The Courtship of Eddie’s Father

Jim 1950s - 1960s

Aired: 1969-72


DAD: Tom Corbett (Bill Bixby) / Widower

DAD’S JOB: Magazine Editor (or something like that)

KIDS: Eddie (Brandon Cruz) (10)

WHERE’S MOM?: Dead recently – unknown cause.

STAND-IN “MOM”: Mrs. Livingston (Miyoshi Umeki)

This show is based on the 1963 Glenn Ford movie of the same name.

The epitome of TV Single Dads, Bill Bixby is, along with Brian Keith, among the first TV Single Dads brought to mind by most viewers.

The shows followed the Andy Griffith Show format, where Dad would teach a “lesson,” Eddie would apply that lesson incorrectly to a comedic situation, then Dad was forced to confront the problems of living up to cliches.

Mrs. Livingston certainly fit the mold pioneered by Sammee Tong in Bachelor Father, and even expanded by the Alfred character in Batman, that of the foreign-born, Yoda-like, guilt-tripping domestic servant “mom”;.

This show also kicked in the melancholic scent of Family Affair, where, no matter how joyous an event, the overwhelming mood of the show is barren, depressing, and even claustrophobic. Eddie seemed to live a confining lifestyle: there was little mention of group activities, school teams, even having friends over (Okay, Billy Gerber was a friend, but didn’t Eddie spend most of his social interactions with DAD’S girlfriends du jour?). Eddie seemed to be parked at home after school, trapped in the tight little apartment with Mrs. Livingston until Dad came home. Mrs. Livingston always seemed most eager to blast out of that apartment at Yabba-Dabba-Do Time to return to her own life.
Also on the depressing menu were the mandatory “heart-to-heart” talks at the end of each episode: Eddie and Dad would be at some empty, outdoor locale (like a zoo or a park), filmed from some omniscient view. In what seemed like a voice-over, Eddie and his Dad would talk about some major lesson from today’s episode, and ponder the cosmic meaning of it all. One could almost hear the channel surfing commence…

One more piece of trivia: in the movie version, Eddie was played by that quintessential son-of-a-single-dad, Ronny Howard (Opie on The Andy Griffith Show).

Update: Alert Viewer Joseph Wise checks in with a celebrity tidbit about the show: “First television appearance of Jodie Foster, 1969, playing “Joey Kelly” , although she was also in Gunsmoke and Julia that year.” Thanks Joseph!

Update: Alert Viewer Bob Potmesil points out that Eddie *did* have an affiliation with at least one social organization – “Reading about Courtship of Eddie’s Father, I remembered that at one point, Eddie did belong to a quasi-Scout group, ‘Indian Pals’.” — Many thanks, Bob!

Accidental Family

Jim 1950s - 1960s

Aired: 1967-68


DAD: Jerry Webster (Jerry Van Dyke) / Widower

DAD’S JOB: Nightclub comedian

KIDS: Sandy (Teddy Quinn)(11)

WHERE’S MOM?: Dead.

STAND-IN “MOM”: Sue Kramer / divorced “nanny”

Am I the only one who remembers this show? This was kinda like Green Acres without Eva Gabor. Jerry Webster was a comedian who bought a farm so that his son would have a place to stay while Jerry was on the road. The woman that ran the farm had a daughter named Tracy who was the same age as Jerry’s son. Hijinx ensue. Same kind of tension as “The Farmer’s Daughter” with the “how do you raise your kid” rivalry that pops up in later shows like Who’s the Boss? and Nanny and the Professor.

The Guns of Will Sonnett

Jim 1950s - 1960s

Aired: 1967-1969


DAD: Will Sonnett (Walter Brennan) / Widower-Grandfather

DAD’S JOB: Retired cavalry scout

KIDS: Jeff Sonnett (Dack Rambo) (19)

WHERE’S MOM?: Dead. But that’s not important.

STAND-IN “MOM”: Will Sonnett — the grandfather.

