Family Affair Friday: Season 2, Episode 27, “Mr. French’s Holiday,” 3/18/1968

Written by: Lois Hire. Directed by: Charles Barton.

Note: I’m having some technical difficulties this week, and haven’t been able to get screen captures from the first act of this episode. If I resolve the problem, I’ll add those images later. Luckily, the really memorable images from this episode occur toward the end.

Also, speaking of technical difficulties, has anyone been having trouble reading recent entries of this blog on Firefox? A commenter mentioned a problem, but everything looks okay on my end. I’d appreciate hearing about other people’s experiences, so I can figure out what’s going on.

Synopsis

As our episode begins, Mr. French is preparing to take a two-week tour of scenes from America’s old West. That seems like an unlikely itinerary for French, but it turns out his father was a Western buff. (Also, old West scenery was readily available to 1960s TV producers.)

Jody warns French about the possibility of Indians attacking his stagecoach, although French is actually traveling “by jet, train, omnibus, and hired motorcar.” French himself is more worried about how the Davis family will survive without him–and, frankly, I think he has good reason. Bill assures him that everything will be fine, and Buffy gives him some good parting advice: “Be nice to the Indians, and they’ll be nice to you.”

Now, I wish I could give you a glimpse of the following scene because it includes an image we won’t be seeing again–Bill pushing a vacuum. His domestic duties don’t last long; soon he gets word that a bridge in South America needs his attention. Oh, darn–I’ll bet he’d really been looking forward to two weeks of cooking, cleaning, and child care.

The kids don’t want to ruin French’s vacation, so they suggest that they stay with friends in the building. Cissy and Buffy will stay with Gail, and Jody with stay with Richard. Hmm, did Gail move into the Davis building, or are the writers mixing her up with Sharon again? And who the heck is Richard?

Next, we see Jody waking up in Richard’s Family-Affair-green bedroom, and receiving a shock: Richard’s face is swollen. (We also receive a shock: Richard’s face has appeared in several previous episodes on Jody’s friend Peter.)

"Richard" has the mumps, so Jody can't stay with him any longer.

“Richard” has the mumps, so Jody can’t stay with him any longer.

Still not wanting to ruin French’s vacation, Cissy and Jody hatch a plan–Jody will join French on vacation. Bill’s hapless secretary, Miss Lee, gets the fun of making those arrangements.

(Even Cissy is confused about “Richard’s” identity. During her phone call with Miss Lee, she refers to him as Peter.)

French, who's been enjoying his vacation in his typically overscheduled, overdressed way, takes the news of Jody's impending arrival pretty well.

French, who’s been enjoying his vacation in his typically over-scheduled, overdressed way, takes the news of Jody’s impending arrival pretty well.

He soon realizes that he’ll have to adjust his itinerary–plans to spend a day touring two museums and library leave Jody surprisingly underwhelmed. He perks up when French suggests touring a ghost town instead.

Random fashion note: Jody's vacation-wear is quite mod.

Random fashion note: Jody’s vacation-wear is rather mod.

At the ghost town, French does an admirable job entering into Jody’s imaginative play.

Jody pretends to be a stagecoach driver who is anticipating an Indian attack.

Jody pretends to be a stagecoach driver who is anticipating an Indian attack.

Which leads us to this only-on-TV moment:

Oh, brother.

Ugh–no pun intended.

These guys are extras from a movie shooting nearby, and they’ve ridden over to the ghost town to eat their lunch.

They compare notes on boxed lunches with Jody and French. Both actors and tourists, we learn, eat tuna on white bread.

— They compare notes on boxed lunches with Jody and French. Both actors and tourists, we learn, eat tuna on white bread.

Then, they invite French and Jody to visit their movie set. French tries to decline because he’s still hoping to get a museum visit in.

Now, I like museums, but I'd probably look like Jody does here if I missed a chance to tour a movie set.

Now, I like museums, but I’d probably look like Jody does here if I missed a chance to tour a movie set.

Fortunately, French comes to his senses and makes another change to his itinerary.

Meanwhile, Gail is booting Buffy and Cissy out of her apartment.

What do you know? It really is Gail.

What do you know? It really is Gail.

Gail’s father hasn’t had mumps, and since Jody’s been exposed to the disease, and Cissy’s been exposed to Jody, he doesn’t think it’s safe for the girls to stay. Is it really that contagious? And, if it is, isn’t Jody exposing everyone he meets–including, in an unfortunate historic parallel, the Indians?

