Family Affair Friday (Not!): Season 2, Episode 12, “Our Friend Stanley,” 12/4/1967 (with vintage toy bonus)

Written by: Henry Garson and Edmund Beloin. Directed by: Charles Barton.

This week’s episode begins with French hustling the twins off to school.

In the elevator, they encounter a sad-looking boy clutched protectively by his mother.

In the elevator, they encounter a sad-looking boy clutched protectively by his mother.

Buffy and Jody, firing off a series of questions that embarrass French, learn that Stanley is new to the building and getting ready to attend his first day at their school. They are pleased to learn that Stanley, like them, is in second grade. (Whew! We’ve emerged safely from last week’s time warp.)

They can’t understand, however, why Stanley and his mother are planning to take a taxi to school, rather than walking.

The light finally dawns when they see Stanley walk out of the elevator.

The light begins to dawn on them when they see Stanley walk out of the elevator.

French explains to them that Stanley has a brace on his leg and encourages them to be friendly and helpful to the boy at school.

(Leg braces always intrigued me when I was a kid. I saw them a lot on TV kids but never on any real ones. Apparently, they were frequently used by victims of polio, which was no longer an issue during my childhood–or Buffy’s and Jody’s.)

Oh, and one more thing before we get to the kids' school--we get a Scotty sighting in this episode!

Oh, and one more thing before we get to the kids’ school–we get a Scotty sighting in this episode!

At recess, Buffy notices that Stanley is sitting by himself and tells Jody that they should help him. Jody invites Stanley to play marbles with his multi-racial band of friends, but by the time he convinces Stanley to play, the other boys have moved on to leap-frog. Jody still encourages Stanley to join them.”If you fall, you fall,” he says, noting that all the boys fall sometimes.

I have a bad feeling about this.

I have a bad feeling about this.

With exquisitely bad timing, Stanley’s mother picks this moment to show up at school with Stanley’s sweater.

Now I've got a really bad feeling about this.

Now I’ve got a really bad feeling about this.

Sure enough, Stanley hits the grass, and his mother doesn’t take it well.

She bans Buffy and Jody from playing with Stanley again.

She bans Buffy and Jody from playing with Stanley again.

Well, that’s going to be awkward because meanwhile, back at the apartment building…

...Bill meets up with one of his many, many old friends in the lobby--and this old friend happens to be Stanley's father. (Incidentally, Bill smokes like a chimney throughout this episode.)

…Bill meets up with one of his many, many old friends–and this old friend happens to be Stanley’s father. (Incidentally, Bill smokes like a chimney throughout this episode.)

Doug invites Bill to stop by later to catch up with him and his wife Estelle. Bill’s visit is marked by pained glances between Doug and Estelle when the subject of children comes up. Sheesh, their kid has a leg brace, not that “elephant man” disease! Eventually, Stanley himself appears, and Bill notices how protective Estelle is of her son.

Stanley's apartment has lots of Family Affair green...and what is that table/shelf thing protruding from the wall?

Stanley’s apartment has lots of Family Affair green…and what is that table/shelf thing protruding from the wall?

When he returns to his own apartment for dinner, Bill learns that Estelle has forbidden Stanley to play with Buffy and Jody.

A worried Bill tells French that this situation is bad for the twins as well as for Stanley--in the future, Buffy and Jody might try to avoid people with handicaps.

A worried Bill tells French that this situation is bad for the twins as well as for Stanley–in the future, Buffy and Jody might try to avoid people with handicaps.

He decides to have a man-to-man, smoker-to-smoker talk with Doug.

Doug agrees that Estelle is overprotective, but he is reluctant to intervene.

Doug agrees that Estelle is overprotective, but he is reluctant to intervene.

Eventually, however, he agrees to let Bill take Jody and Stanley to the park for some kite-flying.

Bill couldn't have come up with an activity that doesn't require running?

Bill couldn’t have come up with an activity that doesn’t require running?

Even before they leave for the park, the situation deteriorates. Stanley has some kind of male-ego chip on his shoulder, and he challenges Jody to a fight. Our sweet-natured Jody has no interest in fighting, but Bill encourages the boys to settle their differences through “Indian wrestling.”

We called it arm wrestling when I was a kid, and not for any PC reasons, I'm sure. We weren't very PC about Native Americans back then.

We called it arm wrestling when I was a kid, and not for any PC reasons, I’m sure. We weren’t very PC about Native Americans back then.

Showing her usual flair for timing, Estelle barges in, having learned about the kite-flying outing and wanting to nip it in the bud.

As it turns out, Stanley is an arm-wrestling wizard. When Estelle sees how proud he is to have beaten Jody, she realizes that he needs normal boy experiences.

As it turns out, Stanley is an arm-wrestling wizard. When Estelle sees how proud he is to have beaten Jody, she realizes that he needs normal boy experiences.

Soon, the boys are flying their kites in Central Park.

Buffy, who apparently prefers to sit with Mrs. Beasley, Bill, and Bill's second-hand smoke, expresses her admiration about the way Bill handled the Stanley situation.

Buffy, who prefers to sit with Mrs. Beasley, Bill, and Bill’s second-hand smoke, expresses her admiration about the way Bill handled the Stanley situation.

“I guess you just like kids,” she says.

Awww.

Awww.

Commentary

This is a nice episode, one of many in which Buffy and Jody meet a child who is different from them in some way. Uncle Bill’s opinion, that it’s as important for twins to experience friendship with Stanley as it is for Stanley himself, seems rather progressive.

