Family Affair Friday(ish): Season 3, Episode 9, “Albertine,” 12/2/1968

Written by: Ernestine Barton. Directed by: Charles Barton. (Any relation? I don’t know; information about Ernestine Barton is scarce.)

We open once again in the twins’ classroom. We’ve been here a lot lately, haven’t we?

While the teacher's back is turned, Jody is fondling a baseball, which his friend Peter wants to see.

While the teacher’s back is turned, Jody is fondling a baseball, which his friend Peter wants to see.

The baseball’s route goes through Albertine, who sits between the boys.

Unfortunately, Albertine drops the ball, which clatters to the floor.

Unfortunately, Albertine drops the ball, which clatters to the floor.

Miss Cummings is ticked.

She's clearly having a bad day.

She’s clearly having a bad day.

Like the good boy he is, Jody confesses that the ball is his. After the crisis passes, Jody sends a friendly smile Albertine’s way, but she ignores him. He and Buffy exchange bemused looks.

This expression has meme potential.

This expression has meme potential.

After school, Jody retrieves his baseball from the teacher and explains its provenance: Willie Mays hit it foul at a Mets-Giants game Jody and Bill were attending, and Bill caught it. (Later, we’ll learn that he also got Mays to autograph it.)

Miss Cummings must be a baseball fan because she decides to go easy on Jody.

Miss Cummings must be a baseball fan because she decides to go easy on Jody.

Before he leaves, she asks him how the new girl–Albertine–is getting along. Jody says he doesn’t play much with girls, other than Buffy, but he’s noticed Albertine sitting by herself a lot.

When the twins arrive at home, they are surprised to see Albertine in the lobby.

When the twins arrive at home, they are surprised to see Albertine in the lobby.

Albertine says she’s waiting for her mother, who’s attending an adults-only party upstairs until 5 o’clock.

Well, that sounds plausible.

She notes that she only has to wait alone because her father is out of town.

 

The next day at school, the twins join Albertine at lunch time.

The next day at school, the twins join Albertine at lunch time.

Buffy is jealous that Albertine is eating “jelly bread.” The twins have to make do with roast beef. (I think the presence or absence of protein is a class indicator. Remember the “bread and sugar” gang?)

They are surprised that Albertine knows how to play chess. Uncle Bill and Mr. French play, but the game is beyond the twins’ intellectual capabilities. (In some episodes, it seems like “pin the tail on the donkey” would be beyond their intellectual capabilities.)

Albertine says her father, a world-champion chess player, taught her the game.

When they find Albertine in the lobby again that afternoon, the twins marvel that her mother attends so many parties.

When they find Albertine in the lobby again that afternoon, the twins marvel that her mother attends so many parties.

They suggest that she come upstairs for a chess match with Mr. French, and Albertine agrees.

"Oooo-eeee!" Albertine exclaims upon seeing the Davis apartment.

“Oooo-eeee!” Albertine exclaims upon seeing the Davis apartment.

Buffy introduces her to Mrs. Beasley, and Jody shows her the bridge model he made.

When he mentions that Bill is overseas a lot, Albertine says her dad is, too...because he flies airplanes...and he was a hero in the war. Yeah, that's the ticket.

When he mentions that Bill is overseas a lot, Albertine says her dad is, too…because he flies airplanes…and he was a hero in the war. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

“Which war?” Jody asks.

“You know, the war,” Albertine replies.

Seeing Jody’s autographed baseball, she also claims that her dad is a big league player.

If you aren’t starting to feel uneasy about Albertine’s father, you haven’t watched much TV.

French and Albertine have their match. He's surprised when she makes a move that exposes her queen. I know nothing about chess, but that sounds bad.

French and Albertine have their match. He’s surprised when she makes a move that exposes her queen.

I know nothing about chess, but that sounds bad.

Bill and bowed one come home in time to see the match's suspenseful conclusion.

Bill and The Bowed One come home in time to see the match’s suspenseful conclusion.

French is stunned when she declares checkmate.

The twins fill Bill in about Albertine’s chess champion father and his many achievements. Albertine clams up, however, when Bill asks his name.

Trying out one of her psychology class words, Cissy speculates that Albertine is suffering from delusions.

Trying out one of her psychology class words, Cissy speculates that Albertine is suffering from delusions.

