Family Affair Friday: Season 3, Episode 15, “A Family Group,” 1/13/1969

Written by: Austin and Irma Kalish. Directed by: Charles Barton.

This week, we open in the living room, where Jody is confessing to some problems at school.

His teacher has written Bill a note complaining about Jody's penmanship. Unfortunately, Bill can't read the teacher's handwriting.

His teacher has written Bill a note complaining about Jody’s penmanship. Unfortunately, Bill can’t read the teacher’s handwriting.

Soon, Cissy breezes in.

Why she's dressed like a stewardess, I can't say.

Why she’s dressed like a stewardess, I can’t say.

She has exciting news–Dana Mason, the daughter of two Broadway stars, is attending Cissy’s school. Cissy wants to invite Dana over to spend the night, and Bill gives his approval.

Dana finds the accommodations in Cissy's room "quaint."

Dana finds the accommodations in Cissy’s room “quaint.”

An avid name-dropper, she’s quick to tell Cissy about her Uncle Larry–Laurence Olivier. She adds that she just calls him Larry now that she’s grown. This inspires an impressionable Cissy to drop the “uncle” from Uncle Bill throughout this episode.

(I wish that Dana would have told Cissy that bows are childish.)

When Dana meets French and realizes he's British, she asks him if he knows any of her family's British friends--Larry, Rex, Noel, Alec, and Sarah?

When Dana meets French and realizes he’s British, she asks him if he knows any of her family’s British friends–Larry, Rex, Noel, Alec, and Sarah?

A bemused French replies that it depends which Larry, Rex, Noel, Alec, and Sarah she means.

(I know which Larry, Rex, Noel, and Alec she means, but I’m drawing a blank on Sarah. Can anyone help me out?)

When Bill comes home, Dana tries out her name-dropping on him, too. When she tells him that she passed up a chance to attend a party at Truman’s, he thinks she’s talking about Harry Truman. She has to make it clear that she’s talking about Truman Capote. (She pronounces his last name as if it rhymes with connote.) Bill is similarly clueless about her reference to Lee. (Lee Radziwill, Jackie O’s sister.)

It's clear that Bill finds Dana as insufferable as I do.

It’s clear that Bill finds Dana as insufferable as I do.

Meanwhile, Buffy is preparing for a role in a school play. It's Robin Hood, and she's playing a tree in Sherwood Forest.

Meanwhile, Buffy is preparing for a role in a school play. It’s Robin Hood, and she’s playing a tree in Sherwood Forest.

Dana tries to give Buffy some tips about method acting, then disparages the whole idea of school plays as unimportant and dull.

The Davises and French assure Buffy that they are excited about her play and wouldn’t miss it for the world.

This show of family togetherness seems to make an impression on Dana.

In bed that night, she tells Cissy about the way her family struggled before her parents found fame.

In bed that night, she tells Cissy about the way her family struggled before her parents found fame.

They were so poor that for awhile the whole family lived in a dressing room at a dingy theater where the Masons were performing.

Cissy thinks that must have been awful.

But it's clear that Dana considers those times her family's happiest.

But it’s clear that Dana considers those times her family’s happiest.

She asks Cissy if she can stay at the Davis apartment for a few more days. Her parents are always frazzled when they are appearing in a play, she notes, and they would be relieved to have her out of the way. Cissy is excited to have her glamorous friend extend her visit.

Pretty soon, however, Bill and French are ready for the visit to end.

Pretty soon, however, Bill and French are ready for the visit to end.

Prevailing on Dana to help Buffy rehearse, Bill has a private talk with Cissy.

He's perplexed about Dana's family and why they don't seem concerned about her staying for days on end with strangers.

He’s perplexed about Dana’s family and why they don’t seem concerned about her staying for days on end with strangers.

“You just don’t understand the jet set, Bill,” Cissy says.

“I guess I don’t, Catherine,” Bill replies.

(On paper, it doesn’t look like much, but Brian Keith’s delivery makes this exchange amusing.)

At breakfast the next day, Bill pressures Dana to give him her parents' phone number.

At breakfast the next day, Bill pressures Dana to give him her parents’ phone number.

(What is up with that wall decor behind them?!)

She has to admit that her parents don’t know where she is. They have recently separated, and each of them thinks she’s staying with the other.

Cissy asks Dana why she didn't confide in her.

Cissy asks Dana why she didn’t confide in her.

