Family Affair Friday: Season 3, Episode 17, “Oh, to Be in England,” 1/27/1969

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

Well, if the title didn’t give away this episode’s theme, the opening stock footage will.

Pip, pip, and cheerio! We're going to England!

Pip, pip, and cheerio! We’re going to England!

It seems that Bill is in London meeting with British and French officials about his suggested innovations for “the English Channel project.”

Wow--Bill's firm is working on the Chunnel!

Wow–Bill’s firm is working on the Chunnel!

Bill warns that that the project may hit a few snags. (That’s a understatement, considering that the real Chunnel didn’t open until 1994.)

The leaders on the project want Bill to stay in Britain for year and act as a consultant. Bill is reluctant to leave his family for so long, but the others point out that he could fly home on weekends to visit.

Later, Bill calls home to check in.

Later, Bill calls home to check in.

He lets it slip to French that he may be making his headquarters in England temporarily, which sets French off rhapsodizing about his homeland. (French isn’t excited about the Chunnel, though–he likes old-school channel crossings.)

After hanging up the phone, a wistful French sigh, "England...'oh, to be in...:"

After hanging up the phone, a wistful French sighs, “England…’oh, to be in…:”

This is the first of many British literary, theatrical, and musical references the script manages to work in.

Soon, Buffy and Jody return home from the zoo and offer French peanuts that the monkeys rejected.

Soon, Buffy and Jody return home from the zoo and offer French peanuts that the monkeys rejected.

French isn’t thrilled with the peanuts, and the twins aren’t thrilled to hear that Bill will be staying in London.

They express sympathy for Bill having to live abroad for a year.

They express sympathy for Bill having to live abroad for a year.

French tells them that Bill is fortunate to be in the land that produced Chaucer, Shelley, Keats, Shakespeare…

Then he launches into the speech from Richard II that includes: "This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England."

Then he launches into the speech from Richard II that includes: “This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.”

 

His speech doesn’t do much for Buffy and Jody, but it enraptures Cissy, who has just returned from Sharon’s apartment.

Cissy's a budding thespian this week, and the mention of England starts her talking about the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

Cissy’s a budding thespian this week, and the mention of England starts her talking about the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

“London has everything,” she sighs, envying Bill for having the chance to live there. (Poor Cissy, living in a theatrical backwater like New York City.)

Meanwhile, back in England, Bill is hanging out at the manor house of Batman's butler.

Meanwhile, back in England, Bill is hanging out at the manor house of Batman’s butler.

Okay, on this show his name is Wilson, and he conveniently has to vacate his manor house for about a year. Bill expresses interest in leasing it: While it’s too big for a bachelor, it will be perfect if the kids come to live in London, too.

Wilson's daughter, Pamela, seems a bit taken aback by this idea.

Wilson’s daughter, Pamela, seems taken aback by this idea.

Pamela is an actress and apparently is Bill’s squeeze while he’s in England.

Bill rushes off to phone the kids, who are thrilled at the idea of joining Bill in England.

Bill rushes off to phone the kids, who are thrilled at the idea of joining him in England.

Buffy says that Mrs. Beasley wants to meet the queen, and Bill promises to try to arrange it.

Cissy tells him about her dream of attending RADA, and he offers to enlist Pamela to help make that happen.

Jody just wants to crawl through the Channel Tunnel…he likes crawling through tunnels.

When the kids hang up the phone, Buffy and Jody start marching around and singing “London Bridge.” When French comes in, he’s excited to hear the news, too, but he tells the children they should act like gentlefolk, showing dignity and restraint.

Then he sings a bit of "London Bridge" himself as he heads to the kitchen.

Then he sings a bit of “London Bridge” himself as he heads to the kitchen.

In London, though, everyone is singing a different tune.

To everyone's disappointment, the tunnel project has been postponed.

To the officials’ disappointment, the tunnel project has been postponed.

“You’ll get the tunnel built someday, I guess,” Bill says consolingly. (Yes…but I’m not sure these guys will live to see it.)

Knowing the kids will be disappointed, too, he says he might still try to work out a stay in England for them.

At home, everyone continues to celebrate all things British.

Buffy and Jody are playing Robin Hood and Maid Marian in the park.

Buffy and Jody are playing Robin Hood and Maid Marian in the park…

...and French is reading them stories about St. George and the dragon.

…and French is reading them stories about St. George and the dragon.

French assures Buffy that there are no real dragons in England, but tells her there are castles they can visit.

Everyone is excited to greet Bill when he comes home.

Cissy is thrilled that Pamela has arranged for her to interview at RADA.

Buffy wants to know if the manor house where they will be staying is a spooky castle or a regular house. (Bill says it’s in between–a regular castle.)

French is looking forward to a reunion his family is planning at “the Rooster and Tankard in Sissingham.”