Another episode highlight: Buffy and Jody teasing Cissy about her latest boyfriend.

Another episode highlight: Buffy and Jody teasing Cissy about her latest boyfriend, Harold, a “tall, skinny guy whose bow tie wiggles up and down when he talks.”

Guest Cast

Stanley: Michael Freeman. Miss Jerome: Ila Britton. Eddie: Gary Dubin. Estelle: Sally Forrest. Scotty: Karl Lukas. Doug: John Lupton.

Michael Freeman was a cutie and an okay child actor, so it’s surprising he didn’t get more work. His most interesting credit is “The Boy Pusher” in the 1973 TV movie Go Ask Alice. (I see the whole movie is available on Youtube. That’s got to be good for some laughs.)

Dubin was Punky Lazaar in several Partridge Family episodes.Recent titles in his filmography suggest that his career has gone in, um, a different direction lately.

Lupton starred in a 1950s Western series called Broken Arrow and a short-lived 1960s daytime soap called Never Too Young. He played Tommy Horton on Days of Our Lives from 1967 to 1980. He appeared in an episode of the Sebastian Cabot series Checkmate and in the 1972 film Napolean and Samantha with Johnnie Whitaker.

John Lupton

John Lupton

Forrest found modest film success in movies directed by Ida Lupino (who would guest star on two Family Affair episodes herself); the first of these was Not Wanted in 1949.

Sally Forrest

Sally Forrest

Inconsistency Alert

The length of Buffy’s pigtails varies from scene to scene–see below and note the length in relation to her ears. They are shorter in her scenes with Uncle Bill; Brian Keith’s abbreviated shooting schedule undoubtedly led to these scenes being shot at a time far removed from the episode’s other scenes.

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Less easy to explain is the way her hair bows change color from red to blue in between leaving the Davis apartment and entering the elevator. Freaky!

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Notable Quotes

“Once in a while, she just stands there and looks at us and says, ‘Why didn’t I become an airline hostess?”–Buffy, describing her teacher.

This Week’s Bonus Feature

I know I’ve been stingy with bonus features lately, but my husband bought me something yesterday that I just had to share.

Family Affair Colorforms, from 1970!

Family Affair Colorforms, from 1970!

This is one of the few Family Affair toys I didn’t have and one that I particularly wanted–I love Jody’s ridiculous expression on the box. Note also that Mrs. Beasley is wearing a red dress, and Cissy appears to be a 35-year-old woman.

On the inside, the likenesses are even worse.

On the inside, the likenesses are even worse.

All the characters except Cissy have separate top and bottom halves, as well as separate arms.

Wiseacre kids must have had fun with this feature, such as by giving Jody a skirt, Bill a weight problem, and French some tiny legs.

Wiseacre kids must have had fun with this feature, such as by giving Jody a skirt, Bill a weight problem, and French some tiny legs.

I actually prefer the Colorforms version of the Davis apartment to the real one.

And Colorforms Buffy and Jody are lucky--they get a dog.

And Colorforms Buffy and Jody are lucky–they get a dog.

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Family Affair Friday Postponed Until Monday

I apologize for the delay in this week’s Family Affair Friday. I’ve spent the past few days working at my daughter’s Girl Scout day camp, and I haven’t had enough time or energy left over for other pursuits. On the bright side, when I post this week’s installment tomorrow, I will have a fun bonus to share with you!

Weird Words of Wisdom: A Swing in Your Walk and a Gleam in Your Eye Edition

“Trouble with you thinker types is you are always so SURE people will act the way you think they should logically act. I gather you aren’t really in favor of teen-age hanky-panky, but you believe the boy must exercise as much restraint as the girl. I agree: This would be just peachy keeno, but life isn’t like that. Males are the conquerors and females, the limit setters. I doubt you moderns can ever eliminate this double standard, and if you do, Heaven help the men! When they are no longer the aggressors, they may become slaves, for many women won’t stop at ‘equality.’”

This girl NEEDS help. A creepy guy is following her around and staring at her. (I think he's trying to figure out her hairstyle.)

This girl NEEDS help. A creepy guy is following her around and staring at her. (I think he’s trying to figure out her hairstyle.)

Helen Help Us by Helen Bottel, 1970

About this Book and Its Author: If mid-century advice columnists were colas, Abby and Ann would be Coke and Pepsi. Helen Bottel? She was RC. Her syndicated column, “Helen Help Us,” ran for 25 years in about 200 papers that were apparently too cheap to spring for one of the bigger names.

Bottel entered the advice game on a dare from husband and began writing a column in her local Oregon paper in 1958. Not lacking chutzpah, Bottel sent her work to King Features Syndicate within three weeks of starting her column. Remarkably, they snapped her up.

Her column wasn’t specifically aimed at teens, but she acknowledged that they were her most frequent correspondents. In this 1970 collection, the letters are exclusively from teens and young adults, and Bottel concerns herself mainly with helping them resist the society’s growing sexual licentiousness. Judging from the letters, it’s an uphill battle; most of them seem to be from girls who “gave in” and regretted it.

