There have been plenty of classic TV shows that are just so saccharine that you feel like you’re on the verge of slipping into a diabetic coma before the first commercial break. It’s pretty likely that viewers of the television series Family Affair felt that way when the show first arrived on CBS in 1966.
Brian Keith, who had starred in The Parent Trap alongside Maureen O’Hara and Hayley Mills (playing twin sisters) not that much earlier, is civil engineer Bill Davis, who is living a bachelor’s life. He resides in a luxurious penthouse on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, which is taken care of by his British manservant, Giles French (Sebastian Cabot).
“It’s an interesting characterization they’ve created for me,” Brian told the Daily Press. “They made Bill Davis a happy bachelor. Come to think of it, whoever saw an unhappy bachelor? He likes women and he knows a lot of them. He’s a man about town, a man of the world. He’s a partner in an engineering company and is assigned to far-off parts of the world — building dams, railroads, bridges and tunnels when he’s not in the Park Avenue penthouse apartment. And pretty girls a-plenty. What a life!”
And into this life walks three young people: 15-year-old Cissy (Cathy Garver) and her siblings, five-year-old twins Jody (Johnny Whitaker) and Buffy (Anissa Jones). As it turns out, the trio’s parents had died in a car accident, rendering the three of them orphans. Reluctantly, Bill, as their only relative, decided to take them in and what follows is the evolution of that integration as everyone gets used to each other. Even Mr. French, who is more reluctant than anyone.
Created by My Three Sons‘ Don Fedderson and Edmund L. Hartmann, what the show had that surpassed the cute factor was heart, which came from each of the performers. The power of the series was the chemistry between Brian, Cathy, Johnny, Anissa and Sebastian who, despite their characters’ early reservations for each other, really did grow into a family; one born out of pain that managed to find peace and love with each other.
Family Affair lasted five seasons and 138 episodes, coming to a close in 1971, with the cast going in their own separate directions. Sadly, several of them did not have happy lives, with two of them not surviving the 1970s and a couple of others struggling more and more as time went on. What follows, then, is a look at the lives and careers of all of them.
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