direction in this scene is awkward, making it really obvious that each side of the Bill-Cissy conversation was shot at different times.

The Cissy-Bill conversation here is done in a series of closeups, making it obvious that each side of the conversation was filmed at a different time. Brian Keith is probably watching a middle-aged assistant director deliver Cissy’s lines.

Hey, remember the two little kids on this show? What were their names? Tubby and Toby?

It's a measure of this episode's strangeness that we don't see the twins until we're about three-quarters of the way through, as Cissy prepares to take her updo Alp-ward.

It’s a measure of this episode’s strangeness that we don’t see the twins until we’re about three-quarters of the way through, as Cissy prepares to take her updo across the pond.

The twins are sad to see her go and afraid she’ll forget what they look like.

That night, they're so lonely that they pile in with Bill. While he looks amusingly exasperated, the twins have a cute conversation about marriage. (Jody pledges himself to the single life.)

That night, they’re so lonely that they pile in with Bill. While he looks amusingly exasperated, the twins have a cute conversation about marriage. (Jody pledges himself to the single life.)

Meanwhile…

Cue the Strauss and the stock footage! We're going to Austria!

Cue the Strauss and the stock footage! We’re going to Austria!

Karl's parents have a nice little shack there.

Karl’s parents have a nice little shack there.

They also have about a hundred middle-aged friends who have come to gawk at “Catherine.”

I do like Cissy's evening gown in this scene.

I do like Cissy’s evening gown in this scene.

While the young xouple begins a waltz, Karl’s parents tell everyone how they’re longing to welcome Cissy to the family.

Cissy's nice enough, but I don't really get where they're coming from. Aren't there any young women in Austria?

Cissy’s nice enough, but I don’t really get where they’re coming from. Aren’t there any young women in Austria?

Soon Karl and his “liebchen” are visiting cafes and spouting dialog that’s even more nauseating than before.

"It's like living in a fairy tale," Cissy gushes. Karl says they can make the fairy tale come true if they marry right away.

“It’s like living in a fairy tale,” Cissy gushes. Karl says they can make the fairy tale come true if they marry right away.

Cissy’s game, but Bill says no over the phone. Undeterred, Karl thinks they should elope to Innsbruck.

I thought they didn't do such things in Europe, Mr. Continental Smarty-Pants.

I thought they didn’t do such things in Europe, Mr. Continental Smarty-Pants.

Cissy soon starts having second thoughts, though, for no apparent reason other than the episode’s impending end.

Suddenly, she agrees with Uncle Bill--she's just in love with "a little girl's idea of love."

Suddenly, she agrees with Uncle Bill–she’s just in love with “a little girl’s idea of love.”

Auf Wiedersehen, Karl.

Back at home, Buffy and Jody are still moping about missing their sister. French, who’s making Cissy’s favorite dessert, tells them that if they close their eyes and wish for her to walk in the door, it might happen.

It's an old Gaelic legend, according to our favorite font of questionable European knowledge.

It’s an old Gaelic legend, according to our favorite font of questionable European knowledge.

Of course, Cissy does stroll through the front door at exactly that moment–no one in New York ever gets delayed by traffic or anything.

Everyone's relieved that this weird interlude has come to an end.

Everyone’s relieved that this weird interlude has come to an end–including me.

And Cissy, showing her can-do American spirit, lines up a date with the grocery delivery boy before her jet-lag even wears off.

Commentary

There are good episodes of Family Affair, and there are bad episodes of Family Affair. Fortunately, there are also so-bad-they’re-good episodes of Family Affair, like this one. The whole thing is so surreal that it should have ultimately been revealed as a dream, preferably Buffy’s dream. “A little girl’s idea of love,” indeed. It certainly doesn’t seem like anything a teenager in 1968 would fantasize about.

It’s romantic atmosphere does make it seem fitting as we approach Valentine’s Day.