Actually, the letters are weirder than most of the advice Bottel gives, and the predicaments the writers find themselves in disabuse one of the notion that they date from a more innocent time. Correspondents include a 16-year-old who’s seeking a divorce from her abusive husband; a high school girl who’s dating an alcoholic 13 years older than she; a girl whose 15-year-old friend “ran away to be with the hippies” and ended up pregnant and with a case of VD; and a 19-year-old guy who’s attracted to a 14-year-old girl (“I’m not going to tell you she is mature in looks and mind because she isn’t, but I feel she has the basic personality traits I look for in a girl.”)

Bottel’s own background was troubled, according to a 1986 People magazine article. Her father deserted the family when she was two, and her mentally ill mother died when Bottel was 15. A caring foster mother put her on the road toward success.

She sometimes used the slangy, quip-heavy style that Ann and Abby relied upon in their early years. Generally, she seemed sincere in her efforts to help, however. All those who wrote in—more than 3,500 per year–received a personal response in the mail.

She gave up her column in 1983, explaining, “I was tired of being the third person in a two-person market.” At around the same time, she attracted the attention of the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun, which gave her a fresh outlet for her advice and whose readers relished her American perspective.

Bottel died in 1999.

A Note About My Edition: This 75-cent Tempo paperback wasn’t bound with great care. From page 56, it skips to page 89. Then, after page 114, it goes back to page 89 and starts from there again. I’m missing 33 pages of potentially weird wisdom!

When Weird Words of Wisdom Worlds Collide: Bottel recommends a book by Evelyn Duvall.

Extreme Weirdness Alert: Bottel’s book includes a bizarre letter from a girl who befriended a male TV star’s daughter. When the girls returned home 15 minutes past curfew due to a flat tire, the TV star was angry and got into an argument with the letter-writer, who ended up throwing a hairbrush at him. He, then, took the hairbrush and gave her “a real hard spanking.” This letter doesn’t entirely ring true, unless the TV star was Pat Boone.

Quotes from Helen Help Us

“You can’t turn a boy on and expect him not to catch on fire.”

“With immaturity, poverty, jealousy, distrust, an overdose of ‘family,’ and a slight case of mental illness against it, this marriage has as much of a chance for success as the Penguin against Batman.”

“You kids and a ‘real formal’ adult ball would go together like the Monkees and a minuet.”

“One girl’s wet blanket is another girl’s comforter.”

To an 18-year-old male whose parents won’t let him date: “Nothing will solve your problem faster than the draft. The Army may not be the easiest way to cut apron-strings, but it’s the most effective.”

“If a girl doesn’t stand on ‘Three slaps and you’re out,’ she may REALLY strike out on the fourth pitch.”

“Work on your looks and personality so that fellows will see the sparkle first and discover the sympathy as an added dividend. Change that ‘anxious-to-please’ smile to a friendly grin. Put a swing in your walk and a gleam in your eye. Let men know you’re a female-type girl. That’s all it takes.”

“…males being males, and females being forever feminine, ‘equal rights’ will always be shot full of loopholes.”

“Wild parties make you ‘in,’ all right—TROUBLE!”

“Nice girls don’t advertise—they wait to be discovered.”

“This ‘Pill for All’ bit is something like letting girls visit in men’s dormitory rooms. Much drumbeating, but where it’s allowed, who visits? Almost no one.”

“A kiss shouldn’t make promises a girl doesn’t plan to keep, and if it’s lacking in ‘technique,’ so much the better. As I’ve said before, a kiss is like a salesman’s spiel: If it’s too perfect, you suspect he’s had so much practice he couldn’t possibly be sincere.”

Other Weird Words of Wisdom Posts You Might Enjoy:

“Take It on the Chin, Gal” Edition

Swearing, Shouting, and Backslapping Edition

Twin Sister Smackdown Edition

Family Affair Friday(ish): Season 2, Episode 11, “Freddie,” 11/27/1967

Attention Family Affair fans: Be sure you check out two great entries in the recent Me-TV Blogathon. Michael from Michael’s TV Tray wrote a hilarious take on our beloved show and even wrote some theme-song lyrics. And at Silver Scenes, you’ll find a lovely overview of the series, complete with some well-chosen favorite episodes.

“Freddie,” 11/27/1967

Written by: John McGreevey. Directed by: William D. Russell.

Note that first-season director William D. Russell gets credit for this episode. That’s our first clue that we’ve entered a weird Davis family time warp. And since this is a rather low-key–one might even say boring–episode, looking for time warp clues will constitute much of our fun this week.

When we first look in on the Davis family, Buffy and Jody are attempting to make themselves look scary and revolting. (I know some Buffy and Jody haters who would say they do a great job at this, week in and week out.)

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Time warp clue number two: Jody’s hair is closely cropped here. In most season two episodes, it’s a bit more grown out.

The twins explain to Uncle Bill that they are trying to scare off a classmate, Sue Jeannette, who is stalking Jody. (When we last saw Sue Jeannette, eight episodes ago, she was called Sue Evelyn.)

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Good-looking guys just have to put up with that kind of attention, Bill jokes. And Bill is looking good in red, isn’t he?

Soon, there’s knock at the door, and the family is welcoming an old friend of Uncle Bill’s.

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Frederica–Freddie to Uncle Bill–has accompanied her husband on his business trip to the Big Apple.

The kids take an instant liking to Freddie.

Time warp hint number three: Cissy looks younger here than she has in recent episodes.

Time warp hint number three: Cissy looks younger here than she has in recent episodes.

When they learn that Freddie knew Uncle Bill in Terre Haute, the kids pump her for stories from “the olden days.”