“Would you understand what it’s like to be divided up between your mother and your father, like a polite note they keep packing back and forth?” Dana asks.

Cissy looks confused. She is probably wondering why Dana hasn't noticed that she doesn't have parents.

Cissy looks confused. She is probably wondering why Dana hasn’t noticed that she doesn’t have parents.

Dana says she enjoyed staying with the Davises because they are a real family, the kind the Masons used to be.

She takes off before Bill can contact her parents.

Meanwhile, Buffy and Jody are just happy that the meal-time outburst resulted in plenty of leftovers for them.

Meanwhile, Buffy and Jody are just happy that the meal-time outburst resulted in plenty of leftovers for them.

Later, Dana’s frantic parents arrive to find their daughter gone.

When they ask Cissy where Dana could be, Cissy remembers her comments about the dingy theater.

When they ask Cissy where Dana could be, Cissy remembers her comments about the dingy theater.

The Masons are shocked that Dana thinks of those struggling days as her best times.

They rush off to the theater with Bill and Cissy.

As Cissy suspected, Dana is brooding in the Masons' old dressing room.

As Cissy suspected, Dana is brooding in the Masons’ old dressing room.

She’s delighted to see that both her parents have come for her–she thinks it means they are getting back together.

Her parents explain that while they both lover her, they no longer love each other. They are going through with their divorce.

Her parents explain that while they both love her, they no longer love each other. They are going through with their divorce.

Mr. Mason says the three of them will have to find a new way to be a family.

When Dana is still dejected, Cissy steps in with some words of wisdom.

When Dana is still dejected, Cissy steps in with some words of wisdom.

Being a real family isn’t about having your mother and father together, she says, pointing out to the oblivious Dana that she herself is an orphan.

“Being a real family has to do with somebody loving you…and, especially, with you loving them back,” Cissy says, as the violins swell.

That comforts Dana, and she walks off into the sunset with her parents, never to be seen again. (Thank God!)

When we next see the Davis family, everyone is celebrating a successful performance by Buffy.

She even received flowers from a secret admirer.

She even received flowers from a secret admirer.

She makes a show of pretending that she doesn’t know they came from her family.

(I like Cissy’s outfit here, scarf, purse, and all.)

Commentary

Dana is supposed to be annoying and affected, and Lori Martin certainly puts those qualities across. The character has a nails-on-blackboard effect on me that makes this episode difficult to watch.

The closing message is a good one and must have been especially important for kids to hear in 1969, when divorce rates were soaring. (Brian Keith went through a divorce himself that year.) The reactions to Cissy’s use of “Bill” are amusing, and Buffy as a tree definitely amps up this episode’s cuteness quotient.

Unanswered Questions

Why would the daughter of jet-setters be attending a public high school?

Since the Masons were working together, wouldn’t one of them have asked the other how Dana was doing at some point?

Guest Cast

Dana Mason: Lori Martin. Richard Mason: Liam Sullivan. Lois Mason: Kathleen Crowley.

Lori Martin was experienced young actress. She was best known for her appearance in 1962’s Cape Fear and for a starring role in a TV-series version of National Velvet. Martin, who retired from acting not long after this episode aired, died in 2010.

Crowley and Sullivan

Crowley and Sullivan

Liam Sullivan made many TV guest appearances, including memorable ones on Star Trek (“Plato’s Stepchildren”) and The Twilight Zone (“The Silence”).

 

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Family Affair Friday(ish): Season 3, Episode 14, “To Love with Buffy,” 1/6/1969

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

Before I begin, I must apologize profusely for my delay in bringing you this installment of my Family Affair series. It resulted from a combination of issues–technical, medical, and practical–that are too boring to describe in detail. I think things are back on track now, and I will be able to blog about Family Affair at least every other week.

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We find the Davis family in the living room, where Bill is practicing putting. Buffy and Jody are trying to find Puerto Rico on the map. Suprisingly, they do.

Not so surprisingly, they think it looks so small that Bill could hit a golf ball all the way across it.

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Yes, Bill is getting ready to take another trip. He’s going to deliver a speech to an industry group, but golf and fishing also seem to be on itinerary.

Jody waxes sentimental about the trips he and Bill have taken together.

 

Realizing that Buffy has no similar stories to share, Cissy sports her concerned face.

Realizing that Buffy has no similar stories to share, Cissy sports her concerned face.