As Albertine says goodbye to the twins, her tales grow even taller: Her family has a big car and a Japanese chauffeur, and her neighborhood is blocking off the street to celebrate her father’s impending return from out of town. She also says her father loves kids like Bill does–it’s touching that she picked up on that so fast.

The next day after school, Albertine leaves for home before Jody can give her his baseball–he wants her ball-player father to autograph it.

The twins convince French to swing by Albertine’s place on the way home. How they know where she lives, I have no idea.

Once they are in the general vicinity, they ask the first black kid they see how to find Albertine.

Once they are in the general vicinity, they ask the first black kid they see how to find Albertine.

He points out where she lives, but he is amused when the kids start bombarding him with questions about Albertine’s amazing father.

(It seems like French should have twigged to what was going on at this point and found a way to avoid the unpleasantness to come.)

"Albertine don't have no father," he tells them.

“Albertine don’t have no father,” he tells them.

The twins refuse to believe that Albertine’s father abandoned his family a long time ago.

“Man, has old Albertine been laying it on you!” the neighborhood youth chuckles.

Because Buffy doesn't speak jive, French has to translate this into "telling a falsehood."

Because Buffy doesn’t speak jive, French has to translate this into “telling a falsehood.”

When poor Albertine emerges from her building, the boy mocks her cruelly.

When poor Albertine emerges from her building, the boy mocks her cruelly.

He laughs about her "Chinese chauffeur." He also says "ooo-eee" at one point. Must be a favorite neighborhood expression.

He laughs about her “Chinese chauffeur.” He also says “ooo-eee” at one point. Must be a favorite neighborhood expression.

That guy’s a real jerk. He reminds me of almost every kid in my elementary school.

That night at dinner, the kids struggle to understand what happened.

That night at dinner, the kids struggle to understand what happened.

Bill says Albertine wanted a father so badly that she made one up. He also suggests that they avoid mentioning the subject at school and just treat Albertine normally.

Buffy says that if she had to make up a father, she would make up one just like Bill and Mr. French. Aww. I saw the Bill line coming, but it’s sweet that she included French.

TV's first same-sex parents?

TV’s first same-sex parents?

Albertine fails to show up for school the next day, but later the kids see her waiting in the lobby.

Albertine is unresponsive, and Cissy explains that maybe she would rather be alone.

Albertine is unresponsive, and Cissy cautions that maybe she would rather be alone.

“Nobody would rather be alone,” Buffy says.

Jody, much too loudly, adds, “We don’t care if her father ran away.” Ouch.

That night, Buffy and Jody pour out their feelings to Bill.

This is an unusual camera angle.

This is an unusual camera angle.

They wonder whether Albertine couldn’t just adopt Bill, as they did. Bill tries to explain that he can’t do much to help Albertine, but eventually they convince him to try talking to her.

When Albertine sees Buffy and Jody at her door, she recoils in horror.

When Albertine sees Buffy and Jody at her door, she recoils in horror.

I know some Family Affair haters who would react the same way, for different reasons.

Albertine's mother demands to know why Bill is at her door.

Albertine’s mother demands to know why Bill is at her door.

He’s understandably sheepish, admitting that the situation is none of his business, but explaining that Buffy and Jody have been worried about Albertine.

Mrs. Smith is shocked to learn that Albertine has been playing hooky from school for a week. Getting her daughter an education is very important to her.

Mrs. Smith is shocked to learn that Albertine has been playing hooky from school for a week. Getting her daughter an education is very important to her.

(The Smith apartment proves one thing: Family Affair green transcends racial and class lines.)

Mrs. Smith reveals that her husband left the family because he couldn’t handle being unemployed while his wife earned money doing laundry. She also says that it was a doorman at a building where she worked who taught Albertine chess.

(For reasons that aren’t clear to me, she specifies that the doorman was a foreigner. Maybe he was Albertine’s inspiration for the Japanese chauffeur?)

Bill asks to speak to Albertine, and Mrs. Smith agrees.

 

Bill compliments the girl on her "garden," but she says it's just a kitchen--an old, dirty kitchen.

Bill compliments the girl on her “garden,” but she says it’s just a kitchen–an old, dirty kitchen.

Bill says he understands how she feels about not having a father because Buffy and Jody don’t have a father or a mother. He talks about how unprepared he was for raising children when the twins arrived and how helpless he felt hearing them cry at night. All he could do was love them–the same way Albertine’s mother loves her.

Albertine doesn’t say anything, but she seems to think about his words.