From her, we learn that Bill was popular without working at it, that he always took time to talk to people and how an interest in their lives, and that he was always happy to let people and animals have a ride in his broken down car.

From her, we learn that Bill was popular without working at it, that he always took time to talk to people and show an interest in their lives, and that he was always happy to let people and animals have a ride in his broken down car.

Yeah, that sounds about right.

The kids enjoy Freddie’s company so much at dinner that they ask her to tuck them in.

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This is a cute scene–Freddie applies perfume on Buffy and then on Mrs. Beasley.

This episode’s sub-plot involves Cissy accepting a baby-sitting job from some neighbors. (She’s earning 75 cents an hour, increased to one dollar an hour after midnight.) Uncle Bill doesn’t like the idea of her taking on her first job, but she wants to increase her self-sufficiency.

Time warp clue number four: Um, remember that whole dramatic candy striper thing?

Time warp clue number four: Um, remember that whole dramatic candy striper thing?

Meanwhile, Bill has plans to take Freddie to dinner when he realizes that he must attend the twins’ first grade open house. Okay, this is more than a time-warp clue–it’s a big, fat continuity glitch. It’s been established that the twins are in second grade this year.

Freddie ends up accompanying the family to school. While she may seem overdressed in her dead-animal regalia, the kids and most of their classmates are pretty decked out, too. Who knew that NYC public schools were so formal in the 1960s?

Freddie ends up accompanying the family to school. While she may seem overdressed in her dead-animal regalia, the kids and most of their classmates are pretty decked out, too. Who knew that NYC public schools were so formal in the 1960s?

(Speaking of fashion, Buffy’s familiar first-season green suit is another time warp clue.)

Bill gets a chance to see Jody’s nemesis, Sue Jeannette.

She is rather creepy, at that.

She is rather creepy, at that.

He also endures an awkward moment when Sue Jeannette’s mother assumes Freddie is his wife. Actually, if Freddie wasn’t married, she’d make good wife material for Bill–better than those kid-hating bimbos he sometimes brings home.

After the open house, Bill takes Freddie to New York's famed "Restaurant" restaurant.

After the open house, Bill takes Freddie to New York’s famed “Restaurant” restaurant.

Amid the ugliest decor imaginable, Freddie opens up about her mid-life crisis and her loneliness in her marriage to her busy, go-getter husband. She asks Bill if he has ever had to cope with regrets.

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Nope, Bill replies helpfully.

When he returns to his apartment, Bill finds an alarmed French. It’s after 2 a.m., and Cissy hasn’t returned from babysitting.

As a worried Bill prepares to track her down, a police officer escorts her into the apartment.

As a worried Bill prepares to track her down, a police officer escorts Cissy into the apartment.

The officer picked Cissy up for violating curfew. (Does anyone know if New York City really had a curfew for teens in the 1960s? I tried to research it but couldn’t find any answers.)

Cissy explains that the couple she was sitting for arrived home late and made no effort to help her get home. What jerks!

Bill brings a swift end to Cissy's babysitting career and vows to trust his parenting instincts from now on.

Bill brings a swift end to Cissy’s babysitting career and vows to trust his parenting instincts from now on.

The next night he does let her do some babysitting, though–he hires her to entertain Buffy and Jody while he has dinner with Freddie and her husband.

Freddie arrives with gifts for the kids. Buffy and Jody get bubbles. Freddie's not a big spender, apparently.

Freddie arrives with gifts for the kids. Buffy and Jody get bubbles. Freddie’s not a big spender, apparently.

Freddie’s husband, Boring McStuffypants, arrives in time to see his wife playing happily with the kids.

When they have a quiet moment alone, he suggests to a delighted Freddie that they look into adoption when they return home.

When they have a quiet moment alone, he suggests to a delighted Freddie that they look into adoption when they return home.

Well, Freddie’s problem is solved, which is nice I guess, considering that we hardly know her and don’t have any real reason to care about her.

Meanwhile, Cissy learns that the twins are harder on sitters than they are on sisters.

Meanwhile, Cissy learns that the twins are harder on sitters than they are on sisters.

(It looks like she’s reading them Whitman Tell-a-Tale books. That makes sense, since Whitman published Family Affair books, coloring books, paper dolls, and more.)

Our episode ends with Cissy frazzled, Uncle Bill bemused, and the laws of time and space righting themselves in preparation for next week's episode.

The episode ends with Cissy frazzled, Bill bemused, and the laws of time and space apparently righting themselves in preparation for next week’s episode.

Commentary

I’d love to know why this episode, which was obviously filmed earlier, didn’t air until the second season.

Guest Cast

Freddie: Diane Brewster. Greg: Willard Sage. Ruth: Barbara Collentine. Sue Jeannette: Susan Benjamin.

As I watched this episode, my daughter said, “That lady looks familiar–like she was Beaver’s teacher or something.” Kid’s got a good eye. Brewster was indeed Miss Canfield on Leave It to Beaver. She also appeared in the film The Young Philadelphians, in which Brian Keith (and John Williams) had roles. She was the murdered wife on The Fugitive and appeared in many TV westerns. This appearance on Family Affair was her last acting job. She died in 1991.

Sage had film roles in The Tender Trap and That Touch of Mink.

Susan Benjamin had a regular role on a short-lived Jerry Van Dyke comedy called Accidental Family. Like this episode, that show aired during the 1967-68 TV season.

Harris often appeared on The Big Valley as the sheriff.

