Family Affair Friday(ish): Season 2, Episode 22, “A Matter of Tonsils,” 2/12/1968

I apologize for the delay in posting this installment. I had to go out of town somewhat unexpectedly last week.

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

It’s breakfast time in the Davis household, but not everyone is eating.

Cissy says she's watching her weight so she can achieve the "Carnaby Street look," like Twiggy.

Cissy says she’s watching her weight so she can achieve the “Carnaby Street look,” like Twiggy.

“Oh for the days of Queen Victoria,” French sighs. How old is French?

Buffy is trying to eat, but every swallow leaves her wincing in pain.

Buffy is trying to eat, but every swallow leaves her wincing in pain. Uh-oh.

Bill, who’s getting ready to leave for Chicago, notices Buffy’s discomfort. He tells French to keep Buffy home from school and take her to see Dr. Felsom.

Buffy is upset about having to miss music appreciation at school. Jody, a boy after my own heart, suggests sending Buffy to school and letting him stay home.

Buffy is upset about having to miss music appreciation at school. Jody, a boy after my own heart, suggests sending Buffy to school and letting him stay home.

Dr. Felsom gives French some bad news–Buffy’s tonsils are enlarged and will have to come out.

I hope Dr. Felsom doesn't treat many asthma patients because those books look pretty musty.

I hope Dr. Felsom doesn’t treat many asthma patients because those books look pretty musty.

He stresses that it’s a minor operation, but French says no operation is minor when you’re dealing with “two bachelors unaccustomed to the care and feeding of children.”

VTS_01_5.VOB_000121852

Uncle Bill reacts with alarm when French calls him in Chicago with the news. (Good thing his hotel room has a soothing Family-Affair-green decor.)

“What a time to be a thousand miles away!” he cries. During this scene, Brian Keith yells his lines into the phone, while French talks normally. Let’s fanwank that they have a bad connection, on Bill’s side only.

Jody, meanwhile, is impressed that Buffy gets to eat as much ice cream as she wants. “I wish I had tonsils,” he says, and tries to take a look at Buffy’s.

I bet the kids had a hard time keeping straight faces during this scene.

I bet the kids had a hard time keeping straight faces during this scene.

Having rushed back from Chicago, Bill tells Dr. Felsom to find the best tonsil man in New York for Buffy’s operation. He wants to reserve a private suite for her, but the doctor convinces him that Buffy will feel more comfortable in the children’s ward.

The adults break the news to Buffy that she’s going to the hospital overnight for an operation. She doesn’t seem concerned, although everyone telling her to stay calm and praising her bravery probably makes her a little nervous.

Jody and Buffy say a sad goodbye, and he offers to let her take his turtle to the hospital. She declines, but she does take Mrs. Beasley.

Poor Jody, all alone.

Poor Jody, all alone.

Bill gets Buffy settled at the hospital and apologizes to the nurse for acting so nervous.

"You wouldn't be a parent if you weren't nervous," she says. Ain't that the truth.

“You wouldn’t be a parent if you weren’t nervous,” she says.

Ain’t that the truth.

Note that while the hospital corridors are Family-Affair-green, the children's ward is Robby-and-Katie's-room-pink. (I've been watching a lot of My Three Sons lately.)

Note that while the hospital corridors are Family-Affair-green, the children’s ward is Robby-and-Katie’s-room-pink. (I’ve been watching a lot of My Three Sons lately.)

Back at home, Jody is also complaining of a sore throat, but Bill and French assume that it’s a psychosomatic complaint brought on by Buffy’s illness.

VTS_01_5.VOB_001099662

Bill decides that Jody needs some attention, too, so he spends some time with him and gives him a piggyback ride.

That night at bedtime, French reads to Jody about Ali Baba, but Jody can’t concentrate. He keeps asking tonsil-related questions until French gives up on reading.

"I'm not a vet!" French snaps after Jody asks whether horses have tonsils.

“I’m not a vet!” French snaps after Jody asks whether horses have tonsils.

The next day, Buffy’s operation goes smoothly, and Bill gets ready to head back to Chicago.

Not so fast, Bill.

Not so fast, Bill.

French shows up at the hospital with Jody, who has been sent home from school because of his sore throat. Dr. Felsom takes a quick peek and pronounces Jody’s tonsils worse than Buffy’s.

Soon Jody's checked in to the hospital right next to Buffy.

Soon Jody’s checked in to the hospital right next to Buffy.

He’s glad to be reunited with his sister and delighted to start on his ice-cream diet. The only thing the kids can’t understand is why Bill and Mr. French are so afraid of hospitals. The next time they have their tonsils out, Jody thinks it would be good idea to keep Bill and French in the dark about it.

Buffy agrees.

Buffy agrees, emphatically.

Commentary

Classic TV led me to believe that one day I would have my tonsils removed. I would get to eat ice cream all day. I would get to stay home from school and bask in adult attention.

It never happened. Thanks a lot, evolving medical standards.