Guest Cast

Waiter: Jan Arvan. Guest: Charlotte Boerner. Hairdresser: Ila Britton. Friedrick Krug: Karl Bruck. Saleswoman: Annette Cabot. Karl Krug: Mark de Vries. Johnny Archer: Hank Jones. Anna Krug: Eva Szorenyi.

The guest cast is authentically European–the actor who plays Karl’s father was actually born in Vienna.

Annette Cabot, Sebastian Cabot’s daughter, made her second of five appearances in this episode.

Family Affair Friday(ish): Season 3, Episode 2, “By a Whisker,” 9/30/1968

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This week at Chez Davis, Uncle Bill is yakking on the phone to someone named Charlie.

When the twins rush in, Jody is eager to show Bill his new regulation-sized basketball.

Soon the twins rush in, and Jody is eager to show Bill his new regulation-sized basketball.

Jody says smaller basketballs are baby stuff. Episode Theme Foreshadowing Alert!

This is pretty big talk from a boy who admits he doesn't know how to dribble.

This is pretty big talk from a boy who admits he doesn’t know how to dribble.

Meanwhile, Bill is craving cheese souffle, but French is all out of Gruyere–I hate when that happens.

French is about to leave for the Italian market when Jody asserts that he’s old enough to run the errand himself.

French disagrees, and Jody wanders off with one of his a-car-just-hit-my-dog faces.

French disagrees, and Jody wanders off with one of his a-car-just-hit-my-dog faces.

Now, Bill knows that it’s important to keep up a united front before the children.

After Jody leaves, though, he pulls French aside and suggests giving Jody more responsibility. (I bet he wouldn't suggest the same thing about Buffy.)

After Jody leaves, though, he pulls French aside and suggests giving Jody more responsibility. (I bet he wouldn’t suggest the same thing about Buffy.)

Bill gives a delighted Jody permission to run to the corner market.

He even agrees to let him stay out and play afterwards. I guess French isn't in any hurry to get that cheese.

He even agrees to let him stay out and play afterwards. I guess French isn’t in any hurry to get that cheese.

Of course, this whole dilemma is strange, since just last week we saw that Jody already has wandering-around privileges.

Amalfi's is the saddest little grocery story ever, but you can't beat their prices on candy and gum--three for a dime!

Amalfi’s is the saddest little grocery store ever, but you can’t beat their prices on candy bars and gum–three for a dime!

After completing his errand, Jody runs into an older boy he knows.

It's Eddie Munster!

You know him, too–it’s Eddie Munster!

This kid has a club called the Daredevils, and Jody is feeling so big for his britches that he requests membership.

Skinny has no interest in a seven-year-old member, but he is interested in Jody's new basketball.

Frankie has no interest in a seven-year-old member, but he is interested in Jody’s new basketball.

He takes Jody to meet the other club members and get their input.

They quickly see the wisdom of waiving age requirements for someone with a new basketball.

They quickly see the wisdom of waiving age requirements for someone with a new basketball.

They demand a proper initiation prank for Jody, though.

Uh-oh. Buddy Hinton's in this club. Things aren't going to end well.

Uh-oh. Buddy Hinton’s in this club. Things aren’t going to end well.

They decide that Jody should cut off a few of Mr. French’s whiskers and bring them back to the club for inspection. Yikes!

He also has to make an ungrammatical pledge to “not tell nobody” about the club’s secrets, under penalty of his teeth falling out and his toes dropping off.

At home, Jody starts scoping out French's face in a really subtle way.

At home, Jody starts scoping out French’s face in a really subtle way.

At one point, he even calls French “Mr. Whiskers” by mistake.

That goes over about as well as you might suspect

That goes over about as well as you might expect.

Meanwhile, Bill is leaving on another trip, and Buffy and Cissy are heading to the planetarium. They invite Jody, but he wants to stay home and carry out his plan. Buffy thinks he’s scared of the planetarium’s darkness–he takes umbrage, of course, at this slight to his new-found maturity.