Jody wants to watch the workers digging the tunnel, and French agrees that witnessing history in the making will be educational.

Bill has to let them know that the tunnel project is off.

Bill has to let them know that the tunnel project is off.

Their trip to England is still on, however. Bill’s going to send French and the kids to England for a year, and he will visit there on the weekends.

(Sending your kids away for a year is a pretty crazy idea, Bill. Tempting, sure…but crazy.)

Bill rushes back out the door to work on”the Canadian project.” Meanwhile, everyone else tries to stay excited about moving.

Cissy's dreaming about how wonderful the Royal Academy will be.

Cissy’s still dreaming about how wonderful the Royal Academy will be.

French agrees, naming some of the great British actors–Laurence Olivier, Michael Redgrave, Ralph Richardson, Dame Edith Evans, and John Gielgud. (I believe, however, that the only one of that group to attend RADA was Gielgud.)

French serves Buffy and Jody trifle for dessert and tells them he’s going out for the evening to buy souvenirs of America for his seven brothers and three sisters.

“I, Buffy, am the baby,” French says, cracking me up.

Buffy and Jody are amused, too.

Buffy and Jody are amused, too.

When Bill returns from work that evening, French is still out shopping.

Cissy offers to make him a hamburger while he tucks in the kids.

Cissy offers to make him a hamburger while he checks on the kids.

He finds Buffy awake and worried.

Buffy tells Bill that she wants to stay with him while French, Cissy, and Jody go to England.

She tells him that she wants to stay with him while French, Cissy, and Jody go to England.

She is afraid he will be lonely by himself, though he says he will manage.

Next, he visits Jody’s room, which is deserted. He finds Jody in his own bed.

Jody tells Bill that pals should stick together, so he should stay with Bill while French and girls go to England.

Jody tells Bill that pals should stick together, so he wants to stick with Bill while French and the girls go to England.

Bill says that’s a nice thought, but he doesn’t back off his ridiculous plan.

He heads to the kitchen, excited to eat "a real American hamburger with onions and junk."

He heads to the kitchen, excited to eat “a real American hamburger with onions and junk.”

(Funny thing about that hamburger–Cissy serves it on bread instead of a bun, and Bill removes the top piece of bread and EATS IT WITH A FORK! Are we sure he’s really American?)

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Soon Cissy’s telling Bill that she doesn’t want to go England either, preferring to stay with him.

“That settles it,” Bill says, finally snapping to his senses. The England idea is dead.

Cissy is thrilled, but she and Bill wonder how French will take it.

Cissy is thrilled, but she and Bill wonder how French will take it.

Surprisingly well, as it turns out.

Surprisingly well, as it turns out.

French is actually relieved–he found it an “insoluble predicament” to choose between going with the kids or staying with Bill.

After all, as French says, in an inevitable final allusion, “There’ll always be an England.”

Commentary

Does it not occur to Bill that the whole family could just take a vacation to England when the kids have a break from school?

This episode seems to breeze by more quickly than most. Though it’s yet another story dealing with a possible family separation, it avoids the angst that some episodes generate. As is often the case, French provides many of the best moments. Bill’s tender bedtime scenes with Buffy and Jody are another highlight.

Oh, Bill--when you smile like that, I can forgive your occasional insane parenting lapses.

Oh, Bill–when you smile like that, I can forgive your occasional insane parenting lapses.

Continuity Notes

We get several Sharon references, and French harkens back to “the playing fields of Eton” again.

Fun Facts

Both Jody and Buffy hope to be truck drivers when they grow up, although French says Bill has other careers in mind for them.

Random Historical Note

In the opening scene, Bill talks about the experience he gained working on “the San Francisco-Oakland project.” Based on the time frame, I assume the writers were alluding to construction of the Transbay Tube.

Guest Cast

Pamela: Barbara Babcock. Monsieur Raynaud: Emile Genest. Sir Richard: John Holland. Mr. Wilson: Alan Napier.

Barbara Babcock should be a familiar face to most classic TV fans. She appeared in several episodes of Star Trek and later had recurring roles on Dallas and Hill Street Blues. She made guest appearances on such shows as Taxi, Cheers, The Golden Girls, and Remington Steele. In the 1990s, she had a regular role on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. She had one of more memorable film roles in 1992’s Far and Away.

Barbara Babcock

Barbara Babcock

Alan Napier is also familiar, especially for his role as Alfred in the Batman TV series. During his long career, his path crossed several times with both of our Messrs. French. With Sebastian Cabot, he was in the vocal cast of Disney’s The Sword in the Stone, and he appeared once on Cabot’s series Checkmate. With John Williams, he appeared in a three-part Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode called “I Killed the Count.”

And, guess what?  Napier studied at RADA.

Alan Napier

Alan Napier