The next day, Buffy and Jody come home from school in a good mood. Albertine came back to school and said hi to them.

The next day, Buffy and Jody come home from school in a good mood. Albertine came back to school and said hi to them.

When French wonders if that’s a major development, Bill says it’s a start.

Commentary

This is a nice episode that handles potentially sensitive issues with grace. It’s one of many episodes exploring the diversity of New York City. These “Buffy and Jody meet the poors” episodes have the potential to come across as patronizing, but the show’s heart is clearly in the right place. The fact that Buffy and Jody have lost their parents gives them some kind of kinship with kids in other rough situations.

The show has really progressed in its use of African-American actors since Season One, when it was rare to see one, let alone hear one speak a line.

Continuity Notes

Jody’s bridge is a call-back, and we get another French reference to “the playing fields of Eton.”

Guest Cast

Peter: Mike Durkin. Albertine Smith: Alycia Gardner. Mrs. Smith: Mittie Lawrence. Roy: Theodore Miller. Miss Cummings: Joan Vohs.

No one here had a very long TV career. Mittie Lawrence’s most visible role was in Funny Girl as Barbra Streisand’s personal assistant. She’s most familiar to me, though, from an Adam-12 Christmas episode–the one where the kid wanted a dump truck. Lawrence was the life partner of prolific character actor Robert DoQui, who also made one Family Affair appearance.

 

Spin Again Sunday: The Bionic Woman (1976)

Last week, we explored the game inspired by that 1970s icon, the Six Million Dollar Man. This week, we turn to the fairer electromechanical sex.

bionic woman box

This Week’s Game: The Bionic Woman.

Manufactured by: Parker Brothers.

Copyright Date: 1976.

Recommended Ages: 7 to 12. (Curious that Parker Brothers recommended the Six Million Dollar Man game for ages 7 to 14. Perhaps they figured that girls mature earlier and set aside toys like this at a younger age.)

Box: My copy is a bit faded, but the color scheme is vivid greed and hot pink. We get a pretty close-up illustration of Jaime Sommers, along with her “autograph.” The action scene seems to show her trying to capture a mountain lion with a wispy net. I wonder what that mountain lion ever did to her.

bionic woman board

Game Board: It’s disappointingly generic–trails of white dots and pink lines across some forested terrain. Looking closer, you can see some situations crying out for bionic attention, including a power plant inferno.

There's also this train derailment.

There’s also this train derailment.

Object: “Jaime Sommers, the Bionic Woman, needs your help. She must travel by airplane, helicopter, and automobile to carry out many dangerous adventures. Your job is to help Jaime through these adventures and assist her whenever you can. If you cover a lot of territory and complete the Top Secret Assignment…you may win the game.”

Game Play: I’ll try to make this as simple as possible, which is more than I can say for Parker Brothers.

That's a lot of words.

That’s a lot of words.

All players start at “H.Q.,” and receive an Adventure Card telling them where to go and how many points they will earn.

These cards make you understand how tough Jaime's life must be. She not only does standard superhero stuff like stopping runaway school buses, but must also be on call to repair faulty hospital equipment.

These cards make you understand how tough Jaime’s life must be. She not only does standard superhero stuff like stopping runaway school buses, but must also be on call to repair faulty hospital equipment.

Players head to the space on the board that corresponds to their adventure number. They can either travel by “automobile”–following the white circles; by “helicopter”–sliding up or down the pink lines; or by “airplane,” which requires landing on an Airport space by exact count and then moving to any other Airport space.

When you complete your adventure, you can accept your points or take a double-or-nothing gamble that requires rolling 7 or higher. Then you start a new adventure. When a player rolls double ones or sixes, their mission becomes a Special Assignment, which earns 50 bonus points. After players have completed four Special Assignments, the next double ones or sixes trigger a Top Secret Assignment. That carries 100 bonus points, and its completion ends the game. Since the player with the most points wins, getting the Top Secret Assignment is usually the deciding factor.

Six Million Dollar Shout-Out: Sometimes, instead of an adventure card, players receive a “Steve Austin Assists” card. The idea that Jaime requires this assistance seems a little sexist. And since Steve only lets you double-roll one die, his help isn’t worth much.

Game Pieces: Regular plastic pawns. There are also white plastic clips players attach to their cards–one clip designates a Special Assignment; two clips indicate a Top Secret Assignment.