After Jody runs downstairs to talk to his stickball teammates, Buffy asks outright if she can go with him on fishing trip someday.

This is how hopeful Buffy looks.

This is how hopeful Buffy looks.

This is how excited Bill looks as he says, "Yeah, maybe."

This is how excited Bill looks as he says, “Yeah, maybe.”

Oh, Uncle Bill.

He compounds his jerkiness by saying that little girls shouldn’t do rugged things. They should play with dolls instead.

Cissy stalks off to her room, and a resigned Buffy takes Mrs. Beasley out on the terrace for a tea party.

Moments later, Cissy shows Bill an essay Buffy wrote for school.

Moments later, Cissy shows Bill an essay Buffy wrote for school.

It’s about a trip to Lake Placid with Uncle Bill. She tells the story from her point of view, even though she wasn’t really on the trip.

“That is the best time I ever had, when Uncle Bill and I went away together just the two of us,” the essay concludes.

Aww.

Bill quickly comes to the conclusion that he should take Buffy with him to Puerto Rico for a long weekend. Good thing airplane reservations are so flexible in the Davises’ world.

Buffy is thrilled to hear the news.

Buffy is thrilled to hear the news.

French and Bill wonder if Jody will be jealous that Buffy gets to go and he doesn’t.

In his usual good-natured way, though, Jody is delighted for his sister.

In his usual good-natured way, though, Jody is delighted for his sister.

Well, everyone is happy. What could possibly go wrong?

We get a slight hint when French announces that he’s packed Bill’s white and plaid (yikes!) dinner jackets. He wants Bill to be prepared for “tropical moonlight.”

Bill denies that he has such things in mind, but let's face it: French always knows best.

Bill denies that he has such things in mind, but let’s face it: French always knows best.

Bill and Buffy take a late flight, and Buffy is sleeping when they get to Puerto Rico.

Bill's wide awake, though, especially when he meets Gail.

Bill’s wide awake, though, especially when he meets Gail.

Gail is a writer for Corporation Magazine, which sounds like a scintillating read. She’s there to cover Bill’s speech, and she can’t wait to “interview him,” if you know what I mean.

Bill's associate thinks Bill should get a hotel babysitter for Buffy and head straight for the lounge.

Bill’s associate thinks Bill should get a hotel babysitter for Buffy and head straight for the lounge.

Showing some sensitivity, Bill decides that wouldn’t make for a good start to Buffy’s special trip.

Random fashion note: Buffy’s coat and gloves are adorable in this scene.

Meanwhile, at home, Cissy's got a dating dilemma of her own.

Meanwhile, at home, Cissy’s got a dating dilemma of her own.

Cissy has a date lined up for the next night with the “suave..sophisticated” Marvin Bradbury. That’s a problem because, at the same time, Mr. French is going out with Miss Faversham. (Yay!)

Cissy either has to cancel her date or take Jody along. I wonder which option she would prefer?

This is how Jody looks when he realizes he's going on the date.

This is how Jody looks when he realizes he’s going on the date.

On their way to breakfast the next morning, Bill and Buffy meet the director of the hotel kids’ program.

She'd be only too happy to take Buffy off his hands for breakfast, as well as a full day of activities.

She’d be only too happy to take Buffy off his hands for breakfast, as well as a full day of activities.

(I thought such kids’ programs were a more recent development. I guess my family just didn’t stay at classy enough hotels back in the day. No child-care services at HoJos!)

Bill mystifies the lady by preferring to eat breakfast alone with Buffy. He also wants to arrange a special activity for just the two of them. Mrs. Robinson suggests a burro trip to the old silver mines.

At breakfast, Buffy is radiantly happy to have Bill's full attention.

At breakfast, Buffy is radiantly happy to have Bill’s full attention.

Random fashion note: Isn’t Buffy’s outfit a little strange for a tropical climate?

She doesn't have his full attention for long, though.

She doesn’t have his full attention for long, though.

Buffy tells Gail that she’s pretty and then launches into a completely guileless recitation on all the pretty girls Bill knows–so many that he sometimes gets them mixed up. Bill’s discomfort is amusing to behold.

Gail wants Bill to join her for golf, but he keeps his commitment to Buffy.

Back at home, Marvin Bradbury has big plans for his date with Cissy.

Back at home, Marvin Bradbury has big plans for his date with Cissy.

He’s arranged for a gypsy violinist and “wine”–actually, grape juice in a wine decanter.

