Family Affair

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Family Affair
Family Affair Logo.jpg
Created byEdmund L. Hartmann
Don Fedderson
Directed byCharles Barton
William D. Russell
Theme music composerFrank De Vol
ComposersJeff Alexander
Nathan Scott
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons5
No. of episodes138 (list of episodes)
Executive producerDon Fedderson
  • James H. King
  • Charles Van Enger
  • Richard L. Van Enger
  • Sam Vitale
Camera setupSingle-camera
Running time25 minutes
Production companiesDon Fedderson Productions
Family Affair Company
Original networkCBS
Picture formatColor
Audio formatMonaural
Original releaseSeptember 12, 1966 (1966-09-12) –
March 4, 1971 (1971-03-04)

Family Affair is an American sitcom starring Brian Keith and Sebastian Cabot that aired on CBS from September 12, 1966, to March 4, 1971. The series explored the trials of well-to-do engineer and bachelor Bill Davis (Keith) as he attempted to raise his brother's orphaned children in his luxury New York City apartment. Davis's traditional English gentleman's gentleman, Mr. Giles French (Cabot), also had adjustments to make as he became saddled with the responsibility of caring for 15-year-old Cissy (Kathy Garver) and the six-year-old twins, Jody (Johnny Whitaker) and Buffy (Anissa Jones).[1]

Family Affair ran for 138 episodes in five seasons. The show was created and produced by Edmund Hartmann and Don Fedderson, also known for My Three Sons and The Millionaire.


Indiana native William "Bill" Davis is a successful civil engineer who develops major projects all over the world. A wealthy bachelor, Bill lives in a large apartment in Manhattan's Upper East Side, and has a British manservant, Giles French (usually called "Mr. French" or just "French"), as his valet.

A year prior to the series, Bill's brother Bob and his wife Mary were killed in a car crash in Indiana, orphaning their three children – teenager Cissy, and younger twins Jody and Buffy. His other relatives believe that Bill is the one most capable of supporting them, so the three move in with him in New York. Consequently, Bill's solitary lifestyle gets turned upside down.

Initially, "Uncle Bill" is none too pleased to have the three youngsters living with him, but he soon grows fond of them. Mr. French, who effectively becomes a nanny in addition to his valet duties, is also flustered by the erratic situation at first, but he, too, develops an affinity for them. Over time, the bachelor, the butler, and the three orphans find themselves becoming a close-knit family.

Other characters[edit]

Nancy Walker, Sebastian Cabot and Brian Keith, 1970

When Sebastian Cabot became ill, Giles's brother, Nigel "Niles" French (John Williams) was introduced. He worked for the Davis family for nine episodes in 1967, while Giles was said to be touring with the Queen in the Commonwealth countries. In the final season, Bill hired a part-time housekeeper, Emily Turner (Nancy Walker), to assist Mr. French.

Various other characters were also seen regularly, including several acquaintances of Mr. French's who are in service (most notably Miss Faversham, played by Heather Angel), colleagues of Bill's, and friends of Cissy's.


Anissa Jones and Johnny Whitaker, 1967
Nancy Walker and Sebastian Cabot, 1970

Due to Don Fedderson's strong track record, Family Affair was sold to CBS even before the pilot had been filmed.[2]

As Fedderson's other program, My Three Sons, had done for Fred MacMurray, Family Affair used a 60-day production schedule to accommodate Brian Keith. All of his scenes for the season would be shot in two 30-day blocks, while his co-stars would fill in after the actor's work was completed. This enabled Fedderson to harness movie stars like Keith and MacMurray into television commitments, while still enabling each to make motion pictures.[2] As a result, each season had a single director for each of the 30-odd scripts.

Since the show's child actors (Whitaker and Jones) could only legally work eight hours a day, scenes with them were shot first, and as a result the cast and crew were often filming as many as four episodes at the same time.[2]

Due to the popularity of the series with girls, Buffy's doll, "Mrs. Beasley" (which she often carried with her), was marketed as a Mattel talking toy in the United States. Mattel went on to produce two additional dolls, as well, patterned after Buffy: the "Tutti"-sized Buffy and larger "Small Talk Buffy" (talking doll), both of which featured accompanying miniature Mrs. Beasley dolls.


