Family Affair Friday(ish): Season 3, Episode 25, “The Flip Side,” March 25, 1969

Written by: Roy Kammerman. Directed by: Charles Barton.

We open with a TV show within a TV show.

This guy is singing a song with lyrics that include, "I never shave or comb my hair, but I do think of her."

We’re watching a guy sing a song with lyrics that include, “I never shave or comb my hair, but I do think of her.”

(Interestingly, this actor had a minor hit years earlier with a song called “Ain’t Gonna Wash for a Week.” Hygiene was an issue for him, apparently.)

So, why are we watching him?

Because Cissy and this guy with a beard are sitting in a Family-Affair-green office and watching him.

Because Cissy and the singer’s bearded manager are sitting in a Family-Affair-green office and watching him, too.

Cissy has somehow got the chance to interview the teen heartthrob for her high school newspaper.

When Charlie enters the room, Cissy compliments him on his TV performance. He jokes that his band hit a few clinkers but the audience probably just thought it was a modern arrangement.

As we will see throughout this episode, Charlie is the world's most self-effacing pop star.

As we will see throughout this episode, Charlie is the world’s most self-effacing pop star.

He’s also straightforward when interviewed.

Our budding Rona Barrett leads off by asking him if he's in love.

Our budding Rona Barrett leads off by asking him if he’s in love.

Yes, he says, “with whatever girl I’m talking to at the moment.”

The full implications of this remark go whizzing right past Cissy's head, especially when he adds that she's pretty.

The full implications of this remark go whizzing right over Cissy’s head, especially when he adds that she’s pretty.

Back at home, the twins are building a block tower, and Buffy's predicting that it will fall if it get's any taller.

Back at home, the twins are building a block tower, and Buffy’s predicting that it will fall if it gets any taller.

Jody disagrees, but Buffy turns out to be correct, proving once again that she’s the brains in this duo.

"You weakened the lateral resistance," Uncle Bill observes to Jody.

“You weakened the lateral resistance,” Uncle Bill observes to Jody.

Sigh–I love it when he talks physics.

A euphoric Cissy breezes in and starts squeeing about Charlie.

A euphoric Cissy breezes in and starts squeeing about Charlie.

Bill and the twins don’t know who Charlie is. With an eye roll, Cissy informs them that he’s the only Charlie in the world–Charlie Higgins of Charlie and the Unsung Heroes.

That rings a bell for Buffy--she's familiar with his song "Let's Go Swinging in My Yellow Submarine with a Purple Balloon."

That rings a bell for Buffy–she’s familiar with his song “Let’s Go Swinging in My Yellow Submarine with a Purple Balloon.”

Cissy tells Bill that Charlie asked her out for a date. Bill asks if this isn’t rather sudden, but she assures him that it’s a great honor to get an invitation from Charlie Higgins. He then asks if Charlie isn’t a little “sophisticated” for her, but she insists he’s sweet and shy.

Brian Keith adopts some great facial expressions in this scene.

I love Brian Keith’s facial expressions in this scene.

Cissy goes on to say that 19 girls fainted when Charlie played Madison Square Garden.

"If you like him, I'll like him," Bill says, though he slips in a "Maybe" under his breath.

“If you like him, I’ll like him,” Bill says, though he slips in a “Maybe” under his breath.

After Cissy leaves, Buffy announces that she’d like to skip her teenage years–she doesn’t want to be so excitable.

A cute line, but it causes me a painful wince thinking about Anissa Jones' future.

A cute line, but it makes me wince when I think about Anissa Jones’ future.

When Charlie shows up, his dress and manners are so conservative that even French can’t find fault.

When Charlie shows up, his dress and manners are so conservative that even French can't find fault with him.

“Hey, you sound English,” Charlie says, adding in his disarming style. “That’s kind of what we speak back in St. Louis but not really.”

(French gives a weird response: “I spent several years in Mayfair in service.” Makes it sound like he isn’t English but picked up the accent while working in London.)

Talking with Bill, Charlies continues in a humble vein.

Two years ago, he'd never even seen the inside of such a posh apartment, he admits.

Two years ago, he’d never even seen the inside of such a posh apartment.

“Now, I’m visiting like I belong here,” he says in astonishment.

When Bill notes how quickly Charlie achieved fame, Charlie shows that he’s fully aware of a teen idol’s short shelf-life.

"I could be a has-been at 20," he laments.

“I could be a has been at 20,” he laments.

(Around this point, I start to wonder if he’s not just but humble but clinically depressed.)

When Buffy averts her eyes from their guest to avoid fainting, Charlie even admits that his manager pays to "faint" at his concerts.

