Written by: Roy Kammerman. Directed by: Charles Barton.
We open with a TV show within a TV show.
(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?
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.
He’s also straightforward when interviewed.
Yes, he says, “with whatever girl I’m talking to at the moment.”
Jody disagrees, but Buffy turns out to be correct, proving once again that she’s the brains in this duo.
Sigh–I love it when he talks physics.
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.
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.
Cissy goes on to say that 19 girls fainted when Charlie played Madison Square Garden.
After Cissy leaves, Buffy announces that she’d like to skip her teenage years–she doesn’t want to be so excitable.
When Charlie shows up, his dress and manners are so conservative that even French can’t find fault.
(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.
“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.
(Around this point, I start to wonder if he’s not just but humble but clinically depressed.)
When the twins ask him how you write a song, he says you have to start with something beautiful…
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.
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.
When party night arrives, Buffy and Jody watch Cissy get ready.
The whole family seems excited about the date.
“May I venture to say that Master Charlie is a very lucky young man?” French asks as Cissy is leaving.
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.
So what does a 1969 rock star party look like?
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.
It’s a lucky thing for him that “Cissy” rhymes with “kiss me.”
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.
A letter from Charlie does arrive later that day–a form letter.
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.
Miss Grayson, huh? Did Miss Lee quit because she was tired of thankless assignments like this?
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?)
She gets cold feet when the moment arrives, so she asks Bill to meet Charlie first and see if he’s still interested.
He doesn’t even seem to feel awkward about introducing Bill to Pamela, the girl he’s writing a song for now.
(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.”
“It’s important to you,” Bill replies.
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.
(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.)
They’ve started a second-grade fan club for Charlie, and now they can wear their club buttons again without Cissy bursting into tears.
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.
(Not sure who Richard Simon was, but Gary LeMel had an interesting career.)
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.
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.
I think Uncle Bill took Cissy to Boston to bring closure to her pining for Charlie. He knew that Charlie had probably moved on since he hadn’t been in communication with Cissy. I don’t think I’d be too impressed if my Dad brought home a guy for me to date, but I guess it makes a good ending to the story.
Glad you are back Amy!
Sometimes I find Bill’s pulling of strings and his use of friends and ties a bit irritating, and – as in this case – a bit over the top. However, his doing it so lovingly is also touching.
I don’t know whether I would ever have sent cookies – not even very tasty ones as those made by French – to a worshipped pop star…
That Uncle Bill does sound like a wonderful father, as you said. I liked how the singer didn’t turn out to be a drug-crazed weirdo and that he was being honest about who he was.
I also liked your comments about the “rock star” party. It would be hard to tell it WAS a party if it weren’t pointed out to us.
This is another one of my favorites. As others have said it didn’t take the easy way out and make Charlie an obnoxious jerk. Likewise, Uncle Bill went above and beyond for Cissy even though he knew how the visit to Boston would play out – obviously it helps to have sufficient resources at one’s disposal. That was something else I always appreciated about ‘Family Affair.’ Rich people are jerks on most shows – here you have a man of integrity who also happens to be wealthy.