Friday, May 24, 2013

Classic TV: Family Affair (1966)

Consider the following:

A New York-based, Indiana-born architect, accustomed to the life of a bachelor, has his whole world turned upside down when his nephew and nieces move in with him after their parents are killed in an auto accident, and the rest of the relatives don't want them.

In a nutshell, that's the premise behind Family Affair, which lasted 5 seasons on CBS (1966-71), and came from producer Don Fedderson (My Three Sons), who would only produce two more series after Affair ended. But then, we're getting ahead of ourselves.

The plot centered on Bill Davis (Brian Keith, ex-The Westerner), the aforementioned playboy architect, who, along with his valet, Giles French (Sebastian Cabot, ex-Checkmate), now must attend to his nephew, Jody (Johnny Whitaker), and nieces Buffy (Anissa Jones) & Cissy (Kathy Garver). One must think that when Sherwood Schwartz created The Brady Bunch 3 years later, he had to have been inspired by not only the movie, "With Six, You Get Eggroll", but Affair as well.

As Fedderson had cast ex-Mouseketeer Don Grady in My Three Sons, he went to the well again, and hired Sherry Alberoni to play a friend of Cissy's. Just a coincidence, it would seem. However, he also played the nepotism card and had son Gregg cast as Cissy's boyfriend. Oh, well.

Post-Affair, Johnny Whitaker & Kathy Garver are the only core cast members still with us, but for the most part, everyone, save for Anissa Jones, kept busy after the series ended. Whitaker made films such as "Napoleon & Samantha" (with a young Jodie Foster), "Tom Sawyer", and for Hallmark Hall of Fame, The Littlest Angel, before moving on to the Saturday morning series, Sigmund & the Sea Monsters, which lasted 3 seasons (1973-6) on NBC. Garver is doing mostly voice work these days, usually for audiobooks, but cartoon fans know her as the voice behind Firestar (Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends, 1981-4), among other roles. Sebastian Cabot's last series gig was Ghost Story (previously reviewed), which underwent the title change to Circle of Fear in mid-season after Cabot departed. Brian Keith landed one more sitcom gig, which started under the title, The Little People before being rechristened, The Brian Keith Show. Either way, it lasted one season. Keith would return to drama in the 80's action series, Hardcastle & McCormick, which ran for three seasons on ABC.

Here's the theme everyone knows, composed by Frank DeVol:

The popularity of Buffy's doll, Mrs. Beasley, led to a merchandising deal with Mattel. Unfortunately, none of the magic of the original series would translate into a 2002 revival on the WB, with Tim Curry ("Rocky Horror Picture Show", "Clue") as Mr. French, and Gary Cole (ex-Midnight Caller) as Bill. That version lasted just one season.

As I noted, Fedderson produced two more series. To Rome With Love, starring John Forsythe, joined Affair on the CBS roster in 1969, and The Smith Family, with Henry Fonda & Ron Howard, lasted two seasons on ABC (1971-2; it was a mid-season replacement in season 1).

Rating: B+.


magicdog said...

I used to watch this show as a kid when it was syndicated. It was big news when Anissa Jones died. How could such a cute little kid come to such a bad end?

I have caught reruns on ME-TV and I do find the show rather saccarine, but still likeable. The first season was definitely the strongest and the premise is rather dark (orphan siblings who couldn't even live under one roof and other relatives couldn't wait to unload them), but somehow the cast made it work. I did get annoyed at all the "Uncle Bill doesn't really want us around" plot though. You'd think the writers could have checked to make sure they didn't repeat themselves!

Scarily enough, Brian Keith is looking hotter now that I'm an adult!

Also on Me-TV, there was a promo featuring Garver who is digitally inserted into a scene from the show with her still young co-stars reading to them. It seemed unintentionally creepy to me.

I remember in my hometown a local jewelry store used to have a Mrs. Beasly doll in the window. We used to love seeing it!

I had heard Gregg Fedderson used to date Kathy Garver in real life, but his dad didn't approve. Wonder why? His other son, Mike Minor dated and married his PJ co-star.

hobbyfan said...

I wish I had the answer in re.: Kathy Garver & Gregg Fedderson.

Me-TV's in-house promos are notorious for digital "photoshopping", if ya will, which says what they're trying to do is emulate, if not out-do, early period Nick At Nite.