Notable Quotes

“Guys got different ways of goin’ and gettin’.”–Bill, in reaction to Freddie’s surprise that such a laid-back guy had built a career as a go-getting engineer.

Continuity Notes

We get lots of Terre Haute references, including a reference to the kids’ parents. Jody’s turtle gets a shout-out.

Leave it to Beaver: A Father’s Journey

403X403-SOCTVBLOGWard Cleaver: “When I was a boy, if I’d broken a window, I’d have had to pay for it…Not only that but I’d have gotten a pretty good taste of the strap, too.”

Beaver: “Gee, Dad—you must have had a real mean father.”

Years ago, when I was watching my way through Leave it to Beaver for the billionth time, I noticed an interesting pattern. In many episodes, after Beaver’s troubles resolve themselves, Ward and June share a quiet moment. Almost invariably, she asks him how his father would have handled a situation like Beaver’s. And almost invariably, Ward describes his father reacting with less understanding—and more hitting.

From Leave It to Beaver’s premier in 1957, TV critics recognized a small innovation that the show introduced to TV—its point of view.

“With Beaver, we aimed at showing the child’s view of this world,” Joe Connelly told the Associated Press in 1960. Connelly, with Bob Mosher, created and produced the series.

In my opinion, however, the show’s perspective is more complicated than that. Leave it to Beaver shows a child’s world as filtered through the perspective of a warm but bewildered father—a father who is groping toward a new model for fatherhood, quite different from the one he experienced growing up.

This dual perspective came naturally for Mosher and Connelly, who had eight children between them when Leave It to Beaver premiered. For story ideas, they drew upon their real families. The episode in which Aunt Martha forces Beaver to wear short pants to school, and the episode where the boys break Ward’s car window and attempt to hide it, came directly from the life of Connelly’s son Richard.

Changing Roles

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Leave It to Beaver‘s Ward Cleaver fulfilled traditional father roles as a provider and an authority figure. In almost every episode, however, he made a conscious effort to be a more warm and understanding father than his own father had been.

In the 1950s, when upper-middle-class parents like Ward and June Cleaver had a question about parenting, there was one man they turned to—Dr. Benjamin Spock, whose Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care was published to instant acclaim in 1946. As a 1955 article in the Milwaukee Journal put it, “The words ‘Dr. Spock says,’ heard daily in households from coast to coast, have made him ‘everybody’s baby doctor.’”

Dr. Spock stressed a relaxed and tolerant attitude toward children and encouraged parents to enjoy their children.

As years passed and new editions of the book appeared, Dr. Spock increased his focus on the father’s role in parenting, but even the earliest edition encouraged fathers to play a more active and positive role than their own fathers did.

In the early editions of his book, Dr. Spock discouraged spanking, although he stopped short of condemning the practice entirely.

As a 1998 Baltimore Sun article assessing Dr. Spock’s legacy stated: “It can be argued that Dr. Spock, more than anyone, sparked a revolution in how children were raised, turning baby-boom parents away from the strict discipline and prudish standards of their own parents and grandparents in favor of a more flexible approach that stresses plenty of love, caring and attention for children.”

Ward’s Parenting Journey

Hugh Beaumont was an ordained minister; this background might have helped him create his authoritative but compassionate portrayal of Ward.

Hugh Beaumont was an ordained minister; this background might have helped him create his authoritative but compassionate portrayal of Ward.

The words Leave It to Beaver have become a descriptive term for retrograde, sexist images of American life. It’s ironic, then, that the program actually shows a man who is working hard to become a “modern” father.

In a classic first-season episode, “The Haircut,” Ward and June discover that Beaver cut his own hair—badly—after losing his haircut money. Ward’s reaction is typical for the series:

Ward: “Boy, when I was a kid, my father would have whaled the tar out of me…Don’t worry, I’m not going to resort to physical violence. I’m tempted, though.”

Again and again, Ward rises above the temptation to discipline the boys the way he got disciplined. As other episodes show, he wants to have a warm relationship with his boys, even if he doesn’t always know how to build that relationship.

Take the first season episode “The Perfect Father,” for example. Ward grows increasingly distressed as Wally and the Beav spend all their time at the Dennisons’ house, where Mr. Dennison has installed a “regulation” basketball hoop.

Soon Ward is installing his own hoop and spending time with the boys and their friends as they play basketball. His action backfires, however, when his overbearing presence drives the neighborhood kids away.

This is certainly a departure from the all-wise, “father knows best” image presented in other early family comedies. Only when Ward runs into Mr. Dennison, and gets some advice from that more experienced father, does he realize his mistake.

Mr. Dennison: “If you ask me, the secret of getting close to your kids is to know when to stay away from them.”

In the moving second-season episode “Most Interesting Character,” we get a glimpse of Ward through Beaver’s eyes and see that Ward is succeeding in his efforts to be an involved and supportive father.

After struggling to make his father seem interesting for a school composition, and making a foray into fiction, Beaver decides to write the truth:

“He does not have an interesting job. He just works hard and takes care of all of us. He never shot things in Africa or saved anybody that was drowning, but that’s all right with me because when I am sick, he brings me ice cream, and when I tell him things or ask things, he always listens to me, and he gives up a whole Saturday to make junk with me in the garage. He may not be interesting to you, or someone else, because he’s not your father, just mine.”

Other Thoughts About Leave It to Beaver

Leave It to Beaver aired from 1957 to 1963. When CBS cancelled the show after two seasons, ABC picked it up.

