Bachelor brings up three orphaned children.
138 episodes of 25 minute duration. CBS. 1966 - 1971.
Producer and creator Don Fedderson, who hit the jackpot with the successful domestic comedy 'My Three Sons' (ABC/CBS 1960-1972) scored again with this pleasant sitcom about a bachelor who takes in his late brother’s three orphaned children. 'Family Affair' was a series that looked at raising kids through the eyes of the adults, and that helped make the show popular with both older and younger viewers.
Bill Davis (Brian Keith) was a successful consulting engineer who lived the single life in a posh Fifth Avenue (New York City) apartment complex with the aid of his English “gentleman’s gentleman,” Giles French (Sebastian Cabot). But his life changed after his brother and sister-in-law were killed in an accident. That’s because Bill’s relatives felt he was the best-equipped to care for the couple’s children–six-year-old twins Buffy (Anissa Jones) and Jody (Johnnie Whitaker), and their 15-year-old sister Cissy (Kathy Garver). Both Bill and “Mr. French” had to get used to the fact that they had children under their roof, but the adults and the kids made the best of the situation–and both Bill and French came to love and protect the kids.
'Family Affair' became an instant hit on the CBS’ schedule; it landed in the top 20 soon after its September 12th, 1966 premiere. It ran for a five-year stretch until it succumbed to the very popular 'Flip Wilson Show' on NBC; the final episode came September 9th, 1971 before the show went into reruns. It wasn’t the end of 'Family Affair', however. More than three decades later, The WB network revived the series, this time with Gary Cole as Bill Davis and Tim Curry playing Giles French. (Buffy was played by Sacha Pieterse; Jody was portrayed in the pilot by Luke Benward before Jimmy “Jax” Pinchak took over the role for the remainder of The WB run; and Caitlin Wachs played Cissy). The new version had Bill as a corporate executive, but most of the show was simply updated for a new generation. But up against NBC’s 'Friends', the new 'Family Affair' never stood a chance, even when Kathy Garver and Johnnie Whitaker from the original series guest starred on a Christmas-themed episode. The WB’s 'Family Affair' ran from September 12th, 2002 until March 13th, 2003. Out of 16 filmed episodes, only 14 aired.
Don Fedderson shot 'My Three Sons' on a 60-day production schedule to accommodate star Fred MacMurray, and he did the same for Brian Keith. Like "Sons," 'Family Affair' was shot with all of Keith’s scenes, and the co-stars would fill in with other scenes where Keith was not needed. One director would be used for an entire season (in those days, 39 or so episodes).
Buffy always carried a doll with glasses called Mrs. Beasley; the show’s success prompted toy maker Mattel to sell a Mrs. Beasley doll–which proved to be a big hit. The talking doll was produced from 1967 to 1972; dolls with working voice boxes are now highly sought by collectors.
During 'Family Affair’s' first season, Sebastian Cabot became ill and had to miss nine episodes. Scriptwriters explained his Giles French was called away to “special service of the Queen of England.” Actor John Williams portrayed Giles French’s brother, Nigel, who served the Davis family while Giles was absent. Actress Nancy Walker played part-time housekeeper Emily Turner for the show’s fifth and final season before going on to other programmes ('McMillian & Wife'; 'Rhoda').
Actor and composer Frank De Vol wrote the sparkling instrumental theme for 'Family Affair' (he also wrote or co-wrote the themes for 'My Three Sons' and 'The Brady Bunch'), and was responsible for the music scores of such films as “Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte;” “Cat Ballou;” “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” and “Pillow Talk.” He also portrayed band leader Happy Kline on the late 1970's talk show parodies “Fernwood 2Nite” and its successor “America 2-Night.”
Brian Keith died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in June 1997 (his daughter Daisy had committed suicide a few months earlier). The London-born Sebastian Cabot died in 1977. Anissa Jones–who played the original Buffy–retired from show business after 'Family Affair' ended its run. But she became a troubled teenager, involved in shoplifting and drugs. She died on August 28th, 1976. The coroner listed the cause of death as an “accidental drug overdose.”
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