Family Affair Friday: Season 1, Episode 30, “The Butler Method,” May 15, 1967

With this episode, we reach the end of Family Affair‘s first season! Thanks to all of you who have followed along so far. The second season includes some of my favorite episodes, so I’m excited to get it under way next week.

Written by: George Tibbles. Directed by: William D. Russell.

Synopsis

Two threads run through this episode and come together by the end–almost.

First, a well known actor friend of Uncle Bill’s is observing French to prepare for a theatrical role.

Guess who's coming to dinner?

Guess who’s coming to dinner?

Second, Cissy is indecisive about her choice for a Sadie Hawkins-type dance.

Luckily for Cissy, she has a friend to help her through this crisis. Unluckily for Cissy, it's Wanda, who is even more annoying than Cissy's other friends.

Luckily for Cissy, she has a friend to help her through this crisis. Unluckily for Cissy, it’s Wanda, who is an even bigger nuisance than Cissy’s other friends.

Cissy hesitates too long in finding a date and misses out on the desirable boys. Wanda, who acts more quickly, lands a good catch.

Yes, this is definitely a work of fiction.

Yep, this is definitely a work of fiction.

Uncle Bill reminisces to his house guest about his own Sadie Hawkins experiences. Even back then, it seams, he had to fight the girls off with a stick. Sometimes he would go as far as claiming a broken leg to avoid “dancing with a giraffe.” Real nice, Bill!

In the featurette included with the Season 1 DVDs, Kathy Garver says that Brian Keith would avoid making eye contact with guest stars he didn't like. I get the feeling throughout this episode that Christopher Dark isn't a personal favorite of his.

In the featurette included with the Season 1 DVDs, Kathy Garver says that Brian Keith would avoid making eye contact with guest stars he didn’t like. I get the feeling throughout this episode that Christopher Dark isn’t a personal favorite of his.

When Cissy finally stoops so low as calling her last-resort boy, Virgil, he has to decline: It seems he has a broken leg.

Cissy takes this news about as well as a careful viewer of Season 1 would expect.

Cissy takes this news about as well as a careful viewer of Season 1 would expect.

Believing that Virgil is lying, Cissy takes to moping around the apartment.

Wanda helps Cissy's funk along by showing off her own dress for the dance and offering to tell Cissy all about the fun she'll be missing.

Wanda helps Cissy’s funk along by showing off her own dress for the dance and offering to tell Cissy all about the fun she’ll be missing.

French thinks that Uncle Bill should offer to escort Cissy to the dance, and Bill does so.

Cissy has the good sense to realize that showing up at a dance with your uncle is worse than not showing up at all.

Cissy declines. She has the good sense to realize that showing up at a dance with your uncle is worse than not showing up at all.

Eventually, another answer to the problem dawns on Uncle Bill–he asks his celebrity friend to escort her.

Cissy surprises everyone by turning the actor down. He's way too old--or, she puts it, she's way too young.

Cissy surprises everyone by turning the actor down. He’s way too old–or, she puts it, she’s way too young.

Uncle Bill finds his friend's discomfort rather amusing.

Uncle Bill finds his friend’s discomfort rather amusing.

Just then, Virgil appears at the Davis door with a very real broken leg and a doctor’s permission to attend the dance anyway.

That night, Cissy and Virgil are all smiles as they head off for the dance. Apparently, Cissy has forgotten that she didn't want to ask Virgil in the first place.

That night, Cissy and Virgil are all smiles as they head off for the dance. Apparently, Cissy has forgotten that she didn’t want to ask Virgil in the first place.

As you can see, the twins don’t figure much in this episode’s plot. They do have a cute running gag, however.

At the beginning of the episode, they leave their school books on the hall table.

In response, they receive an intense French glare.

In response, they receive an intense French glare.

He's yelling at us with his eyes, Buffy whispers to Jody, just before the kids scoop the books up.

“He’s yelling at us with his eyes,” Buffy whispers to Jody, just before the kids scoop the books up.

Later, Cissy and Wanda leave their books on the table, and French fails to react.

Buffy and Jody are quick to point out the injustice of this.

Buffy and Jody are quick to point out the injustice.

Near the end of the episode, they let themselves in after school and observe that French is nowhere to be seen.

For a few seconds, they glory in their freedom.

For a few seconds, they glory in their freedom.

Then their own sense of responsibility kicks in, and they pick the books up.

Then their own sense of responsibility kicks in, and they pick the books up.

French is amusing when he describes his efforts to keep the twins happy while Wanda sleeps over with Cissy for two nights. He manages to convince an exiled Buffy to play “hotel” in Jody’s room the first night, but by the second night his game of “castle” fails to keep the peace.

