Teleplay by: Peggy Chantler Dick. Story by: Douglas and Peggy Dick. Directed by: Charles Barton.
When we look in on the third season of Family Affair, French is bringing everyone “to-mah-to” juice, and Cissy is looking like the cat who at the canary.
She’s just gotten her hair styled at the beauty parlor. Seeing Cissy’s results inexplicably inspires Buffy’s desire to go to the beauty parlor, too. When Bill says she’s too young, she asks why Jody gets to visit the barber by himself.
Yep, it’s because she’s a girl. Bill admits it’s not fair, but he sticks to his decision.(Someone must cut Buffy’s hair, though. I guess that’s another job French gets stuck with.)
The next day at school, Buffy is still pining for greater independence when she meets Lana. a new girl in class. We quickly find out that Lana comes from a different social sphere than the Davis kids.
(As an aside, Buffy’s sandwich is meat on whole wheat. Ew. At least it’s better than meat on white, I guess.)
That night, Buffy asks Bill if she can have a key to the Davis apartment. When he says she’s too young, she complains about being treated like a baby at age 7. (Wow these kids are aging slowly.)
She again asks why Jody gets more freedom; apparently, he gets to stay at the playground by himself after school while Buffy goes home with French. Bill says little girls need more protection.
Buffy also wants to change her name. Lana has started calling her Ava, an alternate name Lana’s movie-fan mother considered for Lana. (Note to the IMDb: Ava is NOT Buffy’s real name.)
In an amusing exchange, Lana wonders why French dresses so funny, and Buffy explains that he’s English.
Lana’s empty apartment horrifies French.
Buffy congratulates Lana for having “her own TV,” which is weird since it’s in the living room. Maybe she’s just trying to be polite. Lana wants Buffy to come over after school the next day, and French says he’ll ask Mr. Davis.
She has little supervision and is “hardly a suitable companion for a young gentlewoman,” he says, going so far as to call Lana “a street urchin.” Now, I don’t like French’s snobbery, but I wouldn’t let my 7-year-old go over to her house without at least getting to know her mother and making sure a responsible adult would be present at all times.
Lana’s mother does make a brief appearance, stopping at home after work to dress for a date.
The girls have to shop for and prepare their own dinner.
They play dress up in Lana’s mom’s shoes, and Lana does “Ava’s” hair.
When Bill comes to retrieve Buffy, he finally groks to the fact that Lana is home alone. When she asks if she can have a sleepover with Buffy the next night, he agrees.
She’s also taken aback by the many rule French lays down: Homework before fun, playing instead of watching the afternoon movie, no running in the house.
When Buffy takes Lana home the next day, Lana breaks down.
Lana says it’s not that–it’s because Buffy has so many people to “boss her around.” Lana’s all-too-aware that freedom can spring from a lack of caring. Buffy tells her that when she feels like being bossed around, she should call on the Davises.
And Buffy’s learned to accept her family’s rules without chafing, so I guess all’s well that ends well. Somehow, I still feel sad, though.
I thought the “latch-key” phenomenon dated from the 1970s, but the term originated during World War II. I personally loved having a key and letting myself in at home, but it didn’t happen until I was about 10, and I wasn’t left alone for hours. I’m of two minds about whether the Davis family should have done more to improve Lana’s sad situation. On the one hand, a scene with Bill talking to Lana’s mother about the problem might have been hard to take. Bill keeps himself busy with work and dating, so the only real difference between him and Lana’s mom is the ability to pay for high quality child care. On the other hand, Lana seems to be suffering from some pretty serious neglect. I’ll be interested in hearing what other Family Affair fans think.
The gender-based treatment of Buffy and Jody is a new thing. In the past, the twins’ level of freedom has varied dramatically from episode to episode, but it has always applied equally to both kids.
Lana’s Mother: Eve Brent. Lana: Susan Benjamin Neher.
Neher appeared previously on Family Affair under the name Susan Benjamin. From 1969 to 1971, she had a regular role in another Don Fedderson single-dad series, To Rome with Love. A commenter directed me to this segment of the pilot that’s available on Youtube–check it out!