VTS_01_7.VOB_000674082

Soon, Cissy and Buffy are on an airplane, and French is lamenting his new status as “a nanny of the old West.”

Around this point, I’m starting to wonder whether “not wanting to ruin Mr. French’s vacation” is code for “getting a long break from school when we’re not even sick.”

When they arrive at the airport, Cissy has a new beau and Buffy has an undisguised lack of interest in touring burial mounds.

When they arrive at the airport, Cissy has a new beau and Buffy has an undisguised lack of interest in touring burial mounds.

Cissy convinces French that visiting a “swinging discotheque” recommended by local-boy Randy would be much more fun.

A discotheque in the daytime? Actually, it's more like a diner with a dance floor.

A discotheque in the daytime? Actually, it’s more like a diner with a dance floor.

The kids have a good time, though.

VTS_01_7.VOB_000813355

Check out Buffy and Jody, dancing in their seats.

When Cissy and Randy stop dancing, French suggests going to get something to eat. The teens patiently explain to him that they are sitting in a restaurant.

French acts horrified at the thought of eating a hamburger and French fries.

French acts horrified at the thought of eating a hamburger and French fries.

This guy regularly serves the kids sloppy joes, so he really has no reason to act high and mighty.

At last, he gives in, tears up his schedule, and orders a hamburger with everything.

At last, he gives in, tears up his schedule, and orders a hamburger with everything.

When he starts dancing, he out-cutes even the twins.

When he starts dancing, he out-cutes even the twins.

When French and kids return to New York, Bill listens to their tales of ghost towns, discotheques, and doll shows. Alone with French, he sympathizes with him about his ruined vacation. French says that his solo touring had a actually been rather dreary, and the kids turned his vacation into “a ball.” (He quotes Cissy on that expression, as if “having a ball” were cutting-edge teenage jargon in 1968.)

Commentary

This is another good French episode, and it really shows that the kids have added a dimension to his life. Visually, the highlight is the discotheque scene–Buffy and Jody are adorable, but when French tears up his itinerary and starts bouncing around himself, it is a Family Affair moment to remember.

Guest Cast

Miss Lee: Betty Lynn. Jim Tallfeather: Dennis Cross. Richard: Randy Whipple. Randy: Danny Llorens. Hostess: Adele Claire. Gail: Diane Mountford.

VTS_01_7.VOB_001026868

The on-screen credits are a big mess, listing Miss Lee as Miss Carter, Gail as Sharon, and Richard as Peter. Of course, Randy Whipple does normally play Peter, and this episode’s script refers to the character by that name once. I’m calling him Richard this week, though, since that’s what the script calls him most often.

Dennis Cross

Dennis Cross

The Western set must have felt like home to Dennis Cross; he made many appearances on shows like Gunsmoke, Rawhide, and The Rifleman. His son Randy Cross is a former NFL player who is now a radio and TV sports commentator.

Advertisements

Family Affair Friday: Season 2, Episode 26, “The Family Outing,” 3-11-1968

Written by: Phil Leslie. Directed by: Charles Barton.

When we join the Davis family this week, Bill and Jody are preparing for a camping trip.

When we join the Davis family this week, Bill and Jody are preparing for a camping trip.

Jody is beside himself with joy at the prospect of a guys’ outing.

French tries to give Bill the directions for Trout Sauté Mozambique, but Bill claims his cooking skills’ limits are boiling and frying. He invites French to come along on the trip and do the cooking–a suggestion French accepts with surprising enthusiasm.

Of course, that leaves the problem of what the girls will do while the guys are gone. Bill suggests bringing the girls along on the trip, too.

Unhappy camper face #1: Jody's reaction to Bill's idea is the first of many dismayed expressions we'll see this week.

Unhappy Camper Face #1: Jody’s reaction to this idea is the first of many dismayed expressions we’ll see this week.

Jody comes around a bit when he learns that the girls won’t actually be fishing. He springs the invitation on the girls just as they’re discussing their plans for a boy-free weekend.

Cue Unhappy Camper Face #2.

Cue Unhappy Camper Face #2.

When the girls hear that Bill is happy about the family outing, though, they adopt their usual strategy: Repressing their feelings to shield his.

Soon, the whole family arrives in an area that looks vaguely like the out-of-doors.

Soon, the whole family arrives in an area that looks vaguely like the out-of-doors.

