This is part of my weekly series about the classic CBS sitcom Family Affair
Season 1, Episode 4, “The Matter of School,” 10/3/66
Written by: Henry Garson. Directed by: William D. Russell.
It’s time to enroll the kids in school. While it’s a simple matter to enroll Buffy and Jody in first grade, Uncle Bill is less certain about what’s best for Cissy. He rejects immediately French’s suggestion of Miss Haycroft’s School in London but reluctantly considers sending her to Bryerfield, a boarding school in Connecticut. Cissy really wants to go to Lexie High, a public school in the city, especially after grocery delivery boy Freddy sings the school’s praises.
But she misinterprets Uncle Bill’s mention of Bryerfield as a hint it would ease a burden on him if she lived at school. She chooses Bryerfield, and Uncle Bill promises her a big evening her first weekend home–dinner at 21, a musical, and a visit to a nightclub. Business makes him forget his promise, though, reinforcing Cissy’s idea that she should be “out of his hair.”
When she mentions this to Buffy and Jody, they decide to get out of Mr. French’s hair and attempt to take a cab to Connecticut. Talking to the kids, Bill uncovers Cissy’s misconception, and French reminds him about the plans he forgot with Cissy. Uncle Bill rushes to Connecticut to bring Cissy home, and later he finally escorts a lovely Cissy on that special date.
The bonding between Cissy and Uncle Bill is touching, and the ending is sweet. Buffy and Jody provide comedic counterpoint to main story, especially in the scene in which exasperated Mr. French registers the twins for school. (First grade is taught in morning and afternoon sessions, and French asks if the kids can attend both!)
This episode introduces a pervasive Family Affair idea that the children will be interacting with peers from many different backgrounds. Freddy tells Cissy and Uncle Bill that kids from penthouses and kids from basements attend Lexie High, and Buffy and Jody quickly make friends with a cabdriver’s son. The principal also notes that the twins will hear a variety of languages spoken in their class.
Ted Gaynor: John Hubbard. Mrs. Brown: Sarah Selby. Mrs. Hedgemot: Gertrude Graner. Mr. Kabul: Aly Wassil. Freddy: Eugene Martin. Mr. Razini: Naji Gabbay. Mr. Chill: Reginald Lal Singh. Barbara: Liza Garson. Murray: Tony Campo. Sarah Selby had a recurring role for many years as Ma Smalley on Gunsmoke, and she was Aunt Polly in a 1974 TV version of Huckleberry Finn. She would appear in four more Family Affair episodes. Campo, who would return as a different character in season five, was the third Scotty Baldwin on General Hospital; Johnny Whitaker was the first. Gabbay and Wassil would both reappear in season two’s “The Beasley Story,” and Martin would appear once more as Freddy. Hubbard, who would reappear in several episodes as Uncle Bill’s partner, starred in many largely unmemorable films of the 1940s. I strongly suspect Liza Garson is a relative of producer and sometimes writer Henry Garson. Her character struck me as oddly superfluous in her scene even before I noticed the familiar last name.
Buffy and Jody attended kindergarten in Terre Haute. In his reluctance to progress to first grade, Jody shows the first sign of being less academically minded than Buffy. The Davis’ apartment building is at 600 E. 62nd Street.
Cissy’s desire not to be a burden to Uncle Bill stems from her fear that she was “dumped” on him. We have Terre Haute references. Miss Faversham is mentioned.
“She’s like Cinderella, but tomorrow she’ll be our sister again.” Buffy, on Cissy
Today’s Bonus Feature
A Family Affair parody from Mad Magazine, April 1969
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