1 9 6 6 – 1 9 7 1 (USA)
138 x episodes
Veteran character actor Brian Keith starred as Bill Davis, a wealthy footloose bachelor who lived in New York with his ultra-tidy British butler/valet, Mr French (Sebastian Cabot).
Davis – a highly-paid consulting engineer – enjoyed a carefree life until he received three new additions to his household: young 6-year-old twins Jody (Johnny Whitaker) and Buffy (Anissa Jones) and 15-year-old Cissy (Kathy Garver).
The three children were orphaned after their parents – Bill’s brother and sister-in-law – were killed in an accident.
Bill and Mr French were initially a little hesitant to take on the responsibility and complications inherent in raising three kids, but both men soon found themselves becoming very attached to their new charges.
The premise of each episode was seldom complicated: In one, Buffy was distraught when her prized doll Mrs Beasley was lost, and in another, Cissy had troubles with her new job as a candy striper (trainee nurse).
It was always a safe bet that whatever confusion the children ran into, it could always be solved with the intervention of Mr French or Uncle Bill, both of whom were the typically wise adults found on such television shows.
However, the show’s appeal extended beyond the plotting and lay in how the characters were dealt with. For instance, the adult characters were allowed to be realistically inconsistent in their parenting skills.
Uncle Bill and Mr French often had trouble knowing how to deal with the children, and in the process would make mistakes and occasionally lose their tempers. Mr French, in particular, had trouble with the children’s natural youthful messiness, which was completely at odds with his neat-freak tendencies.
However, there was never a doubt in the viewers’ minds that they loved the children dearly, and the two men would always manage to come through in the end.
Also, the show’s child characters realistically dealt with the memory of their parents. While children on shows like The Brady Bunch and Diff’rent Strokes never mentioned their deceased or departed parents, Buffy, Jody and Cissy always had the memory of their mother and father lingering in the back of their minds.
A memorable episode dealing with this aspect of the show was ‘The Substitute Teacher’, in which Jody suddenly became very attached to a new teacher.
Uncle Bill at first thought it was a childhood crush but learned otherwise when Cissy showed him a photograph that revealed the teacher to be the spitting image of his departed mother.
The show was successful from the beginning and ran on CBS for five seasons. After cancellation, the network continued to play reruns of the show in its daytime line-up for another two years. Since then, it has been seen around the world in syndication.
For a period during the show’s first season, co-star Sebastian Cabot was taken ill and was replaced in nine episodes by John Williams. In the storyline, Giles French was called away to special service of the Queen of England and his brother Nigel arrived at the Davis residence to serve the family during his absence.
Although not a full-time member of the cast, Nancy Walker appeared in the continuing role of Mr Davis’s part-time housekeeper, Emily, during the last season.
Tragically, Anissa Jones (Buffy) died in August 1976 at the age of 18 of an accidental drug overdose. Found in her system were cocaine, PCP, methaqualone and Seconal.
The coroner reported that she had died from one of the most severe drug overdoses he had ever seen.
Family Affair was revived in 2002 with Gary Cole as Bill Davis and Tim Curry as Giles French.
Catherine “Cissy” Davis