Family Affair Friday: Season 1, Episode 20, “A Helping Hand,” 2/6/1967

Welcome to another installment of Family Affair Friday! This week’s episode may not have the best script, but it does have an amazing guest star.

Written by: John McGreevey. Directed by: William D. Russell.

Synopsis

Nigel French hires a maid to help with a dinner party.

Hmm. that actress playing Adele the maid looks familiar. And those towels and that spice rack look so perfectly '60s.

Hmm. That actress playing Adele the maid looks familiar. And those towels and that spice rack look so perfectly ’60s.

He quickly discovers that she’s inept and tries to fire her, but she plays on his sympathy. He ends up covering for her mistakes–and he does it so effectively that a party guest who lives in building hires her.

This is the party guest in question. The party scenes give us an ususal angle on the Davis apartment, which is actually a pretty complex set.

This is the party guest in question. The party scenes give us an unusual angle on the Davis apartment, which is actually a pretty complex set.

French is subsequently called upon to rescue Adele from many disasters, from dog-devoured dinners to overflowing washing machines.

That casserole dish is another cute '60s piece.

That casserole dish is another cute ’60s piece. And Adele still looks familiar. Maybe she was one of those actresses who showed up on Dragnet repeatedly?

Meanwhile…doesn’t this show have some cute kids in it?

Oh, yeah, here they are. Let me just take a moment to praise Johnny Whitaker--he has such a sweet and guileless quality, especially in these early episodes.

Oh, yeah, here they are. Let me take a moment to praise Johnny Whitaker–he has such a sweet and guileless quality, especially in these early episodes.

Buffy and Jody are having some trouble building a model dam for school. Uncle Bill offers to help. His idea of helping, unfortunately, is doing the whole project by himself at work. (Actually, he admits to letting his co-workers do most of it.)

Well, dam.

Well, dam.

The teacher objects, of course.

French’s efforts to help Adele are similarly fruitless. Eventually, her employers discover her ineptitude. After they fire her, she tells off French, who regrets getting involved in the first place.

Now she's gone and I still don't know why she's so familiar. Maybe I've seen her on Bewitched. I know I've seen a similar plot on that show.

Now she’s gone and I still don’t know why she’s so familiar. Maybe I’ve seen her on Bewitched. I know I’ve seen a similar plot on that show.

Together, Uncle Bill and French decide the family motto should be “Don’t get involved.” (French wants to engrave it on his wall!)

Just then, Cissy enters the room and makes a spontaneous speech thanking Uncle Bill for his involvement, and bemoaning the lack of involvement the kids faced in Terre Haute.

Oh, Cissy. Always playing that orphan card.

Oh, Cissy…always playing that orphan card.

Her speech works, though. (It also provides a bit of foreshadowing for next week’s episode.) Uncle Bill is so moved he decides to stay home for the evening!

Now let’s watch the credits to see who played Adele.

Oh my God! That was Myrna freaking Loy?!

Oh my God! That was Myrna freaking Loy?!

Commentary: The first time I watched this episode as an adult, I really did spend the whole episode wondering how I knew the actress playing Adele. A familiar-looking guest star is a common thing on Family Affair. Usually, it just means that the actor in question made a bazillion ’60s TV guest appearances and played bit parts in dozens of movies.

Sadly, both the Adele role and the script are a waste of Loy’s talents. (Her performance is actually pretty flat, too–I think that’s one reason I didn’t immediately recognize her.) Every potentially interesting scene–from Adele’s flubs to the teacher’s reaction to the Davis dam–happens off camera. If they’d included those scenes, maybe I wouldn’t have spent all my time looking for interesting bits of set decoration.

Cute oven mitts. I think they match the dish towels.

Cute oven mitts. I think they match the dish towels.

Guest Cast

Adele: Myrna Loy. Sheila: June Vincent. Ken: Carleton Young. What to say about the beautiful Myrna Loy? She started in movies in 1925 and played exotic sirens during the silent era. In the 1930s she began playing the sophisticated comedy roles that made her famous. She is best known as Nora Charles in the Thin Man series of films. In the 1940s she starred in the charming comedies The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer and Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House and in the excellent World War II aftermath drama The Best Years of Our Lives. She continued working through the 1980s, mostly in TV movies, but Family Affair was one of few TV series appearances she ever made. Loy died in 1993.

Continuity Notes

Well, of course, there’s Cissy’s violin-backed speech about the lack of caring the kids experienced in Terre Haute. Jody also mentions the old hometown.

Fun Facts

Uncle Bill’s favorite dish is curried chicken. The twins like to eat “Sloppy Sams.” French prefers to call them “Untidy Samuels!”

One episode highlight--the cute exit Uncle Bill, Jody and Buffy make from Uncle Bill's room. I wonder whose idea it was. Director William D. Russell was not usually given to whimsy.

One episode highlight–the cute exit Uncle Bill, Jody and Buffy make from Uncle Bill’s room. I wonder whose idea it was. Director William D. Russell was not usually given to such whimsy.

Notable Quotes

Adele: “I’ve learned my lesson–never listen to a man.”