Let’s return to a familiar storyline — Grandpa raises the kid when the parents are dead/missing (see The Ed Wynn Show for details). In this western, Jeff Sonnett’s dad, who is also Will Sonnett’s son, disappeared, after dropping off infant Jeff in the care of Will. At the end of the last season, they finally caught up with dad James Sonnett (played by Jason Evers), but the series wasn’t renewed. Guess we’ll never find out what happened to Mom.

The Second Hundred Years

Jim 1950s - 1960s

Aired: 1966-67


DAD #1: Luke Carpenter (Monte Markham) / Widower

DAD’S JOB: 19th Century Gold Miner

KIDS OF DAD #1: Edwin (Arthur O’Connell) (81!)

DAD #2: Edwin Carpenter (Arthur O’Connell) / Widower

DAD #2’S JOB: Unknown – e-mail me if you know.

KIDS OF DAD #2: Ken (also Monte Markham)

WHERE’S MOM?: Both Moms are dead.

STAND-IN “MOM”: Colonel Garroway

Luke Carpenter was a gold prospector in Alaska in the 1890’s. He was caught in an avalanche in 1900 and fast-frozen. All of a sudden, his body is found in the mid-1960’s and revived. Luke goes to live with his son, who’s now 67 years old. Even though Luke is over one hundred years old, he still looks like he’s thirtysomething. The storylines revolved around Luke trying to get used to this century (not shooting back at the bad guys on TV westerns, for example), and his relationships with his son and grandson (the grandson being played by the same actor, Monte Markham).

I remember liking this show as a kid, except I remember it had a non-stop laughtrack that sometimes got in the way of the story. Wish it would get on reruns, but unfortunately it wasn’t on long enough to create an opus fit for syndication.

Family Affair

Jim 1950s - 1960s

Aired: 1966-71


DAD: “Uncle Bill” Davis (Brian Keith) / Single(!)

DAD’S JOB: Construction Engineer

KIDS: Cissy (15), Buffy & Jody (6)

WHERE’S MOM?: Mom & Dad are dead – Uncle Bill was DAD’S brother

STAND-IN “MOM”: Mr. French (Sebastian Cabot)

Arguably the most famous TV Single Dad show, this one’s got it all: the foreign butler who needs to remind Uncle Bill how to be a parent, the perfectly precocious kids, the fabulous bachelor pad, etc.
Doesn’t the apartment remind you of the “penthouse view” Eva Gabor had in Green Acres?

This show also illustrates a certain “mood” of a few Single TV Dad shows:there is a distinct, though ethereal melancholy about the show, especially in scenes featuring Uncle Bill, where the pathos of not having a mom keeps being harped upon. Family Affair, along with The Farmer’s Daughter and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, placed a downbeat mood on the narrative not evident in other contemporary shows such as Batman or Flipper.

The Farmer’s Daughter

Jim 1950s - 1960s

Aired 1963-66


DAD: Glen Morley (William Windom) / Widower

DAD’S JOB: Congressman

KIDS: Steve (14), Danny (8)

WHERE’S MOM?: Dead, not recently – unknown causes.

STAND-IN “MOM”: Katy Holstrum (Inger Stevens)

Okay, turn the focus on the TV Single Dad format to the foreign-born domestic, responsible for the kids’ well-being. This is basically The Sound of Music set in 1960’s America.

Most people know about Inger Stevens’ tragic death, but not many people know that Inger Stevens was raised by a real-life single dad.

Batman

Jim 1950s - 1960s

Aired: 1966-68


DAD: Bruce Wayne (Adam West) / Orphaned Single Guy

DAD’S JOB: Bazillionaire Crime-fighter

KIDS: Youthful Ward Dick Grayson (16)

WHERE’S MOM?: Mom and Dad (The Flying Graysons acrobatic team) killed by gangsters

STAND-IN “MOM”: either Alfred Pennyworth (Alan Napier) or Aunt Harriet (Madge Blake)

Oh yes, he is a TV Single Dad! And who’s more dangerous for his custodial charges, Bruce, or Dr. Quest? You’ve got the foreign-born domestic, the heart-to-heart talks with his “child”…but of course the only TV Single Dad show where Dad and “Son” wind up being lowered into a giant coffee pot!

