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

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Family Affair Friday(ish): Season 3, Episode 18, “A Matter of Privacy,” 2/3/1969

Written by: Burt Styler. Directed by: Charles Barton.

This episode opens in an unusual setting–a boardroom.

A very white, male, cigarette-smoke-infused boardroom.

A very white, male, cigarette-smoke-infused boardroom.

Apparently, the guys around the table have bid on a construction project, and now they are finding out who gets it.

Bill's company bid $13,220,000, which would be the low bid...

Bill’s company bid $13,220,000, which would be the low bid…

Except Henry & Associates bid $13,218,000. We learn that this is the third time in a row that Henry has underbid Bill by a very small amount.

An associate suggests to Bill that Henry might be bugging the Davis offices.

An associate suggests to Bill that Henry might be bugging the Davis offices.

Bill has known Henry for 15 years and doesn’t want to believe he would do such a thing. Always a good sport, he heads over to congratulate Henry on getting the contract.

Meanwhile, at home, the twins are playing with their friend Norman and his new toy.

A tape recorder. Hmm...I think I might see a theme developing here.

A tape recorder. Hmm…I think I might see a theme developing here.

Norman plays back a recording of Jody talking.

Buffy wants to try singing on tape, but she can't think of a song.

Buffy wants to try singing on tape, but she can’t think of a song.

The ever-patriotic Jody doesn’t have that problem.

He happily warbles the first few lines of "My Country 'Tis of Thee"

He happily warbles the first few lines of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”

Buffy overcomes her mike fright to do a pig imitation on tape, and then Jody does a bunny imitation.

He's apparently forgotten that audio tape is not a visual medium. Oh, Jody.

He’s apparently forgotten that audio tape is not a visual medium. Oh, Jody.

The entry of French into the room gives the kids a better idea: They want to get him on tape. As Buffy says, “He has a beautiful voice…just like in a commercial.”

(I’m not sure if that’s an in-joke, but Sebastian Cabot did do some commercials.)

"Would you like to say a few words for our radio audience?" Buffy asks, and Jody helpfully explains that his voice goes in the microphone and gets recorded on tape.

“Would you like to say a few words for our radio audience?” Buffy asks, and Jody helpfully explains that French’s voice would go in the microphone and get recorded on tape.

“Jody, I understand the principles of electromagnetic recording,” French replies.

Buffy suggests that they record him reading Winnie the Pooh, so they can listen to it at bedtime if French isn’t around.

Now, that I'm pretty sure is an in-joke.

Now, THAT I’m pretty sure is an in-joke.

French reminds them that a tape recorder can’t tuck in a blanket or fluff up a pillow.

That's his way of saying, "Ain't nobody got time for that."

That’s his way of saying, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

Fortunately for the kids, another victim soon breezes into the room.

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Answering a phone call from Sharon, Cissy informs her friend that she has big news…so big and private that she needs to take the call in her bedroom.

After Buffy hangs up the extension, Norman has a brainstorm.

After Buffy hangs up the extension, Norman has a brainstorm.

He thinks they should sneak the recorder into Cissy’s room and capture her conversation.

Buffy and Jody know Cissy wouldn’t like the idea, but they don’t need much convincing to go along with it.

Entering her room under the presence of retrieving Mrs. Beasley, Buffy plants the recorder.

Entering the room under the presence of retrieving Mrs. Beasley, Buffy plants the recorder.

(The image above is so classically “teenage girl”–her posture, the pink phone. I like Cissy’s side-ponytails better than the side-bow look she’s been sporting frequently this season.)

While Buffy’s there, Cissy peppers a mystified Sharon with questions about a math problem, but once Buffy leaves we get the real scoop.

It involves a boy named Roger Lund and Cissy’s attempts to attract his attention. She’d tried getting her sweater caught in his notebook (?) and even wearing “sexy stockings” (!), but nothing worked–until today. Her winning move? Dropping her tuna salad in his lap.

(It’s a good thing for the whole family that Cissy is so wholesome. Imagine the eye-opening secrets a real teenager might have been keeping in 1969.)

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That night at dinner, Bill asks Buffy and Jody how their day was, and they tell him they’ve been playing a “secret game.”

Bill says that if it’s secret, they can’t tell him about it. As a parent, I think I would pry into their “secret game,” but Bill is clearly distracted.