This Week’s Bonus Feature

Barbie Talk (Barbie Fan Magazine), March/April 1971 (The magazine doesn’t actually note its publication year. I’m guessing 1971 based on the dolls advertised in the magazine.)

Family Affair Friday: Season 1, Episode 18, One for the Little Boy, 1/23/1967

Whew! After a stressful week, it’s a relief to turn my attention to the Davis family and my weekly Family Affair series. I hope it provides a pleasant distraction for you, too.

Episode 18, “One for the Little Boy” 1/23/1967

Written by: Austin and Irma Kalish. Directed by: William D. Russell.

Synopsis

A lot of unusual things happen in this episode:

  • Buffy and Cissy wear slacks.
  • We see stock footage of a baseball game.
  • A doorman who’s not Scotty appears.
  • Someone pronounces “Terre Haute” correctly.

The most notable event in this episode, though, comes at the very start. Mr. French receives a summons from her Majesty to serve the royal family during a tour of Commonwealth capitals. (If he’s that connected, why is working for an engineer in New York, anyway?)

back from terre haute

The Davis family returns from a trip to Terre Haute to find him gone.

They don’t have to worry long about how they’ll survive with him—another Mr. French soon shows up to take his place. (In real life, Sebastian Cabot was ill.)

the other french

You’d think that a French swap might cause enough comic high jinx to sustain an episode. This episode’s plot, however, doesn’t really have anything to do with the arrival of Giles French’s brother Nigel.

Instead, this episode revolves around Jody. Spending most of his time with Cissy and Buffy has left him looking for some male bonding. And let’s face it, neither Mr. French is helpful when you want to play catch.

Ted Gaynor helps Bill realize that Jody needs some father-son time.

Ted explains that he was raised in an all-female household--or "petticoat jail," as he puts it. I always sensed that Ted had issues with women, and now I see where it started.

Ted explains that he was raised in an all-female household–or “petticoat jail,” as he puts it. I always sensed that Ted had issues with women, and now I see where it started.

Bill invites Jody to join him and Ted at a baseball game. Jody is thrilled to go, but the adults around him block his view of the action. Eventually, he falls asleep, missing Uncle Bill’s foul-ball catch.

Baseball has the same effect on me.

Baseball has the same effect on me.

Next, Bill plans a weekend fishing trip with Jody, but work threatens to interfere. When he hears that Buffy and Cissy are both inviting friends over on Saturday, Uncle Bill takes pity on Jody. He brings the boy along on his business trip to Rochester (Rock-chester, according to Jody) and plans to take him fishing when his work’s done.

I wonder where Uncle Bill found this nice matronly woman to watch Jody in Rochestr.

I wonder how Uncle Bill found this nice matronly woman to watch Jody in Rochester…and how he found a hotel with walls painted Family Affair green.

Everything on the trip goes wrong—Bill’s work drags on, the camper he’s rented for the fishing trip breaks down, and then they learn the lake where they’re headed has dried up.

bait lady

They learn about the lake from this bait store owner, who sure is a departure from most of the women we see on Family Affair.

Jody keeps saying he doesn’t mind, but Uncle Bill thinks he’s just too polite to confess his disappointment. Finally, Jody explains that just spending time with Uncle Bill made the trip enjoyable for him.

Awww. Cue th

Awww. Cue the Violins of Emotional Resonance.

Commentary

An Uncle Bill-and-Jody episode always warms the heart. Although Jody-centered, this episode has fun Buffy moments.

In this scene

In this scene, she struggles to button the back of her dress, then gives up and puts the dress on backwards.

She also exhibits realistic annoyance at Jody’s temporary monopoly on Uncle Bill.

And,

And apparently she has friends. Who knew?

Overall, this script abounds in cute lines. (For example, when Uncle Bill asks Jody how he can eat cereal without milk, Jody replies that you just have to chew harder.)

Guest Cast

Mr. Nigel French: John Williams. Ted Gaynor: John Hubbard. Proprietress: Katey Barrett. Doorman: David Brandon.

john williams credit

John Williams isn’t exactly a member of the guest cast. During his nine-episode tenure on the show, he takes over Sebastian Cabot’s spot in the credits (Which seems a little odd, actually.) Williams is an impressive fill-in. He had a long and distinguished career that was closely associated with director Alfred Hitchcock. His most memorable role was Inspector Hubbard in Dial M for Murder. (He had won a Tony for playing the same role on Broadway.) He also appeared in To Catch a Thief and in several episodes of TV’s Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Brandon would appear in several more Family Affair episodes.

Continuity Notes

Terre Haute, of course. Scotty is mentioned, though not seen. The presence of another doorman is explained–he’s the nighttime guy.

Notable Quotes: “Basically, I’m a cricket man.” Nigel French. “That’s okay, I like caterpillars.” Jody

“Sisters are always doing sister stuff.” Jody

Bonus Feature

TV Guide, April 22, 1967

This article includes a bit about the health problems that led to Sebastian Cabot’s nine-episode hiatus from the series.