French, for one, finds the country air “profoundly invigorating.”

I can see the practicality of the deerstalker hat, but I think French should have dressed down a little.

I can see the practicality of hi deerstalker hat, but I think French should have dressed down a little.

Something like Alice's safari-wear, for instance.

I’d love to see him in something like Alice’s safari-wear.

Cissy makes a game attempt at appreciating the rural atmosphere.

She congratulates Bill on picking such a great camp site--her favorite radio station comes in perfectly.

She congratulates Bill on picking such a great camp site–her favorite radio station comes in perfectly.

Meanwhile, Buffy and Jody scamper off to the lake to skip rocks. These two and a body of water–what can go wrong?

Yeah. That.

Yeah. That.

Although she’s only fallen in foot-deep water, Buffy emerges completely soaked.

Unhappy Camper Face #3.

Unhappy Camper Face #3.

Cissy also faces adversity–she breaks a nail.

And Bill and Jody have no luck fishing because Jody keeps snagging his hook on nearby bushes and even his own pants.

I think Bill should be a bit more hands-on in his approach to teaching casting.

I think Bill should be a bit more hands-on in his approach to teaching casting.

Luckily, French has a back-up plan for dinner: Steak Sauté Mozambique.

After dinner, the family dodges mosquitoes and sings a chorus of “The Long, Long Trail.”

Unhappy Camper Face #4: Buffy, after swallowing a mosquito mid-song.

Unhappy Camper Face #4: Buffy, after swallowing a mosquito mid-song.

(I always felt short-changed by TV scenes where families sang around a campfire. My baby-boomer parents would have found the idea of sitting around and singing World-War-I vintage tunes hilarious.)

Random direction note: Charles Barton must have hung up the "Gone fishin'" sign during this scene. Bill's hat blocks Cissy's face.

Random direction note: Charles Barton must have hung up the “Gone fishin'” sign during this scene. Bill’s hat blocks Cissy’s face.

Everyone is ready for bed by 7 o’clock. Buffy claims to like sleeping in tents but changes her mind when she hears noises outside and imagines marauding lions.

Unhappy Camper Face #5.

Unhappy Camper Face #5.

The “lion” turns out to be Uncle Bill, who helps the girls get settled for bed.

Buffy decides to play it safe by sleeping with Cissy, though.

Buffy decides to play it safe by sleeping with Cissy, though.

French’s tent experience is even worse–the whole thing collapses on him.

Unhappy Camper Face #6.

Unhappy Camper Face #6.

By the next morning, even Cissy can’t put on a good front–her transistor batteries have died.

Bill admits that he has made a mistake in choosing a family outing that doesn’t suit every family member. (Sadly, instead of just acknowledging that everyone has different tastes, he has to add, “This is no place for girls.” Ugh.)

The girls are thrilled at the idea of returning home.

Sexism aside, Buffy and Cissy are thrilled at the idea of returning home.

Jody’s reaction is slightly different.

Unhappy Camper Face #7.

Unhappy Camper Face #7.

Bill cheers him up by telling him that only French and the girls are leaving. Bill asks French to tell the people at the general store to “send a car for him” the next day. Wow–that general store offers some pretty unusual services!

Once they’re alone, Bill and Jody go on with their fishing. With nothing biting, Jody returns to the camp site to make a sandwich.

At that moment, Bill finally gets a tug on his line. Sorry that Jody is missing this moment, he gets a sudden brainstorm.

At that moment, Bill finally gets a tug on his line. Sorry that Jody is missing the moment, he gets a sudden brainstorm.

After reeling in his fish, he takes it off his hook and impales it on Jody’s. (If we had a close-up of the fish at this point, I’m pretty sure it would be our next Unhappy Camper image.)

He calls Jody back to the lake and helps him reel in “his” fish.

Watching Brian Keith handle this flopping fish is fun--it almost ends up in his crotch at one point.

Watching Brian Keith handle this flopping fish is fun–it almost ends up in his crotch at one point.

“This is the most fun I ever had in my life,” a beaming Jody says.

Inexplicably, Bill takes this as his cue to crush the boy's dreams.

Inexplicably, Bill takes this as his cue to crush the boy’s dreams.

Feeling guilty about lying, he confesses to the old fish-switcheroo.

"I thought we were pals," a bewildered Jody laments. Unhappy Camper Face #7 is a real doozy.

“I thought we were pals,” a bewildered Jody laments. Unhappy Camper Face #8 is a real doozy.