The emotions in this episode ring true, from Jody’s feeling left out, to Bill and French’s panicky concern for Buffy, to the the way the kids sense the adults’ stress. At different points in the script, both French and Bill observe that no surgery is “minor” when it comes to children, and I would certainly agree with that as a parent. I was a mess when my daughter got tubes in her ears, and that didn’t even require an overnight stay.

Sweetness abounds in this episode. It’s touching to see how Jody worries about Buffy and misses her while they are apart. Brian Keith does his usual great job showing fatherly tenderness, especially in the scene just before Buffy’s surgery.

(I wonder if those hospital scenes were hard for Keith, who lost his 8-year-old son to pneumonia less than five years earlier.)

When an episode offers little to snark on, my eyes travel to the decor.

Look at this interesting cat statue in Dr. Felsom's office. I'm guessing his wife takes ceramics because it looks like some of my mother's 1970s output.

Look at this interesting cat statue in Dr. Felsom’s office. I’m guessing his wife takes ceramics because it looks like some of my mother’s 1970s output.

More disturbing is this clown picture in the children's ward. How is it helpful to terrify the children before surgery?

More disturbing is this clown picture in the children’s ward. How is it helpful to terrify the children before surgery?

Guest Cast

Dr. Felson: Oliver McGowan. Miss Jones: Carol Nugent.

Well, this is interesting. Former child actress Carol Nugent was the daughter of Carl Nugent, property master on My Three Sons. (On Family Affair, he served in that role for the pilot only.) Carol was married to Nick Adams, who starred as Johnny Yuma on the 1959-61 TV series The Rebel. Adams died of a drug overdose a week before this Family Affair episode aired. In 2002, Carol married none other than John G. Stephens, Family Affair production supervisor! (Stephens was widowed in 2001 after more than 40 years of marriage to actress Joan Vohs, whom we’ll see in our next episode.) Nugent’s son Jeb Adams had a brief acting career in the 1980s, highlighted by his role as Chris in the movie Flowers in the Attic.

Researching this family can lead you down quite a rabbit hole. Carol Nugent’s nephew, Adam Taylor, was married to Anne Lockhart. She’s the daughter of June Lockhart, a one-time Family Affair guest star. Taylor’s father was Buck Taylor and his grandfather was prolific character actor Dub Taylor; both of these men crossed professional paths with Brian Keith several times.

This is McGowan’s second of three appearances as a doctor on the show.

Continuity Notes

The script mentions Jody’s turtle and Captain Hippopotamus. We also learn that Jody and Buffy are still 6, despite being in second grade now. Time really drags in their world.

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6 thoughts on “Family Affair Friday(ish): Season 2, Episode 22, “A Matter of Tonsils,” 2/12/1968

  1. Wow! That is quite the Guest Cast family tree!

    Your Family Affair posts are always such a treat to read.

  2. Orschel52 says:

    This is one of my favorite episodes, probably because of all that sweetness, tenderness and affection being around, particularly between Uncle Bill and the twins.
    I find it so difficult to imagine how hard it must be for someone who lost a child to find ways of coping with such a dreadful incident, the more so as many of us tend to repress such painful issues. I really wouldn’t know if reliving the past in a movie role can be helpful and therapeutic or will rather increase the pain. There is no general answer anyway and there are so many different reactions, as people are not the same and everyone has his/her individual approach to dealing with such tragedies.
    Whatever his personal feelings were, Brian Keith again did wonderfully in this episode.

  3. Even though the hospital room is done in pink they kept the Family Affair green paint in the hallways and even on Buffy’s bed. Thanks for the great behind-the-scenes tidbits on the Nugents..that was really interesting!

  4. Mary says:

    I just love your site! I recently noticed though, that while viewing it on Firefox; it displays badly(from about the 30th of August posts, onward)…(very odd, the script seems to drag down the page…
    Yet, on IE it’s ok!
    In reference to this sweet episode, one of my favs..I longed to have my tonsils out when a child as I had heard about the ice-cream and missing school, etc..
    Unfortunately(in my mind…lol), my parents believed it better not have me go through the surgery.
    Later, when, I was a teen, I was a volunteer in the children’s ward of our local hospital and clown pictures ABOUNDED on the children’s ward walls! LOL I always found them creepy and couldn’t understand the rationale…

    • Amy says:

      How funny about the clown pictures. As a hospital volunteer, did you get to wear an official Cissy-style candy-striper uniform? 🙂

      Thanks for commenting and let me know about the problem with Firefox! I actually use Firefox myself, and it looks okay to me, but I’ll try to figure out what’s going on.

      • Mary says:

        Yes we did wear candy striper uniforms( i remember being very proud…loll)
        Yes clown motifs for children ; ugh, no wonder so many ended up with phobias …lol
        Yes it was odd…it looks ok on my ipad( which is using safari)
        Could be my computer( but its pretty new and all drivers are up to date)..i
        🙂

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