When Buffy averts her eyes from their guest to avoid fainting, Charlie even admits that his manager pays girls to “faint” at his concerts.

When the twins ask him how you write a song, he says you have to start with something beautiful…

...like Cissy.

…like Cissy.

Bill’s impressed enough that he gives the couple permission to go out. Charlie asks when he should have Cissy home, and Bill says 11 o’clock since it’s a school night.

He actually gets her home one minute early, which pleases French.

Charlie actually gets Cissy home one minute early, which pleases French.

Cissy’s predictably ecstatic about her evening. Fans overran the place they’d planned to go, so Cissy and Charlie got hot dogs and sneaked into a movie theater balcony.

He’s invited her out again, to a party this time, and Bill gives his blessing.

Later, he wonders aloud to French about what Cissy will do when Charlie moves on.

Later, he wonders aloud to French about what Cissy will do when Charlie moves on.

When party night arrives, Buffy and Jody watch Cissy get ready.

They tell her they like Charlie and don't mind if she marries him.

They tell her they like Charlie and don’t mind if she marries him.

The whole family seems excited about the date.

Bill gives Cissy a pair of sparkly clip-on earrings.

Bill gives Cissy a pair of sparkly clip-on earrings.

“May I venture to say that Master Charlie is a very lucky young man?” French asks as Cissy is leaving.

You may...but it sounds a little creepy.

You may…but it sounds a little creepy.

When the doorbell rings, Buffy and Jody want to rush out and see Charlie, but Bill asks if they wouldn’t rather let Cissy have a moment alone with him.

"Not particularly," Buffy answers, which leads into this week's twin hug scene.

“Not particularly,” Buffy answers, which leads into this week’s obligatory hug.

So what does a 1969 rock star party look like?

A lot of neatly dressed people sitting around on sofas, apparently.

A lot of neatly dressed people sitting around on sofas, apparently.

Charlie gets out his guitar and announces that’s he’s written a new song. Everyone can listen, but he’ll really be singing it for Cissy.

As the party guests bob their heads and tap their feet, he launches into the ballad he wrote just for her.

As the party guests bob their heads and tap their feet, he launches into the ballad he wrote just for her.

It’s a lucky thing for him that “Cissy” rhymes with “kiss me.”

Sample lyrics: "My world is aglow/My actions must show that I'm in love."

Sample lyrics: “My world is aglow/My actions must show that I’m in love.”

Listening, Cissy looks slightly pained--probably not the expression Kathy Garver was going for, but oh-so-appropriate nonetheless.

Listening, Cissy looks slightly pained–probably not the feeling Kathy Garver was going for, but appropriate nonetheless.

(The guests' expressions crack me up, too.)

(The guests’ expressions crack me up, too.)

When we next see Cissy, she really is pained. Charlie’s moved on to Boston and hasn’t been in touch for weeks. He didn’t even send a thank-you note when she sent him some cookies that French baked.

Buffy and Jody show a surprising passive-aggressive streak, torturing Cissy with comments like "Friends usually write" and "It doesn't take long to say thank you."

Buffy and Jody show a surprising passive-aggressive streak, torturing Cissy with comments like “Friends usually write” and “It doesn’t take long to say thank you.”

A letter from Charlie does arrive later that day–a form letter.

It even has blank space to fill in whatever gift Charlie is thanking the recipient for. Ouch.

It even has blank space to fill in whatever gift Charlie is thanking the recipient for. Ouch.

Cissy is sure that Charlie never even saw her letters or he would have replied personally. Bill tries to point out gently that Charlie would have written to her if he really cared about her, but Cissy still makes excuses for him.

“I was with him for two whole evenings, and I know how much I meant to him,” she says.

As a parent, hearing that statement might make me want to pry a little deeper into what went on those evenings.

He calls his office and orders Miss Grayson to track down Charlie or his manager in Boston.

In Bill’s case, though, it spurs him to action. He calls his office and orders Miss Grayson to track down Charlie or his manager in Boston.

Miss Grayson, huh? Did Miss Lee quit because she was tired of thankless assignments like this?

They get Charlie's phone number, but Cissy can't convince his secretary to put her through.

They get Charlie’s phone number, but Cissy can’t convince Charlie’s secretary to put her through.

The most the secretary will do is offer to ship her a free copy of “Cissy, My Love.” (Apparently, Charlie is offering it free to any girl named Cissy…so basically Cissy Houston and Bobby’s dance partner from the Lawrence Welk Show?)

Bill and Cissy won't give up. Through a complicated chain of connections, Bill makes contact with Charlie and takes Cissy to Boston to see him.

Bill and Cissy won’t give up. Through a complicated chain of connections, Bill makes contact with Charlie and takes Cissy to Boston to see him.