“Looks like I made a mess out of the whole family outing,” Bill groans. Ya think?!

Fortunately, sweet-natured Jody comes up with a positive spin on Bill’s brutal honesty–it proves that they are “a couple of guys,” rather than “a little kid and a big man” fishing together.

Commentary

This episode is a long, long trail of parenting fails for Uncle Bill. I especially disagree with his decision to tell Jody the truth. How would it have hurt to let Jody believe he caught the fish alone?

The unhappy facial expressions throughout the episode are fun, though. You expect them from French, but Cissy and Buffy don’t often get the chance to look so disgusted.

A sweet scene about skipping rocks captures the essence of Buffy and Jody: She makes a poor attempt, he “shows her how” with his own poor attempt, and then she does it perfectly, giving him credit for her success.

Guest Cast

This is a true rarity–an episode with no guest cast at all.

Continuity Notes

Two old stand-bys–the Velvet Vultures and Captain Hippopotamus–pop up again.


Family Affair Friday(ish): Season 2, Episode 25, “The New Cissy,” 3/5/1968

Written by: John McGreevey. Directed by: Charles Barton.

Buffy and Jody, rushing into the apartment after school, find a surprise–Uncle Bill, who’s taken the afternoon off.

Jody tells his uncle that he’s purchased a Venus flytrap seed from a classmate.

Uncle Bill's reaction to this news is priceless.

Uncle Bill’s reaction to this news is priceless.

Buffy explains that she contributed to the purchase, although she prefers plants that just sit around looking pretty, rather than chowing down on things.

As this conversation is winding down, a gloomy-looking Cissy enters the apartment.

As this conversation winds down, a gloomy-looking Cissy enters the apartment.

She perks up when the phone rings, but it turns out to be a call for Buffy. A classmate named Leonard has been calling Buffy and breathing into the phone instead of talking.

Heavy-breathing phone calls in second grade? Leonard has a creepy future ahead of him, I think.

Heavy-breathing phone calls in second grade? Leonard has a creepy future ahead of him, I think.

When Uncle Bill asks Cissy what’s bothering her, she makes the surprising claim that nobody likes her.

Bill pooh-poohs her concerns, but Cissy insists that boys don't notice her.

Bill pooh-poohs her concerns, but Cissy insists that boys don’t notice her.

Her best friends Trish and Laura have better luck, she says. Trish has three older brothers and can talk about sports knowledgeably. And Laura’s secret? She’s pretty, Cissy says. (I bet Trish would really enjoy hearing this conversation. I also wonder why Sharon doesn’t rate as one of Cissy’s BFFs.)

The only boy who notices Cissy is Wendell, a boy nobody notices.

Bill suggests that Cissy invite a few classmates over for a get-together soon, so she can get to know some boys in a relaxed environment.

Cissy is anything but relaxed on the day of her party, though.

Cissy is anything but relaxed on the day of her party, though.

(Those paper cups are cute, although I’m surprised French would put out paper cups.)

As it turns out, Wendell is her only guest. They have an awkward conversation about books. Wendell carries books around with him to read on the way to school, between classes--and at boring parties.

As it turns out, Wendell is her only guest. They have an awkward conversation about books. Wendell carries books around with him to read on the way to school, between classes–and at boring parties.

Cissy may not care for Wendell, but his reading habits have totally won me over.

When Cissy wonders aloud where the other boys are, Wendell suggests that they may have come down with same virus that “Trish and Gail” have.

(The actress who plays Laura on this episode has previously appeared as a character named Gail.)

When Bill returns later, he find the phone off the hook, with Leonard breathing into it.

When Bill returns later, he find the phone off the hook, with Leonard breathing into it.

He hangs up on the little pervert, then gets the low-down from French on Cissy’s party. Trish and Laura, it seems, stayed away so Cissy could have the boys to herself–and the boys stayed away when they heard Trish and Laura wouldn’t be there.

Cissy's feeling sorry for herself, and she's not buying Bill's assurances that she's smart, good-looking, and mature.

Cissy’s feeling sorry for herself, and she’s not buying Bill’s assurances that she’s smart, good-looking, and mature.

He decides that they should call in experts to help solve Cissy’s problem.

Thus we have the obligatory teenage-girl-with-a-book-on-her-head scene.

Thus we have the obligatory teenage-girl-with-a-book-on-her-head scene.