The theme song was composed by veteran television composer Frank DeVol. The opening featured credits appearing over a kaleidoscopic view of a multicolored array of gems and precious stones, suggesting "family jewels".

Most of the episodes in the fifth season opened with either Sebastian Cabot or the twins saying, "Good evening, so nice of you to join us," and closing the episode saying, "It's been very good of you to watch and we do hope to see you again next week on Family Affair."


Main cast: Kathy Garver (Cissy), Anissa Jones (Buffy), Johnny Whitaker (Jody), Brian Keith (Bill Davis) & Sebastian Cabot (Mr. Giles French)
  • Brian Keith as Bill Davis - The part was first offered to Glenn Ford, who turned it down.[2] Keith also held part ownership of the show.[2]
  • Sebastian Cabot as Giles French
  • Kathy Garver as Cissy Davis - Garver was cast at the last minute, in the middle of shooting the pilot, after the actress originally cast for the part gained 15 pounds on a trip to Europe. No scenes were filmed with Garver's predecessor.[2]
  • Johnny Whitaker as Jody Davis - Keith suggested Whitaker for the role. Jody and Buffy were originally supposed to be different ages, but after seeing how good Whitaker looked with Anissa Jones, who had already been cast, the producers decided to change them to twins.[2]
  • Anissa Jones as Buffy Davis
  • Heather Angel as Miss Faversham, Mr. French's friend
  • John Williams as Nigel "Niles" French (season 1)
  • John Hubbard as Ted Gaynor, Bill's business partner (season 1)
  • Betty Lynn as Miss Lee, Bill's secretary (seasons 1–2)
  • Sherry Alberoni as Sharon James, Cissy's girlfriend (seasons 1–3)
  • Karl Lukas as Scotty Parker, the doorman (seasons 1–3)
  • Gregg Fedderson (producer Don Fedderson's son) as Gregg Bartlett, Cissy's boyfriend (seasons 2–5) - While working on the show Fedderson started dating Cissy actress Kathy Garver in real life.[2]
  • Nancy Walker as Emily Turner (season 5)

Notable guest stars[edit]


Anissa Jones (who played Buffy) died of a drug overdose in 1976, aged 18.[5] Sebastian Cabot (who played Mr. French) died of a stroke in 1977, aged 59.[6] Brian Keith (who played Uncle Bill) died by gunshot suicide in 1997, aged 75, two months after the suicide of his daughter, and an undetermined amount of time after he was diagnosed with cancer.[7][8]


SeasonEpisodesOriginally airedRankRatingTied with
First airedLast aired
130September 12, 1966 (1966-09-12)May 15, 1967 (1967-05-15)1422.6The Dean Martin Show
230September 11, 1967 (1967-09-11)April 8, 1968 (1968-04-08)425.5Gunsmoke
328September 23, 1968 (1968-09-23)April 14, 1969 (1969-04-14)525.2
426September 25, 1969 (1969-09-25)April 2, 1970 (1970-04-02)524.2
524September 17, 1970 (1970-09-17)March 4, 1971 (1971-03-04)

Home media[edit]

MPI Home Video has released all five seasons of Family Affair on DVD in Region 1 by MPI Home Video (under license from the Don Fedderson estate).

DVD name Ep. # Release date Special features / notes
Season One 30 June 27, 2006
  • Family Affair: Behind the Scenes with Kathy Garver
  • Photo Gallery
Season Two 30 November 21, 2006
  • "An Affair to Remember" (interview with Kathy Garver)
  • "Memories" (Five-minute piece with Garver showing Family Affair memorabilia)
Season Three 28 March 27, 2007
  • The Family Affair Reunion Special
Season Four 26 October 30, 2007
  • A Conversation with Johnny Whitaker
  • "The Child Stars"
Season Five 24 February 26, 2008
  • A visit by Kathy Garver to the CBS Studio City lot where the series was filmed
The Complete Series 138 November 25, 2008
  • Repackaging of Seasons 1–5 in a slimmer case