Leave It to Beaver aired from 1957 to 1963. When CBS cancelled the show after two seasons, ABC picked it up.

Watching Beaver episodes in preparation for this blog post reminded what an enjoyable show this is. While the Cleavers are rather bland characters, Mosher and Connelly surround them with a hilarious collection of kids and adults, each believably annoying in his or her own way—from know-it-all Judy, whose mother was apparently one of the first helicopter parents—she threatened to call the school and complain if Judy didn’t pass her school orchestra audition—to overbearing braggart Fred Rutherford, to the ultimate in two-faced trouble-makers, Eddie Haskell.

The writers also slip some great lines into their scripts. I loved the randomness of this comment from “Train Trip”:

Ward, on how the boys could amuse themselves in a train station: “Well, you could always watch a fat lady hit a kid.”

June: “Why would they do that?”

Ward: “I don’t know…but I’ve never been in a railroad station yet where there wasn’t a fat lady hitting a kid.”

(If you substitute Wal-Mart for railroad station, this observation still holds true.)

In the early episodes, even June could bring the snark, as in The Perfect Father:

Ward, while installing the basketball hoop: “I must have put up hundreds of these all over the South Pacific when I was in the Seabees.”

June: “Well…I guess we all contributed to victory in our own way.”

So, if you haven’t seen Leave It to Beaver for a while, be sure to catch it on Me-TV—you’re sure to find it rewarding.

And when you do watch it, keep an eye on Ward and his journey to modern fatherhood.


“This post is part of Me-TV’s Summer of Classic TV Blogathon hosted by the Classic TV Blog Association. Go to http://classic-tv-blog-assoc.blogspot.com) to view more posts in this blogathon. You can also go to http://metvnetwork.com to learn more about Me-TV and view its summer line-up of classic TV shows.”

Family Affair Friday(ish): Season 2, Episode 10, “You Like Buffy Better,” 11/10/1967

403X403-SOCTVBLOGAttention classic TV fans: Don’t Miss Me-TV’s Summer of Classic TV Blogathon, starting July 15! All week long, a large collection of bloggers will be sharing their thoughts about great shows on Me-TV’s schedule, including That Girl, Bewitched, The Odd Couple, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and many more. (Of course, I’m particularly interested in the bloggers who will be turning their attention to Family Affair.) I’ll be posting my entry, a look at Leave it to Beaver from Ward Cleaver’s perspective, on July 19.

Many thanks to the Classic TV Blog Association for hosting this event and to Me-TV for making so many classic shows available to viewers.

Now, on to Family Affair

Written by: Hannibal Coons (Seriously? Apparently so, although his real first name was Stanley.) and Harry Winkler. Directed by: Charles Barton.

This week’s episode opens as Uncle Bill prepares for a date, blissfully unaware of all the trouble that’s about to rain down on him.

That trouble begins innocently enough, when Jody requests help with a bridge he’s designing for school. Revealing that he’s learned his lesson about such projects, Bill first seeks assurance that parents are allowed to help.

As Jody and Bill talk engineering, Buffy barges in with exciting news--her dance studio has picked her to try out for a television role.

As Jody and Bill talk engineering, Buffy barges in with exciting news–her dance studio has picked her to try out for a television role.

Jody resents Buffy’s intrusion, while Buffy finds Uncle Bill less than enthralled with her news. (In fairness to him, it’s been established that he hates ballet.)

Neither kids has to worry about it for long, as Bill soon shoos them from the room in preparation for his date.

Buffy and Jody introduce themselves to the lady in question, who has some kind of tumbleweed attached to her head.

Buffy and Jody introduce themselves to the lady in question, who has some kind of tumbleweed attached to her head.

“At Uncle Bill’s age,” the kids observe, “men are just more interested in pretty ladies than in little kids.” Ouch.

Later that night, Buffy confides her troubles to Mrs. Beasley.

Later that night, Buffy confides her troubles to Mrs. Beasley.

“I’m glad you’re not a man,” she tells the doll. “At least I have one friend.” Ouch again.

Cissy overhears Buffy’s comments and gets that concerned look on her face–that look usually bodes ill for Uncle Bill.

She waits up for him to return from his date and tells him that he needs to spend more time with Buffy.

She waits up for him to return from his date and tells him that he needs to spend more time with Buffy.

Uncle Bill agrees to do so, but when Cissy changes the subject to her latest boyfriend, Bill pleads exhaustion and heads for bed. Great–now all the kids are frustrated.

The next day, Bill makes time to talk with Buffy and to watch her "buttercup dance." But now Cissy, who was so concerned about her sister the night before, tries to monopolize Bill's attention for their delayed boyfriend discussion.

The next day, Bill makes time to talk with Buffy and to watch her “buttercup dance.” But now Cissy, who was so concerned about her sister the night before, tries to monopolize Bill’s attention for their delayed boyfriend discussion.

By the way, doesn’t the girls’ room look much more spacious than usual?

Soon, Jody enters with a request for more bridge assistance, but Bill keeps his focus on Buffy, especially when he learns that the TV producer she’ll be auditioning for is a friend of his.

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Bill calls his friend to put in a good word for Buffy. (Oh, that’s why the room looked so spacious–the desk had temporarily disappeared, as desks are wont to do.)

At school the next day, Ronny Bartlett questions why he hasn’t been able to meet Uncle Bill yet.

