Sorry that this week’s installment of my Family Affair series is a bit late. Our episode this weeks concerns a cultural clash, with the cultures involved being swinging-’60s-British-youth-sanitized-for-family television and Mr. French’s weird Downton-Abbey-throwback lifestyle.
Written by: Edmund Beloin and Henry Garson. Directed by: William D. Russell.
As we look in on the Davis family, Uncle Bill is leaving again, this time for a short trip to San Francisco.
As the kids leave for school, Cissy mentions that Mr. French will be picking up his nephew at the airport later.
From French, Bill learns that nephew David is visiting New York on his way to live in California as an exchange student. (David is the son of Algernon French. I wonder how many French brothers exist?) When Bill mentions that David and Cissy might hit it off, French recoils from the idea.
“One of the very first rules my father laid down when my brothers and I went into service was that undue familiarity doomed the relationship between master and servant,” he notes.
Understandably uncomfortable with this language, Bill prefers to think of him and French as people who “work together.” He accepts French’s views on the subject, however, quoting his own father as saying, “Don’t argue with a man who has his mind made up.”
David offends his uncle’s servile sensibilities by calling the apartment “a splashy pad” and speculating about how much “lolly” Bill makes.
He’s passing on a cushy career working six long days a week, living in one cramped room, wearing uncomfortable uniforms, and submitting completely to another person’s wishes? What other kind of career could possibly tempt him?
Hmm…forsaking centuries of tradition for a career in dentistry? What other 1960s character does David remind me of?
When the kids come home from school, Cissy and David take an immediate liking to each other.
Soon they’re comparing notes on sports, and Cissy is inviting him to an American football game. (In the spring?)
Unfortunately, French’s butler friends are there to witness this meeting.
David shares a meal with the family, and it’s clear that they all like him.
French continues to stew, however, especially after Cissy’s friend Sharon arrives with tickets to a jazz festival. She invites Cissy and David to accompany her and her boyfriend.
When French learns that David has invited Cissy to help see him off at the airport the next day, he can’t contain his feelings anymore.
David’s sudden, unexplained change of heart saddens Cissy.
He gently reminds French that the generation gap is universal, and that teens don’t always accept their elders’ ideas: “You can live your own life, but you can’t live theirs.”
French relents and tells Cissy to change clothes for the airport–her “slack ensemble” is hardly correct for such an occasion.
In the episode’s tag, Buffy and Jody examine a letter just delivered for Uncle Bill.
As it turns out, the letter is from Mr. Giles French, who announces his imminent return to the Davis household.
They are sad to think of Nigel French leaving, however. Jody suggests moving himself into Uncle Bill’s room to make room for both Frenches. Surprisingly, Uncle Bill rejects this idea.
I think this kind of episode premise appeals to kids. It’s always fun to see adult pretensions punctured, as young people strike a blow for egalitarianism. It also plays to the idealized American notion of rising above class differences.
David: Martin Horsey. Withers: Richard Peel. Middlebrook: Maurice Dallimore. Sharon: Sherry Alberoni.
Martin Horsey played the Artful Dodger in the original London production of Oliver! This is former Mouseketeer Sherry Alberoni’s second appearance on Family Affair. Maurice Dallimore played a butler (named Faversham!) in an episode of Petticoat Junction.
Uncle Bill disliked school when he was the twins’ age.
Cissy mentions the Velvet Vultures and Terre Haute.
Today’s Bonus Feature
A short gossip item from TV Radio Mirror, April 1970.