Synopsis of TV Show
Few sitcoms are as fondly remembered as Family Affair. Looking at the basic elements of the story and plotting, it doesn’t seem too different from the other family-oriented series of the time. However, the key to the show’s popularity doesn’t lie in the elements themselves; it stems from the way the show handled these elements.
Veteran character actor Brian Keith starred as Bill Davis, a wealthy bachelor who lived in New York with his ultra-tidy butler/valet, Giles French. Davis enjoyed a carefree life until he received three new additions to his household: young fraternal twins Jody and Buffy and teenage Cissy. The three children were orphaned after their father, Bill’s brother, was 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 premises of each episode were 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. 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 lineup for another two years. Since then, it has been seen around the world in syndication. The show continues to gain new fans today for its mixture of heart-tugging storylines, incisive character study, and gentle, heartwarming humor.
Release History of Prime Time Show9/12/66 - 9/9/71 CBS
TV Sub Categoriescomedy
Television StudioCBS Television
TV CastBill Davis Brian Keith
Giles French Sebastian Cabot
Catherine "Cissy" Tarkelton-Davis Kathy Garver
Buffy Davis Anissa Jones
Jody Davis Johnny Whitaker
Nigel French (1966) John Williams
Emily Turner (1970-71) Nancy Walker