When Bill asks Cissy about her day, she gushes that it was "practically perfect."

When Bill asks Cissy about her day, she gushes that it was “practically perfect.”

The twins agree that it was and start filling him in on all the deets–the new boyfriend named Roger, the tuna salad caper, and all.

They sure are sly about their secret game, aren't they?

They sure are sly about their secret game, aren’t they?

Cissy’s annoyed, but she can’t pin down exactly what they did. They have French as a witness that they didn’t listen outside Cissy’s door or eavesdrop on the phone extension.

"Maybe it's ESP," Bill says, dismissing the subject.

“Maybe it’s ESP,” Bill says, dismissing the subject.

Cissy's still pissed, and I don't blame her.

Cissy’s still pissed, and I don’t blame her.

The next day, Norman and his tape recorder make another appearance.

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Norman suggests that they spy on French this time.

The twins are game. As Buffy says, “It’s fun hearing what you’re not supposed to hear.”

Unfortunately for French, they catch him in the middle of an delicate conversation.

Unfortunately for French, they catch him in the middle of a delicate conversation.

He’s telling someone about a matter that is “not easily described without embarrassment.”

Yikes.

When Bill comes home a bit later, he hears French’s voice and calls to him.

He's actually hearing French's voice on tape, coming from Jody's room. Both he and French follow the sound.

He’s actually hearing French’s voice on tape, and both he and French head toward the sound’s source.

The kids are playing back the recording they made–a recording of French attempting to order a “beard snood.”

For an agonizingly long time, we listen as he describes his problem--waking up with his beard in "classic disarray." He's looking for something like a woman's hairnet to keep his "hirsute adornments" in order.

For an agonizingly long time, we listen as he describes his problem–waking up with his beard in “classic disarray.” He’s looking for something like a woman’s hairnet to keep his “hirsute adornments” in order.

I know Bill can’t barge in and shut the tape off before it’s over because then WE wouldn’t hear it…

I think he is also, perhaps, enjoying himself a little.

…but he also seems to be enjoying this a little.

Poor French.

Poor French.

(The interplay of facial expressions between Keith and Cabot is wonderful.)

When Bill finally enters the room, he makes his feelings known.

When Bill finally enters the room, he makes his feelings known.

“He’s mad,” Buffy says.

Bill uses the old I’m-not-mad-I’m-disappointed-in-you line, and points out that they have invaded Mr. French’s privacy.

“Privacy,” Jody corrects him, pronouncing it with a short “i,” as French would.

(A cumbersome joke to explain in writing, but amusing on the screen.)

Buffy and Jody are properly abashed, but Norman is unrepentant.

He tapes his family all the time, and they think it's funny. "You people just can't take a joke," he says.

He tapes his parents all the time, and they think it’s funny. “You people just can’t take a joke,” he says.

Sassy little brat, isn’t he?

The next day, we find ourselves in Bill’s office. He has reluctantly brought in an expert to look for bugs, though he still doesn’t believe he’s being recorded.

Harris, the expert, calls this his "radio frequency indicator," which is better known in layman's terms as "a train case with it's lid removed and mounted on a stick."

Harris, the expert, calls this his “radio frequency indicator, although it appears to be a train case, with it’s lid removed and mounted on a stick.

Hilarity ensues.

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As Harris walks around the office, “detecting,” the train case lid rotates.

Props to you, prop guy!

Pretty soon, Harris hits on something.

Pretty soon, Harris hits on something.

The bug is hidden in a desk drawer’s handle.

Before they remove it, Bill sends his nemesis Henry a message.

Before they remove it, Bill sends his nemesis a message.

Saying that he must not be much of an engineering if he has to resort to such a tactic, Bill expresses pity for Henry.

He delivers that line in his usual laconic style, but he shows some fire when he rips the handle off his drawer.

He delivers that line in his usual laconic style, but he shows some fire when he rips the handle off his drawer.

That recording device is out of commission, but Norman’s is still active.

Meanwhile, at school, Norman is still toting around his tape recorder.

At school, he tries to interest Buffy and Jody in playing with it again, but they say they’re not allowed.

Norman accuses Bill of having no sense of humor, and he still denies that bugging is wrong.

“I say it’s okay with anyone as long as they don’t catch you,” Norman says, quoting his father.

(Hmm…I didn’t realize J. Edgar Hoover had a son.)