Teenage boys are always so anxious to meet their girlfriends' parents.

Teenage boys are always so anxious to meet their girlfriends’ parents.

Cissy promises that she’ll make the introduction after school, but it turns out to be a chaotic afternoon at the Davis apartment.

In Bill’s absence, French has tried to help Jody with the bridge and made a royal mess of it.

Bill finds Jody sulking and refusing to work on the project at all.

Bill finds Jody sulking and refusing to work on the project at all.

Before he can offer much help, Bill has another obligation–taking Buffy to her audition.

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Buffy gives an underwhelming performance for the TV producer, who has to explain to Bill that she’s not ready for prime time.

Bill takes a dejected Buffy home, where he finds an equally dejected Jody, as well as Cissy waiting with a nervous Ronny.

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Random mystery: Buffy both leaves the apartment and returns to it in her leotard, so what’s in that awesome flowered suitcase?

Cissy springs upon Bill the news that she and Ronny are going steady and planning marriage in a few years. Now, from my study of old teen advice books, I know that parents considered “going steady” a fast train to nookie-ville, which explains Bill’s harsh reaction.

By the time Bill finishes his man-to-man talk with Ronny, fruit punch is spilling, the boy's voice is cracking, and the "going steady" is over.

By the time Bill finishes his man-to-man talk with Ronny, fruit punch is spilling, the boy’s voice is cracking, and the “going steady” is over.

Cissy takes this development in the calm fashion that any teenage girl would.

"You've ruined my life!" she screeches. "I love Ronny!"

“You’ve ruined my life!” she screeches. “I love Ronny!”

By this time, Uncle Bill feels like the challenges of parenting have defeated him (and I’m feeling glad that I have only one child).

French, however, raises an interesting possibility--maybe parenting isn't the problem. Maybe the kids are acting like little jerks.

French, however, raises an interesting possibility–maybe parenting isn’t the problem. Maybe the kids are acting like little jerks.

Bill seizes on this theory with enthusiasm and calls all the kids into the living for for a talking-to.

Unlike real kids, the Davis kids accept that they've been making unreasonable demands on Bill's attention, and everyone ends up happy.

Unlike real kids, the Davis kids accept that they’ve been making unreasonable demands on Bill’s attention, and everyone ends up happy.

Commentary

These conflicts would arise in a real family situation, especially when the time Uncle Bill spends at home is so limited. I began the episode feeling sorry for the kids and ended it feeling sorry for Bill. It’s nice to see the kids have to take responsibility for their own behavior at the end.

Guest Cast

Ronny Bartlett: Gregg Fedderson. Miss Peterson: Olga Kaya. Ballet Mother: Katey Barrett. Alicia: Kellie Flanagan. Secretary: Charlotte Askins. Eric Langley: Del Moore.

This is the second appearance by Flanagan, best known for the TV version of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Oh, Me-TV--any chance you could resurrect that show?

This is the second appearance by Flanagan, best known for the TV version of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Oh, Me-TV–any chance you could resurrect that show?

Moore’s career included a regular role on Bachelor Father–a show with a premise similar to Family Affair‘s–and a part in 1963’s The Nutty Professor.

Fedderson, the son of executive producer Don Fedderson, would make many more appearances as Cissy's date, usually named Gregg. He was the brother of Petticoat Junction's Mike Minor.

Fedderson, the son of executive producer Don Fedderson, would make many more appearances as Cissy’s date, usually named Gregg. He was the brother of Petticoat Junction‘s Mike Minor.

Fun Facts

Uncle Bill once built a bridge over the Amazon.

Notable Quotes

“I do it better with my costume on–all fluffy and buttercuppy.”–Buffy, practicing her buttercup dance.

Family Affair Friday(ish): Season 2, Episode 9, “Take Me Out of the Ballgame,” 11/13/1967

I know, I know, it’s not even close to Friday this time. My attention is currently a bit divided when it comes to classic TV, for an exciting reason that I will share with you later this week!

Written by: Henry Garson and Edmund Beloin. Directed by: Charles Barton.

This week’s episode opens with Buffy, Jody, and Mr. French walking down a typical mid-town Manhattan street.

Actually, it appears to be an alley, which backs up to a huge, windowless wall.

Actually, it appears to be an alley, which backs up to a huge, windowless wall. Only in New York!

Stickball practice is in progress, and an errant ball knocks off Mr. French’s bowler. When a kid named Sam comes to retrieve the ball, Jody becomes enraptured with Sam’s team sweatshirt.

To Sam's credit, he doesn't say, "Get your hands off me, kid." Instead, he invites Jody to try out for the 63rd Street Tigers.

To Sam’s credit, he doesn’t say, “Get your hands off me, kid.” Instead, he invites Jody to try out for the 63rd Street Tigers.

French gives Jody’s plan to try out a ringing endorsement:

"If your uncle wishes Jody to play with ? amid sewer covers and garbage can lids, I shall abide by his wishes, however reluctantly.

“If your uncle wishes Jody to play with broomsticks amid sewage covers and garbage can lids, I shall abide by his wishes, however reluctantly.”

Meanwhile, at home, Bill is talking business on the phone while Cissy reviews a teen magazine. When the twins return, Jody prepares to secure Uncle Bill’s permission for a stickball try-out, while Cissy and Buffy discuss fashion ideas for Mrs. Beasley.