My Thoughts: I would have been thrilled to receive this game in 1976. I don’t think I would have played it much, though, after scanning those intimidating instructions. If anything, my friends and I might have come up with our own simplified scenario.

Bonus Feature: For a show that only lasted two years, The Bionic Woman inspired many toys. Kenner’s Jaime doll was surprisingly ugly, but it was fun to open her leg panels to see her bionic parts. And, as you can see here, her bionic side and her feminine side co-existed happily.

She had many cool accessories (the dome house!), documented on the fun site Retrojunk.

Other Spin Again Sunday posts you might enjoy:

S.W.A.T.

The Muppet Show

Patty Duke

 

Family Affair Friday: Season 3, Episode 8, “The Unsound of Music,” 11/18/1968

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

This is the first Family Affair episode whose original air date falls after my birth. I don’t think I was watching much TV my first few days, though.

We open in a nightclub, where a red-haired woman is singing.

Or at least lip-syncing awkwardly to what may or may not be her own voice.

Or at least lip-syncing awkwardly to what may or may not be her own voice.

Hey, it’s that lady who was on Match Game sometimes–presumably when Fannie Flagg wasn’t available.

It seems she's one Bill's squeezes. When she finishes her set and joins him, they reminisce about the times they've shared in London, Paris, Madrid, and Acapulco.

Here, her name is Julie Madden, and it seems she’s one of Bill’s squeezes. When she finishes her set and joins him, they reminisce about the times they’ve shared in London, Paris, Madrid, and Acapulco.

Unlike some of Bill’s girlfriends, she shows an interest in his kids. She wants to know if Jody still likes finger-painting and Buffy still has the “funny-looking doll with the glasses.” (Bill, who has strangely specific ideas of age-appropriateness, says boys give up finger-painting around age 6, and Buffy will probably give up Mrs. Beasley at age 10.) He encourages Julie to come and visit the kids soon.

The next morning at breakfast, Bill gives Cissy an autographed copy of Julie’s latest album.

VTS_01_2.VOB_000527813

Cissy, who has entered her unfortunate side-bow period, observes with a trace of snarkiness that Julie has been making a comeback lately. Bill responds that he didn’t know she ever left.

VTS_01_2.VOB_000531076

Here’s the album, in all its “living stereo” glory.

Buffy is taken with the idea of being a recording artist and asks Bill if he would be proud of her if she was a famous singer. Unwisely, he says yes. (With “I’m always proud of you” he might have saved himself some trouble.)

That day in school, Buffy is so excited about music class that she's singing under her breath before the music teacher even arrives.

That day in school, Buffy is so excited about music class that she’s singing under her breath before the music teacher even arrives.

When the teacher does show up (for what she calls the children’s first music lesson–don’t you think they would have been having music class throughout the school year?), she announces that she’s forming a girls’ glee club.

Buffy can't wait to show off her skills.

Buffy can’t wait to show off her skills.

Unfortunately, when the class starts singing “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean,” we find out that Buffy has no skills.

Miss Cummings' face says it all.

Miss Cummings’ face says it all.

In fact, she finds Buffy’s singing so offensive that she asks Buffy to step out into the hall with her for a moment. That’s never good.

Miss Cummings explains that Buffy’s singing is off-key, and that when one person sings off-key, the “harmony of the composition is destroyed.” She suggests that Buffy just move her lips while everyone else is singing.

Harsh.

Harsh.

A miserable Buffy gets through music class and, surprisingly, still tries out for the girls’ glee club after school. She’s unsuccessful, of course.

She's unsuccessful of course.

She asks French if he thinks Julie Madden used to “mix everyone up” with her singing when she first got started.

French says it’s possible; no one achieves instant perfection.

Tucking Buffy in that night, Bill notices how sad she is.

Tucking Buffy in that night, Bill notices how sad she is.

When he asks her to smile, this is the best she can do.

When he asks her to smile, this is the best she can do.

When she asks Bill if he still likes her, even though she didn’t make the glee club, he has a cute response: “Yeah. I even sort of love you.”

He tries to get her to shake off her defeat, but when she can’t, he promises to try to get her into the glee club. (That’s his second mistake in this episode.)

He arranges for Julie to teach her, but Buffy doesn't improve with teaching.

He arranges for Julie to teach her, but Buffy doesn’t improve with teaching.

We'll let French's face sum things up this time.

We’ll let French’s face sum things up this time.

It’s amusing to watch Anissa Jones try to sing as badly as possible.

