Jim 1950s - 1960s

Aired: 1966-69

DAD: Dr. Marsh Tracy (Marshall Thompson) / Widower

DAD’S JOB: Jungle Veterinarian

KIDS: Paula Tracy (Cheryl Miller)(19)

WHERE’S MOM?: Dead or something.

STAND-IN “MOM”: none

I just remember the cross-eyed lion, Clarence. Beats me about the rest of it. