Sorry that I’m late with my Family Affair series this week–I was busy with my own adorable moppet yesterday. (Boy, would she hate hearing herself described that way.)
Written by: Douglas Tibbles and John McGreevey. Directed by: William D. Russell.
Coming home from school, Buffy and Jody announce proudly that they have been promoted to “upper first grade.”
They are disappointed that Uncle Bill is not there to share their joy–he’s working on a project in New Jersey.
Meanwhile, the twins exult in their new, advanced textbooks.
They soon find themselves stumped by “the new math,” however. Their engineer uncle could probably help them, but he’s spending all his time across the Hudson with Meg, who turns out to be a liberated, marriage-hating free spirit who has no interest in even hearing about the twins’ problems.
So where can Buffy and Jody turn for help?
Actually, Buffy and Jody are squealing with delight at the sight of their “friend,” Mr. Frack, the window washer. Mr. Frack says things like, “The difference between dumb and smart is how much you know,” so viewers quickly perceive where he falls on the dumb-smart divide. Naive Buffy and Jody, however, accept his help with their math homework.
The school alerts Uncle Bill to the deplorable state of the twins’ math homework, and while he’s looking for answers, he happens to run into their “tutor.”
He relieves Mr. Frack of his “helper” role while sparing the man’s feelings.
He assures her they’ll get together again sometime. I’m glad he doesn’t blow her off completely, even though I think he should be looking for more of a Fraulein Maria and less of a Baroness Schraeder now that he has kids.
This isn’t a great episode, but it has some high points. I love Buffy and Jody’s conversation about Dick and Jane. Mr. Frack and Meg are both interesting characters. I like the way this script shows that Bill’s priorities have changed without demonized Meg for having different priorities.
We also get another chance to see Brian Keith’s rapport with child actors.
We also get to see him save a scene with Buffy and Jody.
Mr. Frack: Sterling Holloway. Meg: Kipp Hamilton. Tim: Roy Roberts. Sally: Andrea Sacino. Holloway was the voice of Winnie the Pooh in many movies, including some that Sebastian Cabot narrated. He was also the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland, Roquefort in The Aristocrats, Kaa in The Jungle Book, Mr. Stork in Dumbo and Woodsy the Owl in many public service announcements. He had an extremely long career in films that spanned half a century and included such films as Meet John Doe and The Blue Bird. Notable was his role in 1945’s A Walk in the Sun. He also had a recurring role in The Adventures of Superman.
Hamilton’s most memorable TV guest appearance was as Pleasure O’Reilly in an episode of Bewitched. She seems to have quit acting shortly after this episode aired, around the time that her first husband died of a brain tumor.
Roberts also had a Bewitched connection–he played Darrin’s father. He had recurring roles in Petticoat Junction, Gunsmoke, The Lucy Show and The Beverly Hillbillies, among other shows.
Sacino was a voice in 1970’s special Santa Claus is Coming to Town. She appeared in several episodes of My Three Sons and had a regular role on a short-lived mid-sixties show called Many Happy Returns.
Uncle Bill is an experienced sailor. Buffy and Jody are learning Spanish at school. (This is another nice touch of realism for a big city school. In West Virginia, the only Spanish we learned before 8th grade was what we could pick up on Sesame Street. On the plus side, I don’t think the “new math” ever found its way to us.)
Today’s Bonus Feature
TV Guide, October 1, 1966
This article describes Brian Keith’s unusual work schedule, which explains why Uncle Bill was away so frequently. (The article also reveals his early ambition to be a sailor and his problems with math–interesting in the context of this episode.)