Gidget

Jim 1950s - 1960s

Aired: 1966-67


DAD: Russell Lawrence (Don Porter) / Widower

DAD’S JOB: College Professor

KIDS: Gidget (real name:Frances) (Sally Field) (15), Anne (Betty Connor) (17)

WHERE’S MOM?: Mom’s dead

STAND-IN “MOM”: Don’t know – yet.

Based on the Sandra Dee movie series of the same name, this show lasted just long enough to age Sally Field so she could become The Flying Nun.
Here’s a case of art imitating life: the Gidget series of movies, TV shows, and movie-of-the-week specials was based on a book by Frederick Kohner, who wrote about his experience of raising a daughter in California by himself in the fifties.

A revamped show, Gidget’s Summer Reunion, appeared in 1985 with a married Gidget (Mrs. Moondoggie?) still at the beach for some tasty waves. Fortunately, the show took a ratings bullet in the head after just two episodes.

If Gidget were on a final exam, I think a good question would be: “Compare and contrast the plot structures of Gidget and That Girl. How does growing up on the Pacific coast different from growing up in the environs of the New York Metropolitan area?”

UPDATE 9 April 2006: Alert Viewer Christopher begs to differ – –

“Howdy. My name is Chris, and I can’t believe I’m about to write an e-mail to you about the original Gidget book.

In the original book, Gidget’s mom is still alive, well, married to Gidget’s dad, and very present around the household. The book isn’t about raising a child near the beach on your own, but more about the things that teenagers do and get themselves into while their parents are unaware. Gidget’s mom is alive in the movie, too, but I haven’t seen it. I guess they axed the mom for the show to turn it into a more-profitable single dad angle, or something.”

Possible? let me know if you’ve read the books.

Jonny Quest

Jim 1950s - 1960s

Aired: 1964-65


DAD: Dr. Benton Quest (voice of John Stephenson for first six episodes, then Don Messick) / Widower

DAD’S JOB: Scientist / Maniac

KIDS: Jonny Quest (voice of Tim Mathieson)(10), Hadji (voice of Danny Bravo) (11)

WHERE’S MOM?: Who knows? Dead, hopefully.

STAND-IN “MOM”: Race Bannon (voice of Mike Road)

Another “nightmare Single Dad,” Dr. Benton Quest truly deserved to have his kids taken away from him. Jonny never went to school, was constantly being endangered by his father’s job,and actually murdered adults on several episodes. Don’t even get me started about Hadji. And, would you hire Race Bannon as a babysitter?

Trivia note: If you want to see what Mike Road, the voice of Race Bannon, looked like back in the 60’s, watch for the I Dream of Jeannie episode where Jeannie creates an imaginary boyfriend named “Tony Millionaire” — “Tony” is played by Mike Road.

Update: Alert Viewer Ina-Chan sent in a boatload of details about Jonny Quest. Here’s some quick facts:

In 1964 Hadji was voiced by Danny Bravo. Trivia note: Danny Bravo is one of the boys in the motion picture “The Magnificent Seven” .

Jonny Quest made a comeback in the 90’s. Check out the 90’s page for more information.

Thunderbirds

Jim 1950s - 1960s

Aired: 1964-67

ITV

DAD: Jeff Tracy / Widower

DAD’S JOB: Billionaire recluse

KIDS: Scott, Virgil, Alan, John, and Gordon Tracy (late teens/twenties)

WHERE’S MOM?: Storyline says Jeff’s wife died because no one “rescued” her

STAND-IN “MOM”: Kyrano (Kee-Ron-Noooo!)

Hey, they’re made of wood, but so was Pinocchio, and he had a Single Dad! Thunderbirds had the same interpersonal dynamic as Bonanza, typical of most shows where the boys are all grown and still single, living at home. No fistfights in the saloon in town, though, because there was no town on the remote island where they lived. P.S. Who would name their kids after the Mercury astronauts? And why wasn’t there a Deke Tracy or a Wally Tracy?

Kyrano may be a Single Dad to his daughter, Tin-Tin, but it wasn’t clear if Kyrano’s wife lived on Jeff Tracy’s island.