After school, in the park, Norman sees another chance to use his favorite toy.

After school, in the park, Norman sees another chance to use his favorite toy.

The victims this time are Cissy and that dreamy Roger Lund.

They have a mushy conversation, and Norman gets it all on tape.

They have a mushy conversation, and Norman gets it all on tape.

When Norman comes over later, Buffy and Jody reiterate that they can’t play spy with him anymore.

When Norman comes over later, Buffy and Jody reiterate that they can't record things with him anymore.

Norman says he just wants to play a recording for them, and they figure that would be okay.

Soon, Cissy arrives home and hears her own voice emanating from the bedroom.

Busted!

Busted!

Soon, it's a double busting...

Soon, it’s a double busting…

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…and then a rare triple busting.

We hear some embarrassing sweet talk. When the subject turns to kissing, Bill finally prepares to intervene.

Before he busts in, Buffy and Jody start reprimanding Norman themselves.

Before he busts in, Buffy and Jody start reprimanding Norman themselves.

(Thank goodness–that spares us a tedious sitcom misunderstanding, in which Buffy and Jody get punished for something they didn’t do.)

Bill, Cissy, and French continue to listen as Norman calls the twins “goody-goods” and again denies that bugging is wrong.

“If Uncle Bill says it’s wrong, it’s wrong,” the twins counter.

(That does sound rather goody-goodish.)

Norman rushes out, past his hallway audience, and calls back, “How come it’s all right for you to listen to us?”

That's a pretty good deflection in the heat of the moment, but Norman is still a sassy brat.

That’s a pretty good deflection in the heat of the moment, but Norman is still a sassy brat.

Back in Bill’s office, Harris returns to try to sell Bill some spy equipment of his own.

He claims this thing can pick up a conversation half a mile away.

He claims this thing can pick up a conversation half a mile away.

I have a feeling Harris got his training working for CONTROL. He should just install a cone of silence over Bill’s desk for sensitive conversations.

Harris says everyone is spying, but Bill refuses to join in.

Harris says everyone is spying, but Bill refuses to join in.

If spying is the price of success, he’d rather quit and return to working as a first-class welder.

That evening, Bill is still brooding about the encounter and whether he made the right decision.

That evening, Bill is still brooding about the encounter and whether he made the right decision.

It’s so obvious he did make the right decision that I can only assume he is fishing for head-pats from French. French, of course, obliges: “Integrity, sir, is never out of date.”

To Bill’s chagrin, Norman drops by again, tape-recorder in tow.

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“Enough of that,” Bill says, but Norman says he goes by his father’s rules.

Bill says that in the Davis home, the kids have to follow his rules.

Norman still tries to convince Bill that bugging is harmless and fun. He made a tape of his parents talking before he left his apartment, and he insists on playing it for everyone.

It starts out with his dad saying, “Norman’s not really such a bad kid,” and goes downhill from there. When the possibility of consulting a psychologist comes up, Bill tries to cut off the tape, but Norman prevents him.

He listens to his parents deciding how to break the news of their impending divorce to him.

He listens as his parents decide how to break the news of their impending divorce to him.

Awkward!

Awkward!

Norman rushes off, leaving his tape recorder behind.

At bedtime that night, the kids are still feeling sorry for Norman.

At bedtime that night, the kids are still feeling sorry for Norman.

The twins ask Bill how he knew that Norman would get hurt. Bill says he didn’t know, but when people do things that are wrong, someone often gets hurt.

After Bill and Jody leave the room, a comic exchange between Buffy and Cissy lightens the mood.

Buffy asks a bemused Cissy if she really dropped her tuna salad on Roger.

Buffy asks a bemused Cissy if she really dropped her tuna salad on Roger.

(Norman, meanwhile, went on to have a rich and fulfilling career with the NSA.)

Commentary

Electronic espionage was a hot-button topic in the 1960s (as it is today), but people wouldn’t know the full extent of domestic spying for a few years. The FBI’s awful COINTELPRO program came to light in 1971, and President Nixon’s White House taping system became public knowledge in 1973. (Norman’s father and Nixon were kindred spirits–Norman says his dad records every conversation in his office with the consent of the other parties.)

Wonderful Frenchisms (“hirsute adornments!”) and the train-case technology are highlights of this episode. The ending is heavy-handed, but Norman is such a jerk that his comeuppance  is satisfying.