Cissy sums up the situation quite well: "They should never have sent him for that cheese."

Cissy sums up the situation quite well: “They should never have sent him for that cheese.”

Cissy and Buffy barely make it out of the lobby before running into Sharon.

Sharon has tickets for a folk rock festival. Buffy says she doesn't want to go to the planetarium anyway, so Cissy gives her the apartment key and heads off with Sharon.

Sharon has tickets for a folk rock festival. Buffy says she doesn’t want to go to the planetarium anyway, so Cissy gives her the apartment key and heads off with Sharon.

Couldn’t Buffy just knock on the door? Yes, but then she wouldn’t be able to walk in on a dozing French, as Jody prepares to do some snipping.

She has good reason to look shocked.

She has good reason to look shocked.

Jody realizes she’s there before he carries through with the crime.

They run off to discuss the situation. Although Jody keeps his club's secrets, he reveals enough for Buffy to figure out what's happening.

They run off to discuss the situation. Although Jody trues to keep his club’s secrets, he reveals enough for Buffy to figure out what’s happening.

Good sister that she is, she offers to help.

That night, the kids rush French through his bedtime story. It's almost as if they're eager for everyone to go to sleep!

That night, the kids rush French through his bedtime story. It’s almost as if they’re eager for everyone to go to sleep!

By the way, Cissy is spending the night with Sharon–that’s another contrivance that’s required for this plot to work.

Buffy sets an alarm for midnight.

Buffy sets an alarm for midnight.

When it goes off, she wakes Jody, and they head for French’s room.

We get some amusing scenes of them crawling around the floor.

We get some amusing scenes of them crawling around the floor.

They’re almost busted, though, when French’s phone rings.

It's a wrong number, and French is cranky. Even if someone named Gussie lived there, she wouldn't be taking calls in the middle of the night, he barks.

It’s a wrong number, and French is cranky. Even if someone named Gussie lived there, she wouldn’t be taking calls in the middle of the night, he barks.

(During my teenage years, I had a phone just like French’s in my room.)

The next day, a sheepish Jody tells the Daredevils that he's giving up.

The next day, a sheepish Jody tells the Daredevils that he’s giving up.

He still wants to join, but Buddy Hinton’s all, “We don’t allow babies in this club.”

With renewed determination, Jody goes home to do the deed. This time, he tells Buffy that he’ll handle it alone.

He manages to take several snips before French awakens.

He manages to take several snips before French awakens.

Then, unfortunately, he freezes like a deer in the headlights, allowing French to grab the envelope and figure out what’s happened.

He's really mad. He says "invasion of privacy" more than once, and the British pronunciation of privacy makes it sound even worse.

He’s really mad. He says “invasion of privacy” more than once, and the British pronunciation of privacy makes it sound even worse.

When Bill hears about it, he feels that Jody must have had some reason for his actions, beyond just a wild hair (if you’ll pardon the pun).

Bound to secrecy about the club, Jody won't confide anything.

Bound to secrecy about the club, Jody won’t confide anything.

Random Set Design Observation: I like Jody’s room a lot better than the girls’. That desk/table is a nice, functional piece.

Bill finds out what happened when the daredevils come to the door and express remorse for the way they treated Jody.

Bill finds out what happened when the daredevils come to the door and express remorse for the way they treated Jody.

Hmm. The bullies in my neighborhood weren’t real big on remorse and confession.

Now, Bill and French change their tunes–they’re glad that Jody is honoring the “gentleman’s code” by keeping his friends’ secrets.

Though Jody still faces punishment, Bill quickly sends him on another errand.

Though Jody still faces punishment, Bill quickly entrusts him with another errand.

So, now a second-grader is wandering the streets, and he’s learned that he shouldn’t confide in his parents if someone swears him to secrecy about something.

Great day's parenting there, guys.

Great day’s parenting there, guys.

Commentary

The beard-snipping scene generates about as much suspense as Family Affair can muster, and French outrage is always entertaining.