This modeling expert advises Cissy to refrain from smiling 99 percent of the time–this will make her rare smiles “an event.” Yes, everyone knows that a sullen look is a guy-magnet. (While I think her advice sucks, I do like the modeling expert’s outfit.)

The other experts behind Exteme Makeover: Cissy Edition include:

A hairstylist who tells Cissy to change her style as often as her moods shift.

A hairdresser who tells Cissy to change her style as often as her moods shift.

A drama coach who supplies Cissy with affected French quips and insincere compliments to tongue-tied boys about their "strong, silent" ways.

A drama coach who supplies Cissy with affected quips and insincere compliments to tongue-tied boys about their “strong, silent” ways.

And a psychology who advises Cissy to avoid associating with attractive girls--even if they happen to be her friends!

And a psychologist who advises Cissy to avoid associating with attractive girls–even if they happen to be her friends!

Wow, Bill knows some weird women. No wonder he’s chosen to stay single.

His final helper is a fashion expert, as you can tell from her hat.

His final helper is a fashion expert, as you can tell from her hat.

She rejects a drab outfit that only an uncle could love on Cissy.

Unfortunately, she also rejects this outfit.

Unfortunately, she also rejects this outfit.

Somehow, Cissy ends buying the type of dress she always wears.

In fact, I think she's worn this before, although I'm too lazy to go back and check,

In fact, I think she’s worn this before, although I’m too lazy to go back and check.

When Cissy debuts her new look for school the next day, she makes a big impression on the twins, who think she looks like a princess.

Personally, I find her "sultry look" almost as disturbing as Leonard's breathing.

Personally, I find her “sultry look” almost as disturbing as Leonard’s breathing.

The boys at school like it, though.

Soon, they're following her everywhere.

Soon, they’re following her everywhere.

It’s a little hard to understand how, amid late 1960s youth culture, these boys find the middle-aged-business-woman look so captivating.

Wendell isn't captivated, of course--he's all "I don't even know you anymore!"

Wendell isn’t captivated, of course–he’s all “I don’t even know you anymore!”

Wendell’s reaction bothers Cissy, which is also hard to understand, since she never seemed to like him in the first place. She also grows weary of keeping up the sophisticated repartee.

Back at home, Jody gets a shock when he realizes he’s been scammed–his Venus flytrap is really an onion.

The next day, Cissy goes back to her old look.

The next day, Cissy goes back to her old look.

She’s tired of trying to keep up the Venus flytrap front when she’s really an onion, she explains. Bill denies that she’s an onion, but he’s relieved that she’s back to normal.

Buffy’s relieved when Bill assures she won’t have to go through the expert makeover process when she’s older.

As she notes, she's already got enough trouble with Leonard--he's progressed from breathing to hiccups.

As she notes, she’s already got enough trouble with Leonard–he’s progressed from breathing to hiccups.

Commentary

What a weird episode. Maybe it would have worked better early in the first season, when Cissy could have felt insecure about fitting in with city kids. By this point in the second season, we’ve seen her have as much success with boys as any 16-year-old really needs to have. If this episode had aired earlier, it might have also helped to explain Bill’s unfamiliarity with helpful parenting phrases such as “Be yourself” and “Your real friends will like you for who you are.”

One plus for this episode–during the drama coach scene, French gets to play a teenage boy and utter such words as “groovy.”

Guest Cast

Wendell: Charles Herbert. Model: Lynn Borden. Drama Teacher: Jenifer Lea. Hairdresser: Danielle Aubry. Psychologist: Jackie Russell. Dress Stylist: Maurine Dawson. Laura: Diane Mountford. Trish: Susan Abbott. Rick: Oaky Miller. Eddie: Patrick Thomas. Jeff: Scutter McKay.

I love the opening sentence of Herbert’s IMDb bio: “Charles Herbert was a mildly popular 1950s child actor with a trademark sulky puss and thick, furrowed eyebrows, who was known for his inquisitive kid besieged by alien beings, including a robot, human fly and several house-haunting ghosts.”

He appeared in such movies as Houseboat, The Fly, 13 Ghosts, and Please Don’t Eat the Daisies.

Aubry, Borden, Lea, and Mountford are all Family Affair veterans. As noted, Mountford had appeared twice as Gail, so it’s strange that her name is Laura here. Even more strangely, she will appear as Sharon in an upcoming season-two episode and will later appear as a character named Anita.

Oaky Miller now goes by the name Chuck Harris and works as a personal manager.