She gets cold feet when the moment arrives, so she asks Bill to meet Charlie first and see if he’s still interested.

Charlie's as pleasant and earnest as ever, but he's clearly not pining for Cissy.

Charlie’s as pleasant and earnest as ever, but he’s clearly not pining for Cissy.

He doesn’t even seem to feel awkward about introducing Bill to Pamela, the girl he’s writing a song for now.

That's going to be a challenge. "You make my heart go wham-ela?" "Don't let this be a sham-ela?"

That’s going to be a challenge. “You make my heart go wham-ela?” “Don’t let this be a sham-ela?”

(Pamela’s last name is Grayson, which makes me think that the writer just got confused when he had Bill refer to his secretary as Miss Grayson.)

Bill has to give Cissy the bad news that she’s “not exactly the love of (Charlie’s) life.”

In addition to feeling sad, Cissy is sorry that Bill spent so much time and energy helping her through a teenage romance "that's not really important to anyone."

In addition to feeling sad, Cissy is sorry that Bill spent so much time and energy helping her through a teenage romance “that’s not really important to anyone.”

“It’s important to you,” Bill replies.

Aww.

Aww.

Fortunately, it’s easy for Bill to cheer Cissy up. Since, like him, she goes for any halfway-presentable member of the opposite sex, he just brings home the son of a visiting business associate.

He asks Cissy to show Steve around the city. It's a school night, but he says missing a little sleep won't hurt her.

Bill asks Cissy to show Steve around the city. It’s a school night, but he says missing a little sleep won’t hurt her.

(Strangely, we never get a direct look at Steve’s face. Maybe producers thought the actor looked too old for Cissy, although he’s really only a year older than the actor playing Charlie.)

In the end, everyone's happy, including Buffy and Jody.

In the end, everyone’s happy, including Buffy and Jody.

They’ve started a second-grade fan club for Charlie, and now they can wear their club buttons again without Cissy bursting into tears.

Commentary

I always love a good Cissy episode! Bill’s the ultimate fantasy father for a teenage girl–dashing, sensitive, rich, and perfectly willing to use all his resources to further Cissy’s romance with a rock star.

Once again, Family Affair avoids the extremes that other shows might go for. Maybe it’s the years I spent watching Very Special Episodes of 1980s sitcoms, but I expect a pop star who’s so polite to adults to turn into a rape-drug-wielding monster when he gets a girl alone. Charlie is a perfectly nice guy who told Cissy right from the start how seriously she should take his attentions. It’s not his fault she didn’t listen.

Fun fact: Kathy Garver got a writing credit on "Cissy, My Love."

Kathy Garver got a writing credit on “Cissy, My Love.”

(Not sure who Richard Simon was, but Gary LeMel had an interesting career.)

Guest Cast

McGregor: Warren Berlinger. Charlie Higgins: Eddie Hodges. Pamela: Patricia Lee. Steve: Thomas Ormenyi.

Warren Berlinger, a nephew of Milton Berle, was in the original Broadway cast of Annie Get Your Gun. Later he appeared in Neil Simon’s first play, Come Blow Your Horn and both the stage and screen versions of Blue Denim. He popped up all over TV in the 1970s and 1980s. He also had Disney connections, with roles in Herbie the Love Bug and The Shaggy D.A. In 1965, he played Oscar Kilroy in a four-episode arc on Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color. That year, he also appeared in Billie, a ridiculous movie that I highly recommend to classic TV fans–what a cast.

Warren Berlinger

                          Warren Berlinger

Eddie Hodges also got his start on Broadway, playing Winthrop Paroo in the original cast of The Music Man. His first film role came in 1959’s A Hole in the Head; he and co-star Frank Sinatra sang “High Hopes” together. The next year, he starred in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn on the big screen before transitioning mostly into television roles. Like Berlinger, he appeared in Disney films–in Hodges’ case, Summer Magic and The Happiest Millionaire. He also had a modest recording career in the 1960s. You can find a lot of his songs on Youtube. You can even find a clip him performing on Swedish TV in the 1990s, and he doesn’t sound bad. In the years after this Family Affair episode, he quit show business and focused on his education, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees and building a new career as a mental health counselor.

I think Thomas Ormenyi became this Tom Ormeny, who is active in Los Angeles theater and has made appearances on shows such as Gray’s Anatomy and Mad Men.

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Stay tuned…

I just wanted to apologize for not updating the blog lately due to family and professional obligations. On Friday, April 10, my Family Affair series will resume on a WEEKLY basis, and I will be reviving other popular features, too. As they said back in the day, don’t touch that dial…

Wishing a happy holiday to everyone celebrating Easter this weekend,
Amy