Random Set Design Observation #2: The girls have some dreary-looking books. And what is that yellow thing?!

Random Set Design Observation #2: The girls have some dreary-looking books. And what is that yellow thing?!

Guest Cast

Sharon James: Sherry Alberoni. Sparky: Lindy Davis. Merv: Gerald Edwards. Jose: Ric Natoli. Frankie: Butch Patrick. Skinny: Russell Schulman. Mr. Amalfi: A.G. Vitanza.

For Patrick, this episode fell between his stints on The Munsters and Lidsville. Shortly after it aired, he began a recurring role as Ernie’s friend Gordon on My Three Sons. Schulman also made one appearance as Gordon.

Gerald Edwards voiced the character Weird Harold on Fat Albert and The Cosby Kids.

Family Affair Friday(ish): Season 3, Episode 1, “The Latch-Key Kid,” 9/23/1968

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

When we look in on the third season of Family Affair, French is bringing everyone “to-mah-to” juice, and Cissy is looking like the cat who at the canary.

On second though, she's looking more like the canary.

On second thought, she’s looking more like the canary.

She’s just gotten her hair styled at the beauty parlor. Seeing Cissy’s results inexplicably inspires Buffy’s desire to go to the beauty parlor, too. When Bill says she’s too young, she asks why Jody gets to visit the barber by himself.

Bill tells her she won't like the answer. I'm pretty sure I won't like it  either.

Bill tells her she won’t like the answer. I’m pretty sure I won’t like it either.

Yep, it’s because she’s a girl. Bill admits it’s not fair, but he sticks to his decision.(Someone must cut Buffy’s hair, though. I guess that’s another job French gets stuck with.)

The next day at school, Buffy is still pining for greater independence when she meets Lana. a new girl in class. We quickly find out that Lana comes from a different social sphere than the Davis kids.

We quickly find out that Lana comes from a different social sphere than the Davis kids.

She has a single mother who used to be a maid and now works as a manicurist. She also wears a key around her neck, to let herself in her apartment after school.

(As an aside, Buffy’s sandwich is meat on whole wheat. Ew. At least it’s better than meat on white, I guess.)

The key fascinates Buffy, who sees it as a shiny symbol of freedom. She even gets Lana's permission to wear it for the rest of the day.

The key fascinates Buffy, who sees it as a shiny symbol of freedom. She even gets Lana’s permission to wear it for the rest of the day.

That night, Buffy asks Bill if she can have a key to the Davis apartment. When he says she’s too young, she complains about being treated like a baby at age 7. (Wow these kids are aging slowly.)

She again asks why Jody gets more freedom; apparently, he gets to stay at the playground by himself after school while Buffy goes home with French.  Bill says little girls need more protection.

Sure, Uncle Bill. Bad things never happen to little boys who are walking around the city alone.

Sure, Uncle Bill. Bad things never happen to little boys who wander around the city alone.

Buffy also wants to change her name. Lana has started calling her Ava, an alternate name Lana’s movie-fan mother considered for Lana. (Note to the IMDb: Ava is NOT Buffy’s real name.)

The next day, Buffy and Lana are walking out of school together when French arrives to pick Buffy up.

The next day, Buffy and Lana are walking out of school together when French arrives to pick Buffy up.

In an amusing exchange, Lana wonders why French dresses so funny, and Buffy explains that he’s English.

Lana's slum is on the way the home, so French invites her to walk with them.

Lana’s slum is on the way the home, so French invites her to walk with them.

Lana’s empty apartment horrifies French.

At least it's clean--and the Family Affair green paint is reassuring.

At least it’s clean–and the Family Affair green paint is reassuring.

Buffy congratulates Lana for having “her own TV,” which is weird since it’s in the living room. Maybe she’s just trying to be polite. Lana wants Buffy to come over after school the next day, and French says he’ll ask Mr. Davis.

At home, of course, French is all hell-to-the-no.

At home, of course, French is all hell-to-the-no.