Why did Bill even let Harris in the door for his spy-gear pitch? And why doesn’t anyone mention that bugging is illegal?

Bill's bedtime sweetness for this week--a kiss on Buffy's hand.

Bill’s bedtime sweetness for this week–a kiss on Buffy’s hand.

Notable Quotes

“You’ve just stumbled into a whole nest of squares.”–Bill

Guest Cast

Norman: Bobby Riha. Harris: Richard O’Brien. Fred: William Boyett. Mr. McGraw: Larry Thor. Roger: Russ Caldwell.

Bobby Riha had a regular role in the short-lived Debbie Reynolds Show.

Richard O’Brien’s character acting included many police officer roles, including a recurring one on S.W.A.T.

Russ Caldwell’s screen career was very brief–he has only four IMDB.com credits.

 

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”).

 

Family Affair Friday: Season 3, Episode 12, “A Nanny for All Seasons,” 12-23-1968

Written by: John McGreevey. Directed by: Charles Barton.

Although it aired just before Christmas, this episode opens on a beautiful day in Central Park. Accompanying the twins, Mr. French encounters his fellow servants.

The nannies...

The nannies…

and the other gentlemen's gentlemen.

and the other gentlemen’s gentlemen.

French’s discomfort around the latter group is obvious. Withers tweaks him about his role as a “children’s supervisor” and then expresses surprise that French still considers himself primarily a gentleman’s gentleman.

It's doesn't help that he's stuck holding Jody's ice cream cone.

It’s especially hard for French to maintain his dignity while he’s stuck holding Jody’s ice cream cone.

The awkwardness continues after he sits down, as he fulfills his function as keeper of jump-ropes, baseball gloves, and other kid paraphernalia.

Mr. Hardcastle observes that children require a great deal of equipment nowadays.

Mr. Hardcastle observes that children require a great deal of equipment nowadays.

“That’s why the other nannies carry enormous handbags,” Withers quips.

Ouch.

Just then, Buffy falls down, and French has to rush to her rescue.

Just then, Buffy falls down, and French has to rush to her rescue.

Miss Faversham gives him some advice about treating skinned knees, and French gets Buffy back on her feet.

Unfortunately, he's left holding Mrs. Beasley.

Unfortunately, he’s left holding Mrs. Beasley when Buffy returns to her game.

French isn’t amused.

His frenemies find it all quite amusing.

His frenemies are, however.

Back at home, Cissy has emptied her whole closet in search of a perfect date dress.

When Buffy and Jody return, they tell her that French made them walk 10 paces ahead of him all the way home.

When Buffy and Jody return, they tell her that French made them walk 10 paces ahead of him all the way home.

They also give Cissy some advice about her dress, encouraging her to pick a blue one since blue is her favorite color. Cissy notes that her date’s favorite color is yellow. “Let him wear yellow,” Buffy replies.

French, on the other hand, refuses to offer any advice. Choosing a teenager’s clothes is neither his forte nor his responsibility, he announces coldly.

The kids are left wondering what they did to make him mad.

 

When Bill comes home, Cissy describes how French growled at her "like an old bear."

When Bill comes home, Cissy describes how French growled at her “like an old bear.”

Bill doesn’t know what’s wrong with French, but he does make a quick decision on the clothing front, choosing a green suit for Cissy.

That night, the twins present themselves to French for a bedtime story.

That night, the twins present themselves to French for a bedtime story.

French has news for them–he doesn’t read bedtime stories anymore. He suggests that the twins read to each other.

Apparently, he's never noticed that these kids have some limitations when it comes to reading.

Apparently, he’s never noticed that these kids have some limitations when it comes to reading.

After Jody makes a few attempts to sound out “abductors,” the twins agree to forgo a bedtime story completely. They ask French to tuck them in, but he’s not doing that anymore, either.

Buffy tucks Jody in herself, which is sweet.

Buffy tucks Jody in herself, which is sweet.

Then Jody realizes that Buffy has no one to tuck her in.

He feels it's his duty as a gentleman to get back up and do it himself.

He feels it’s his duty as a gentleman to get back up and do it himself.

Later, when Bill gets home, he tells French that the kids are wondering about his behavior.

Here's a conversational tip from Uncle Bill: Defuse any tension in a conversation by vigorously scratching at your ear the whole time.