Cissy observes that, when it comes to fashion, "Paris is out. London is in." This is a surprisingly accurate assessment from someone whose magazine apparently dates from the 1940s.

Cissy observes that, when it comes to fashion, “Paris is out. London is in.” This is a surprisingly accurate assessment from someone whose magazine apparently dates from the 1940s.

This brief exchange serves to remind us that Buffy is a GIRL. You’ll need to keep this fact in mind to appreciate the full “hilarity” of what’s to come.

Jody finds that Uncle Bill is enthusiastic about his stickball plan.

It helps that Jody is trying out for second base, a position that Bill desperately sought throughout his youth, to no avail. (He couldn't go to his left.)

It helps that Jody is trying out for second base, a position that Bill desperately sought throughout his youth, to no avail. (He couldn’t go to his left.)

Bill’s eager to give Jody some tips, so Jody grabs a broomstick from the kitchen. Oh, dear. If classic TV has taught me anything, its that you shouldn’t play ball in the house.

See? This is why we can't have nice things. Or even things like that.

See? This is why we can’t have nice things. Or even things like that.

Jody’s initial try-out doesn’t go any better than the living room practice session.

As French describes it later to Bill: "If the expression 'not so hot' means not hitting the ball on 14 consecutive occasions then he was indeed, sir, not so hot."

As French describes it later to Bill: “If the expression ‘not so hot’ means not hitting the ball on 14 consecutive occasions then he was indeed, sir, not so hot.”

Bill takes Jody to the park for more intensive practice.

This picture doesn't serve any purpose, but I'm liking the way Bill looks in that shirt. Rowr.

This picture doesn’t serve any purpose, but I’m liking the way Bill looks in that shirt. Rowr.

Jody’s skills don’t improve, but one interesting thing does happen in the park. Buffy retrieves an errant pitch from Jody and throws the ball back with startling accuracy.

Then she goes back to cutting out fabric for doll clothes--because she's a GIRL. Are you starting to sense the comical contrast here?

Then she goes back to cutting out fabric for doll clothes–because she’s a GIRL. Are you starting to sense the comical contrast here?

Jody’s second try-out goes no better than his first.

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Buffy surprises the Tigers, though, by catching a ball that comes her way.

They insist on giving her an immediate try-out and observe that she’s a powerful hitter, too.

"That's my sister," Jody says proudly. What a good-natured kid.

“That’s my sister,” Jody says proudly. What a good-natured kid.

Both twins return to the Davis apartment wearing Tigers sweatshirts.

Cissy assumes that Buffy is a team mascot and Jody is a player, but she soon learns that Buffy is an outfielder and Jody has been given jobs like bat boy and water boy.

Cissy assumes that Buffy is a team mascot and Jody is a player, but she soon learns that Buffy is an outfielder and Jody has been given jobs like bat boy and water boy.

French is just confused by all the baseball terminology, and Bill is out of town, so he can’t weigh in on the latest developments. He returns in the midst of the Tigers’ next game and suffers a series of bitter shocks about the twins’ respective team roles.

These stickball games attract a fairly large crowd of nattily dressed city folk.

Random aside: These stickball games attract a large crowd of nattily dressed city folk.

Bill assumes that Jody feels humiliated about his position with the team. He sneaks off, hoping Jody won’t realize he was there to witness this “disgrace.”

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Talking to Jody later, he realizes that the boy is happy with the role he is playing and considers himself important to the team.

From the beginning, Jody only seemed to want a team sweatshirt, anyway.

Meanwhile, Buffy asks if she can skip ball practice the next day.

She's attending a tea party later in the day and can't take the risk of mussing her hair.

She’s attending a tea party later in the day and can’t take the risk of mussing her hair.

See, she’s a GIRL! A GIRL has a talent for sports! I hope you’re not hurting yourself by laughing too hard.

Buffy needn’t worry anyway–a category 5 hurricane couldn’t dislodge those pigtails.

Commentary

I love the way Jody has no problem with Buffy’s success. Buffy is equally supportive of Jody throughout the episode.

Uncle Bill acts like a tool here, but at least he realizes quickly that he’s projecting his own feelings onto Jody. It would have been nice if he’d spared a word of praise for Buffy’s ability. At least the cab driver and the police officer appreciated her talent.

This officer is a Family Affair rarity--an African American who speaks! And more than one line!

This officer is a Family Affair rarity–an African American who speaks! And more than one line!

One random comment: I just love when Jody calls his sister “Buff.”

If you want to learn more about stickball, here is an interesting article about its decline.

Guest Cast

Sam: David Brandon. Officer Wilson: Bob DoQui. Cab Driver: Johnny Silver. Randy: Stephen Liss. Roberto: Miguel Monsalve. Jose: Rudy Battaglia.

This is Brandon’s second appearance and the first of several by Monsalve. DoQui, who died in 2008, worked steadily in TV into the 1990s. He also appeared in many films, including Nashville and the Robocop movies. Silver appeared in the movie Guys and Dolls and in many episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show. He was also Dr. Blinkey on H.R. Pufnstuf. His last TV appearance was on a Seinfeld episode. He died in 2003.

Fun Facts

Buffy is an outfielder. Uncle Bill was a good hitter, but when he threw, he couldn’t go to his left.

Notable Quotes

“Oh, for the playing fields of Eton!”–French

(French doesn’t really have a high enough social standing to have attended Eton, does he?)

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One other question: Is a “Play Street” really a thing? (Note the sign.)