When Bill comes home, Julie tell him that Buffy is a hopeless case.

When Bill comes home, Julie tells him that Buffy is a hopeless case.

It’s up to Bill to break the news to Buffy.

After he explains that everyone has different talents, and that lots of people can't sing, Buffy seems to accept her limitations.

After he explains that everyone has different talents, and that lots of people can’t sing, Buffy seems to accept her limitations.

Well, that wrapped up quickly. What do we do with the 12 minutes we have left?

Actually, Buffy is still a bit upset, as we see at school the next day when she mopes on the playground.

Jody, in supportive brother mode, tries to comfort her.

Jody, in supportive brother mode, tries to comfort her.

He tells her that he can sing, and since she’s his twin, she should be able to sing, too.

When he demonstrates his singing, it attracts the music teacher's attention.

When he demonstrates his singing, it attracts the music teacher’s attention. She seems strangely excited about singing that is passable at best.

She wants Jody to sing a solo at Parents’ Night. This not only adds salt to Buffy’s wounds but upsets Jody, as well. He doesn’t want to be a “sissy” and sing with the glee club girls.

With Buffy willing but unable to sing and Jody able but unwilling, Bill finds himself at a loss.

With Buffy willing but unable to sing and Jody able but unwilling, Bill finds himself at a loss.

He asks French what “the child-raising books” say about such a situation. (It amuses me that French is the keeper of “the child-raising books.”)

Bill tells Jody he doesn’t have to sing, but Bill would be proud of him if he did. As needy as these kids always are for approval, it’s no surprise that Jody gives in. He doesn’t really seem to mind much, since he’s grinning by the end of the scene.

At least I think this is a grin.

At least I think this is a grin.

Buffy is feeling better, too. The music teacher has given her a role in the Parents’ Night concert–as page-turner at the piano.

The night of the show, after the be-sashed glee club performs, Buffy introduces Jody for his solo.

The night of the show, after the be-sashed glee club performs, Buffy introduces Jody for his solo.

He screeches out a tune called "Every Little Boy Can Be President."

He screeches out a tune called “Every Little Boy Can Be President.”

If you asked a little kid to come up with a song about U.S. presidents on the spur of the moment, it might resemble this annoying ditty. George Washington…Thomas Jefferson….Abe-Abe-Abraham Lincoln…cherry tree…log cabin. It ends with several shrill repeats of the question “Why not me?” I was asking “Why me?” by the end.

(It would be fun to think that seven-year-old Barack Obama saw this episode when it originally aired. Unfortunately, he was living in Indonesia at the time.)

The Davis family enjoys the performance though. (I like the way Brian Keith looks proud but slightly bemused, as well.)

I like the way Brian Keith looks proud but slightly bemused by Jody’s performance.

The episode ends with Buffy asking whether anyone ever made the cover of a record album by turning music pages.

Commentary

This episode feels choppy, with everyone’s problems resolving more quickly and easily than they should. I suppose it was just an excuse for Johnny Whitaker to sing that dreadful song, which was released as a single.

Continuity Note

Bill mentions Buffy’s ballet performance as Little Red Riding Hood.

Inconsistency Alert

We’ve heard Buffy sing before. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as her efforts in this episode.

Guest Cast

Julie Madden: Kaye Stevens. Miss Scranton: Irene Hervey. Miss Cummings: Joan Vohs.

When I was a kid, I would see people like Kaye Stevens on game shows and wonder what they were famous for. Well, according to her 2011 obituary, Kaye Stevens “performed a solo cabaret act at some of the most celebrated clubs and showrooms in the nation, including Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas and the Plaza Hotel’s Persian Room in New York City.” She often performed with the Rat Pack, and she helped Bob Hope entertain the troops in Vietnam. She also had a five-year stint on Days of Our Lives in the 1970s. Later in life, she was active in Christian ministries.

Irene Hervey in her heyday.

Irene Hervey in her heyday.

Irene Hervey was the mother of another nightclub singer, Jack Jones. Hervey appeared in feature films such as Destry Rides Again in the 1930s, then transitioned into B movies and television. She had a recurring role as Aunt Meg on Honey West. A year after this episode aired, she received an Emmy nomination for a guest appearance on My Three Sons.

Bonus Feature

I’m really sorry that Johnny Whitaker’s song from this episode isn’t on Youtube. If you really want to hear him sing, though, there’s always this.