Here’s a social tip from Uncle Bill: Defuse any tension in a conversation by vigorously scratching at your ear the whole time.

French says he is proud of his profession as a gentleman’s gentleman, which his father and grandfather also held. He’s “exceedingly unhappy as a nanny,” however. (I wonder if French would have liked the term “manny.” Probably not.)

He feels he has to adopt a different approach to his work, even if the kids don’t like it. Bill agrees that French should do his job in whatever way that makes him comfortable.

When we next see French, he’s entertaining a visitor–Miss Faversham.

She's bowing out of the weekly poetry reading they usually attend--her employers are letting her go and she needs to devote her time to finding a new position.

She’s bowing out of the weekly poetry reading they usually attend–her employers are letting her go and she needs to devote her time to finding a new position.

French is shocked about her dismissal, but she accepts it as the lot of a nanny–the better she does her job, the sooner the children are able to function without her. She points out that French is more fortunate–when the Davis children grow up, he will still have a place with Uncle Bill.

In the park the next day, French’s peers tease him about which bench he will choose–the one with the nannies or the one with the “good lads.”

French asserts that he's merely taking a walk in the park, and the fact that Buffy and Jody have accompanied him is a matter of "supreme indifference" to him.

French asserts that he’s merely taking a walk in the park, and the fact that Buffy and Jody have accompanied him is a matter of “supreme indifference” to him.

Withers welcomes him back into the fold.

When the twins get home (winded from walking 10 paces ahead of French again), they tell Bill that French made an abrupt decision to visit Miss Faversham.

When the twins get home (winded from walking 10 paces ahead again), they tell Bill that French made an abrupt decision to visit Miss Faversham.

French finds the nanny packing her things.

She lays it on a bit thick here: "Photos of so many children...letters from the few who remember..."

“Photos of so many children…letters from the few who remember…”

He says he was worried that he wouldn’t see her again and invites her out to dinner. She says that getting to know him has been one of the greatest pleasures of her current situation.

Get a room, you two!

Before leaving for dinner, he feels Bill out about Miss Faversham and whether his employer finds her as agreeable as French himself does.

Before leaving for dinner, French feels Bill out about Miss Faversham and whether his employer finds her as agreeable as French himself does.

It’s nice to see French going out and Bill staying home with the kids for a change. (He’s reading to the twins because another book has defeated them. I’m almost 100 percent sure it’s this Whitman Tell-a-Tale book, which should be easy for third-graders.)

At dinner, French tells Miss Faversham how much he will miss her. She reveals that she’s interviewed with a new family with young children. The mother has “queer ideas about discipline” that she’s picked up from magazines, but Miss F is prepared to set her right.

He's shocked that she's willing to start over with another family and set herself up for another heartbreak.

He’s shocked that she’s willing to start over with another family and set herself up for another heartbreak.

She should have her own home and someone to look after her, he says, pointedly. And she calls him Giles. Whoa.

Miss Faversham says that it’s too late for her to change. She’s already raised more than 20 children, and someday she may raise some of their children. She obviously believes taking care of children is a special calling, and she notes that it’s one she and French share.

Returning home, French “tucks in” the sleeping twins.

 

These scenes feature the Violins of Emotional Resonance, which are usually only deployed for Uncle Bill.

These scenes feature the Violins of Emotional Resonance, which are usually only deployed for Uncle Bill.

In the park the next day, French is back to holding the twins’ things.

Showing a new appreciation for his role as caregiver, he even chooses to sit with the nannies.

Showing a new appreciation for his role as caregiver, he even chooses to sit with the nannies.

(And don’t worry, Miss F fans: We learn that she has secured a new job in the same neighborhood.)

Commentary

I like the way this episode doesn’t spell everything out for the viewer. Thoughts and motivations are murky at times. Was French thinking of proposing to Miss Faversham? Or, as a commenter on IMDB.com suggests, giving up his job so that she could have it? Did she sense what he had in mind and purposely deflect it? In any case, it’s a sweet episode, and it gives Sebastian Cabot many good Frenchisms to utter and a chance to show some range.

This episode is a little jarring after the previous one, in which French was prepared to take total responsibility for the kids. But I can fanwank that his embarrassment about taking such a demonstrative stand made him want to distance himself from the children a little bit.