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Association Category Nominee Result
1967 Emmy Awards Outstanding Writing Achievement in Comedy Edmund L. Hartmann
For episode "Buffy"
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy William D. Russell Nominated
Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series Brian Keith Nominated
1968 Emmy Awards Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series Brian Keith Nominated
Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series Sebastian Cabot Nominated
Outstanding Comedy Series Edmund L. Hartmann Nominated
1969 Emmy Awards Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series Brian Keith Nominated
Outstanding Comedy Series Edmund L. Hartmann Nominated
1971 Golden Globe Awards Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy Family Affair Nominated
2004 TV Land Awards Best Broadcast Butler Sebastian Cabot Won
2010 Young Artist Awards Former Child Star "Lifetime Achievement" Award Kathy Garver[9] Honored

Remake television series[edit]

A remake[10] of Family Affair aired on The WB from September 12, 2002 to March 13, 2003. The remake was produced by Sid & Marty Krofft Pictures, Pariah Films, and Turner Television. Gary Cole played the role of "Uncle Bill" Davis and Tim Curry played Mr. Giles French. Fifteen episodes were produced, including the one-hour pilot, but only thirteen episodes were aired by The WB.

Planned spinoff television series[edit]

A Travis Hunt production titled Aunt Cissy and starring Cissy actress Kathy Garver was announced in the second quarter of 2019 as "a new family comedy that is not exactly a sequel to Family Affair... but it has elements of the premise of that classic TV series, plus a few surprises."[2] Several episodes were shot in late 2019.[2]

Appearances in other media[edit]

Gold Key Comics, an imprint of Western Publishing, published four issues of a Family Affair comic book series from January to October 1970.[11]

Merchandising efforts centered on Anissa Jones' "Buffy" character. Several books were published, including the 1970 hardback Family Affair: Buffy Finds a Star by Gladys Baker Bond and Buffy's Cookbook. There were dolls (Mattel's "Small Talk Buffy" and Mrs. Beasley, Buffy's doll on the show) and various other toys.[12]

A Mrs. Beasley doll, with her glasses missing, appears in the music video for the song "California Tuffy" by the Geraldine Fibbers.

In Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment, gang leader Zed (Bobcat Goldthwait) is seen tearfully watching the show in his hideout.


  1. ^ Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle (1995). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946–Present Sixth Edition. Ballantine Books. p. 336. ISBN 9780345397362.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Clancy, Shaun (August 2020). "From Family Affair, Firestar, and Beyond: An Interview with Kathy Garver". RetroFan. United States: TwoMorrows Publishing (10): 19, 22–23.
  3. ^ "Family Affair : Best of Breed (1967) – Cast & Crew". AllMovie. Retrieved November 1, 2022.
  4. ^ "Cissy Gets Apartment". The Ithaca Journal. October 11, 1969. p. 51. Retrieved November 1, 2022.
  5. ^ Benoit, Tod (March 26, 2019). Where Are They Buried?: How Did They Die? Fitting Ends and Final Resting Places of the Famous, Infamous, and Noteworthy. Black Dog Publishing. p. 163. ISBN 978-1-57912-822-7. Retrieved January 19, 2021.
  6. ^ Eder, Bruce (2014). "Sebastian Cabot". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Archived from the original on December 23, 2014.
  7. ^ Simon, Stephanie (June 25, 1997). "Actor Brian Keith Found Dead in Apparent Suicide". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on December 24, 2013. Retrieved December 12, 2021.
  8. ^ Rice, Lynette (August 15, 2002). "Updated "Family Affair" dodges original's curse". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on May 27, 2013. Retrieved December 12, 2021.
  9. ^ "31st Annual Young Artist Awards". April 11, 2010. Archived from the original on October 12, 2013. Retrieved March 31, 2011.
  10. ^ Kissell, Rick (September 15, 2002). "Frog net in 'Family' way". Variety. Retrieved February 14, 2018.
  11. ^ Family Affair at the Grand Comics Database
  12. ^ Mansour, David (2005). From Abba to Zoom: A Pop Culture Encyclopedia of the Late 20th Century. Andrews McMeel Publishing. p. 251. ISBN 0-7407-5118-2. Retrieved November 6, 2010.

External links[edit]