She has little supervision and is “hardly a suitable companion for a young gentlewoman,” he says, going so far as to call Lana “a street urchin.” Now, I don’t like French’s snobbery, but I wouldn’t let my 7-year-old go over to her house without at least getting to know her mother and making sure a responsible adult would be present at all times.

Bill, though, says sure. I guess little girls don't need that much protection.

Bill, though, says sure. I guess little girls don’t need that much protection.

French and Jody drop the girls off in Lana's mom-less apartment the next afternoon.

French and Jody drop the girls off in Lana’s mom-less apartment the next afternoon.

Lana’s mother does make a brief appearance, stopping at home after work to dress for a date.

Note that she's clutching a movie magazine. Okay, okay, we get it--she's working class!

Note that she’s clutching a movie magazine. Okay, okay, we get it–she’s working class!

The girls have to shop for and prepare their own dinner.

They choose frozen pizza and soda, which seems pretty realistic.

They choose frozen pizza and soda, which seems pretty realistic.

They play dress up in Lana’s mom’s shoes, and Lana does “Ava’s” hair.

The resulting hair-do is definitely the visual highlight of this episode.

The resulting hair-do is the visual highlight of this episode. Buffy looks like she wandered away from the Grand Ol3 Opry.

When Bill comes to retrieve Buffy, he finally groks to the fact that Lana is home alone. When she asks if she can have a sleepover with Buffy the next night, he agrees.

The Davis apartment amazes Lana, of course.

The Davis apartment amazes Lana, of course.

She’s also taken aback by the many rule French lays down: Homework before fun, playing instead of watching the afternoon movie, no running in the house.

At bed time, she allows Bill to tuck her in, pretending that it's another house rule, when it's clear that she just wants the adult attention.

At bed time, she allows Bill to tuck her in, pretending that it’s another house rule, when it’s clear that she just wants the adult attention.

When Buffy takes Lana home the next day, Lana breaks down.

Laying it right out there, Buffy asks if she is crying because she lives where she does instead where Buffy lives.

Laying it right out there, Buffy asks if she is crying because she lives where she does instead where Buffy lives.

Lana says it’s not that–it’s because Buffy has so many people to “boss her around.” Lana’s all-too-aware that freedom can spring from a lack of caring. Buffy tells her that when she feels like being bossed around, she should call on the Davises.

Soon, Lana is doing just that. For example, she phones French to see if she can watch a horror movie on TV. His reply: "Certainly not!"

Soon, Lana is doing just that. For example, she phones French to see if she can watch a horror movie on TV. His reply: “Certainly not!”

And Buffy’s learned to accept her family’s rules without chafing, so I guess all’s well that ends well. Somehow,  I still feel sad, though.

Commentary

I thought the “latch-key” phenomenon dated from the 1970s, but the term originated during World War II. I personally loved having a key and letting myself in at home, but it didn’t happen until I was about 10, and I wasn’t left alone for hours. I’m of two minds about whether the Davis family should have done more to improve Lana’s sad situation. On the one hand, a scene with Bill talking to Lana’s mother about the problem might have been hard to take. Bill keeps himself busy with work and dating, so the only real difference between him and Lana’s mom is the ability to pay for high quality child care. On the other hand, Lana seems to be suffering from some pretty serious neglect. I’ll be interested in hearing what other Family Affair fans think.

Inconsistency Alert

The gender-based treatment of Buffy and Jody is a new thing. In the past, the twins’ level of freedom has varied dramatically from episode to episode, but it has always applied equally to both kids.

Guest Cast

Lana’s Mother: Eve Brent. Lana: Susan Benjamin Neher.

Susan Benjamin Neher

Susan Benjamin Neher

Neher appeared previously on Family Affair under the name Susan Benjamin. From 1969 to 1971, she had a regular role in another Don Fedderson single-dad series, To Rome with Love. A commenter directed me to this segment of the pilot that’s available on Youtube–check it out!