Guest Cast

Miss Faversham: Heather Angel. Mr. Hardcastle: Noel Drayton. Miss Talmadge: Nora Marlowe. Mr. Withers: Richard Peel.  Miss Alcott: Merri Wood-Taylor.

We’ve seen all the members of this British brigade before. We won’t see them all again, though: This was the final Family Affair appearance for Marlowe, Peel, and Wood-Taylor.

Fun Facts

Miss Faversham’s favorite poet is Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

 

Random fashion observation: When she's not wearing it, Miss Faversham's hat could function as a toilet paper roll cover.

Random fashion observation: When she’s not wearing it, Miss Faversham’s hat could function as a toilet paper roll cover.

 

 

 

 

Family Affair Friday: Season 3, Episode 7, “Christmas Came a Little Early,” 11/11/1968

Written by: Elroy Schwartz. Directed by: Charles Barton.

On Easter weekend, it’s fitting that we have a holiday episode this week, even if that holiday is Christmas. As the title and air date indicate, however, this isn’t exactly a Christmas episode.

We open this episode in the classroom, where the twins are studying geography.

We begin in the classroom, where the twins are studying geography.

Buffy knows that Central America lies between Mexico and South America. (The twins’ IQ fluctuates wildly from episode to episode; she’s having a relatively smart week.)

Buffy can’t name the countries of Central America, though. Only one of Miss Cummings’ students can.

The disembodied voice of Jan Brady!

It’s the disembodied voice of Jan Brady!

Actually, the student is Eve, a sickly child who’s sort of teleconferencing in from home. I wonder if any real schools actually offered this service. When I was growing up, kids who couldn’t come to school got “home-bound instruction” from a tutor.

Later, Miss Cummings asks Buffy to stop by Eve's apartment after school to drop off a new textbook.

Later, Miss Cummings asks Buffy to stop by Eve’s apartment after school to drop off a new textbook.

None of the kids have ever seen Eve, and Buffy is a bit reluctant to make her acquaintance.

“It’s hard to like someone who knows all the answers,” she observes.

When she actually meets Eve, though, she hits it off with her immediately.

Eve's sick room has the same creepy clown artwork as the hospital children's ward we saw when Buffy had her tonsillectomy. Don't sick children have enough to worry about?!

Eve’s sick room has the same creepy clown artwork as the hospital children’s ward we saw when Buffy had her tonsillectomy. Don’t sick children have enough to worry about?!

Eve asks Buffy if she can stay for a while. Buffy says she can if she calls Mr. French to let him know. That leads to an amusing exchange:

Eve: Who’s he?

Buffy: Well, he’s not exactly our butler…and he’s not exactly our nanny… and he’s not exactly a relative.

 Eve: Oh.

Buffy: “Oh” what?

Eve: I don’t know who he is.

Buffy: Oh.

Eve: “Oh” what?

Buffy: I still have to call him, whoever he is.

The girls have fun playing word games, a favorite pastime for Eve. Though she looks fairly robust, she's apparently too weak to get out of bed.

The girls have fun playing word games, a favorite pastime for Eve. Though she looks fairly robust, she’s apparently too weak to get out of bed.

(Another creepy clown on the dresser–yikes!)

Eve says doctors haven’t been able to help her, but Buffy assures her that Uncle Bill can fix anything. Oh, dear.

That night at dinner, she tells Bill about Eve and re-states her confidence in his ability to fix the situation.

That night at dinner, she tells Bill about Eve and re-states her confidence in his ability to fix the situation.

That earns a big sigh from Bill, who tries unsuccessfully to explain that some problems are beyond his capabilities.

Some time later, Bill goes to the Bowers’ home to pick up Buffy and Jody, who have been playing with Eve.

It's an awkward moment when Mrs. Bowers describes how Buffy has been promising Eve that he could help.

It’s an awkward moment when Mrs. Bowers describes how Buffy has been promising Eve that he could help.

After meeting Eve, Bill goes above and beyond the call of duty by arranging for an eminent physician he knows to examine her. He even tells the doctor to bill him, while explaining to the Bowers family that a research foundation will pick up the cost.

Random fashion note: Nice tam, Buffy.

Random fashion note: Nice tam, Buffy.

Mr. and Mrs Bowers tell Bill that his efforts have given them renewed hope.

Mr. and Mrs Bowers tell Bill that his efforts have given them renewed hope.

“To have a little hope again is a wonderful thing,” Mr. Bowers says. Unfortunately, that hope doesn’t last long.