Commentary

This episode seems to head in a very predictable direction.The “date-with-a-middle-aged celebrity” idea is the kind of thing that usually makes sense to everyone in old sitcoms, even though it would be make for a very strange occurrence in real life. Cissy’s refusal to go out with the movie star saves this episode.

Also, it's always nice to see Cissy prettied up for a big date.

Also, it’s always nice to see Cissy prettied up for a big date.

Guest Cast

Orson: Christopher Dark. Virgil: Patrick Moore. Wanda: Lynette Winter. Patrick Moore would appear one more time on Family Affair, and then vanish from the world of screen acting forever. Christopher Dark’s TV appearances include many westerns and two episodes of The Rogues, in which John Williams–the other Mr. French–had a regular role. Winter is familiar from her role as best friend LaRue in the series Gidget and as Henrietta Plout on Petticoat Junction. She also had a small part in The Parent Trap, but she didn’t share any screen time with Brian Keith.

Winter's character in this episode is supposed to be annoying--and, boy, does she nail it.

Winter’s character in this episode is supposed to be annoying–and, boy, does she nail it.

Fun Facts

French isn’t a movie buff. He only likes to watch Sir Laurence Olivier in Hamlet and color footage of the coronation. Oh, French.

Burning Question

Isn’t a fake broken leg a particularly lame excuse? You would have to keep the ruse up at school for a fairly long time.
Also, if Bill was so popular, why did he once have to take his aunt as his date to a track meet?

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5 thoughts on “Family Affair Friday: Season 1, Episode 30, “The Butler Method,” May 15, 1967

  1. Orschel52 says:

    Thank you very much for all these brilliant season 1 posts. I enjoyed them immensely indeed and do look forward to your season 2 coverage.

    What about some more babble on the German Family Affair now at the end of the first season? For me, watching the show on national public German TV in the late 60s had two major benefits, though I wasn’t aware of them at the time. Firstly, that silly laugh track which I find most annoying was not part of the German-dubbed version, and, secondly, there were no commercial breaks! On fee-funded national German TV, commercials are/were allowed only until 8:00 pm, only after the end of a program, and not at all on Sundays and public holidays. I don’t know the exact rules and regulations, so maybe they are no longer that strict today, particularly as regards daytime and early evening shows. I think one spot in a half-hour show is now permitted, as may be the interruption of longer movies, but, in any case, the after 8pm and Sunday/public holiday rule still applies. So I can hardly believe a show of just 25 or so minutes had two (!!!) commercial breaks in the USA! After the launch of cable and satellite TV in the late 80s, Family Affair was rerun on one of the new commercial stations which, of course, depended on commercial breaks and thus sort of forced Germans to get used to them (I never did!). But even then and there, the short FA episodes were broadcast “non-stop”! I don’t know whether half-hour shows have commercial breaks today – I still avoid watching commercial channels whenever possible because I hate the sudden intrusion of commercials just when things get interesting. It sucks.

    Anyway, the rerun had another surprise in store. If you like, I’ll write more about it some other time.

    P.S.: After some unrequested update, I seem to have some difficulties with this site. I had to fill in my details again to log in (did not pop up automatically, as before) and am obviously unable to format text in any way (e.g. bold or italic fonts). Will try to solve this problem.

  2. Amy says:

    Yay! I love hearing more about your experiences watching Family Affair in Germany!

    That’s interesting about the lack of commercials. It makes me envy German television viewers. The bad thing about commercial television in the US is that the amount of time devoted to commercials has continued to expand through the years. Any station that rebroadcasts older shows like Family Affair will therefore cut out scenes to fit in more ads. They don’t cut with much care, either, so the resulting episodes tend to be choppy and confusing.

    When I had my Family Affair web site in the late 1990s, I was working from episodes that a cable channel was re-broadcasting. Sometimes I would get to the credits and find a character listed who didn’t even appear in edited episode. I’m so glad the full episodes are available on DVD now!

    Thanks for writing, and I’m sorry you had difficulty with the site. Every time WordPress makes “improvements,” it gives me headaches.

    I look forward to hearing more from you soon!

    • Orschel52 says:

      And I thought that matters on commercial TV in Germany were awful! However, what you describe seems a lot worse. At least, they don’t cut out scenes here – as far as I know. They leave out the credits, though (which wouldn’t have been any help to your earlier web site either), and have commercial breaks lasting for at least 10 minutes. So when I really want to see something on commercial TV, I record it so that I can fast-forward the commercials.

  3. maedez says:

    I cannot wait for season 2!

  4. erotyka says:

    Howdy! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this write-up to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!

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