For some odd reason that I have yet to understand, being a parent on television in the 1960s was life threatening. Perhaps it was a generation gap rejection of a paternal society, or a way to save money on actors, but there were a whole lot o’ dead parents on-air. Family Affair, which sounds suspicious at best, was about two incredibly sedated orphaned children. They lived with their “uncle” and his “butler” in a New York high-rise. I don’t know what happened to the parents, but the kids seemed well adjusted to their death, or didn’t care. And what’s with Mr. French, the butler?
The Courtship of Eddie’s Father was about Eddie’s life after his mother died, his dad, and their “house-keeper” Mrs. Livingston. That Mrs. Livingston seemed very submissive to Eddie’s father, if you catch my drift. My Three Sons was about three sons, Fred MacMurray and their “housekeeper” “uncle” Charlie. Their mother also was dead. Once again, nobody ever mentioned her or was upset. It was like a Stephen King novel where everyone is keeping a dark secret.
Another example from a slightly earlier time is Bachelor Father. John Forsythe is niece Kelly’s uncle. After her parents are killed, she goes to live with her "uncle" and his “houseboy”, Peter. John Forsythe tries to keep Kelly out of trouble at Beverly Hills High.
In the end, there are a lot of dead parents, children who don’t care, and suspicious household “help.” Either the kids are complicit in the deaths, or they are cold and heartless. And the household help is there for “other” reasons that cannot be shown on-air.
For those of you in the know, the hip, Atwater Village, Silverlake, Echo Park crowd, Dinah’s Family Restaurant is your secret code that says, “Yeah, I’m lo-fi and ironic.” At the beginning of Little Miss Sunshine, a bucket of Dinah’s fried chicken sits on the table. Since Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, two of the grooviest people I know were the directors, it makes perfect sense. I’m not hip, cool, or groovy. I’m like Fred MacMurray on My Three Sons. But I do like Dinah’s. It like the typography, and the early American décor circa 1958. And I like the fried chicken. I don’t have too many vices, but eating fried chicken is one of them. If I knew I wouldn’t drop dead, I’d eat fried chicken every day. If it comes in a very cool bucket with funky letterforms, flowers, and polka dots, all the better.