Cissy has neglected to warn him ahead of time that it will be a dinner for three, not two.

This is what Marvin looks like when he meets Jody.

This is what Marvin looks like when he meets Jody.

Things go downhill from there, when Jody asks the violinist to play “Turkey in the Straw.”

Jody also ruins Marvin’s attempt to look cool while tasting the “wine.”

"It's a sound little thing, somewhat on the fruity side," Marvin says.

“It’s a sound little thing, somewhat on the fruity side,” Marvin says. (I’ll refrain from making the joke that comes to mind here.)

Jody points out that it’s fruity because it’s grape juice.

Meanwhile, in Puerto Rico, Buffy and Bill are going to dinner together.

Mrs. Robinson invites Buffy to play bingo with the other children.

When they come upon Mrs. Robinson in the lobby, she invites Buffy to play bingo after dinner with the other children.

When Buffy says she’d like to play, Bill says he’ll come along, too. Again, Mrs. Robinson is mystified by a parent who wants to spend time with their child.

(By the way, if you are wondering how Bill is able to achieve Buffy’s signature hairstyle on his own, the writers have anticipated this nitpick. They have him say it took “trial and error.”)

At dinner, though, it's clear that Bill's distracted.

At dinner, though, it’s clear that Bill’s distracted.

This is how Buffy looks as she raves to Bill about her dessert.

This is how Buffy looks as she raves to Bill about her dessert.

This is how Bill looks as he stares toward Gail's table and grunts minimal responses to Buffy's comments.

This is how Bill looks as he stares toward Gail’s table and grunts minimal responses to Buffy’s comments.

This is how Buffy looks when she realizes Bill isn't paying any attention.

This is how Buffy looks when she realizes Bill isn’t paying any attention.

Letting Bill off the hook, she tells him that she wants to go play bingo without him.

“Sometimes kids should be with kids, and grown-ups should be with grown-ups,” she says.

She even turns down Bill's request for a dance and encourages him to dance with Gail instead.

She even turns down Bill’s request for a dance and encourages him to dance with Gail instead.

Back at home, Marvin has taken Cissy and Jody home–apparently, he barely slowed down the car long enough to let them out.

Cissy and Jody have a good laugh about the situation as "Turkey in the Straw" swells up in the background.

Cissy and Jody have a good laugh about the situation as “Turkey in the Straw” swells up in the background.

Commentary

Bill doesn’t come off well in this episode, from his casual sexism to his inability to leave one skirt unchased. (It’s only a long weekend, for God’s sake!) “Sometimes kids should be with kids and grownups should be with grownups” is a sensible observation, but I wish Buffy had come to that conclusion on her own. She might have become tired of dressing up and being quiet, for instance. Instead, it’s obvious that she’s just trying make the obviously-checked out Uncle Bill happy.

The performances are good, however. Brian Keith has some nice non-verbal business, which I’m sure he improvised.

The playful ear tugging in this scene is a good example.

The playful ear tugging in this scene is a good example.

Anissa Jones just beams in her scenes with Keith.

The Cissy-Jody subplot is mildly amusing, and I enjoy their laughter at the end.

Guest Cast

Hotel Clerk: Aladdin. Frank: Barry Cahill. Gail Ryder: Sue Casey. Mrs. Robinson: Patience Cleveland. Marvin: Gregg Fedderson. Mrs. Rodriguez: Carmen D’Antonio. Waiter: Pepe Hern. Maitre d’: Lou Krugman. Steve Jackson: Kenneth Tobey.

Aladdin played the violin on The Lawrence Welk Show. The same year this episode aired, he appeared in a memorable run of My Three Sons episodes leading up to Steve and Barbara’s wedding.

Cahill was married to Rachel Ames (who played Audrey on General Hospital for 50 years). He died in 2012.

Casey was mostly a Hollywood bit player, but she achieved some cult fame in the 1965 film The Beach Girls and The Monster.

This is Fedderson’s second appearance as a Cissy love interest. The next time we see him, he’ll be starting a string of 11 episodes as her steady boyfriend Gregg.

Tobey was a prolific and well regarded character actor. He appeared in The Thing from Another World and many other science fiction films. Other films in which he appeared include Angel Eyes, Billy Jack, and Airplane! In the 1950s, he had his own television adventure series, The Whirlybirds. He had recurring roles in I, Spy and Walt Disney’s Davy Crockett series. Tobey died in 2002.