Dr. Flanders and a nurse bring Eve home.

Dr. Flanders returns with Eve. (Her blanket looks like Buffy’s tam outfit.)

Wait, Eve has been at the hospital having medical tests while her parents chat with Bill? And a doctor and a nurse brought her home? That’s odd.

As the nurse takes Eve to her room, a grim-faced Dr. Flanders delivers the bad news. “I wish you could tell you what you want to hear,” he says.

When Mr. Bowers asks, “How long?” the doctor has no real answer.

Eve’s decline from her unspecified illness is a rapid one, however.

One night, Mrs. Bowers drops by the Davis apartment to tell Bill that Buffy should probably stop visiting Eve.

One night, Mrs. Bowers drops by the Davis apartment to tell Bill that Buffy should probably stop visiting Eve.

Her daughter has grown “noticeably weaker,” Mrs. Bowers says, implying that the end is near. She thinks stopping the visits will make the situation less traumatic for Buffy.

Bill is moved that Mrs. Bowers is thinking about Buffy's feelings.

Bill is moved that Mrs. Bowers is thinking about Buffy’s feelings.

He tries to explain to Buffy that Eve may be too tired to play anymore.

Buffy argues that Eve needs a good friend now more than ever.

Buffy argues that Eve needs a good friend now more than ever.

“She would still come and visit me,” Buffy says.

Bill agrees that the friendship can continue.

One afternoon, when the kids return home from school, Bill makes a surprise announcement: They are going Christmas shopping.

One afternoon, when the kids return home from school, Bill makes a surprise announcement: They are going Christmas shopping.

The kids are, indeed, surprised, since it’s not particularly close to Christmas. Bill says an upcoming work project might take him to South America, and he won’t make it home in time for Christmas. He wants to celebrate early. He tells Buffy that they should include Eve in the party, and since Eve can’t leave her apartment, they will have the party there.

Cissy’s expression shows that she understands what’s really going on, but the twins seem to buy Bill’s story.

Soon the whole family is trimming a tree at the Bowers apartment.

Eve says it's the most beautiful tree she's ever seen.

Eve says it’s the most beautiful tree she’s ever seen.

She's seen some pretty ugly trees, I guess.

She’s seen some pretty ugly trees, I guess.

Jody thinks the tree look terrible–because it has no presents under it.

That's the cue for this strangely familiar Santa Claus to arrive.

That’s the cue for this strangely familiar Santa Claus to arrive.

He gives Eve a doll that delights her.

He gives Eve a doll that delights her.

The adults look on sadly, but the children seem oblivious.

The adults look on sadly, but the children seem oblivious.

When the Davises get home, and the kids are in bed, Bill helps French de-Santa-fy himself.

They express relief that Buffy and Jody were too young to understand the real reason for the early celebration.

They express relief that Buffy and Jody are too young to understand the real reason for the early celebration.

But when Bill goes out into the hallway, he hears sobs coming from the girls’ room.

The episode ends with Bill embracing Buffy, who obviously knew the truth all along.

The episode ends with Bill embracing Buffy, who obviously knew the truth all along.

Commentary

This episode is difficult for me to evaluate. The story idea is rather maudlin, and it is handled in a superficial way that doesn’t generate much real emotion in the viewer. On the other hand, it is so very Family Affair. Can you imagine any other sitcom from the same era telling this story? Especially in a (sort of) Christmas episode?!

I like the fact that the dialog is subtle; the episode conveys Eve’s fate through knowing glances and awkward pauses.

I can’t help wondering how Brian Keith, who had lost a young son, felt about this episode’s subject.

Guest Cast

Eve Bowers: Eve Plumb. Miss Cummings: Joan Vohs. Mrs. Bowers: Ann McCrea. Dr. Flanders: Ivan Bonar. Mr. Bowers: Paul Sorensen.

Eve Plumb, of course, would go on to play Jan Brady in The Brady Bunch, which debuted about 10 months after this episode aired. (“Christmas Came a Little Early” has another Brady connection–writer Elroy Schwartz was the brother of Brady Bunch creator Sherwood Schwartz. This is the third of six Family Affair episodes Elroy Schwartz wrote.)

All the other guest actors are Family Affair “repeat offenders,” except Paul Sorensen. Late in his career, he had a recurring role in Dallas as Andy Bradley.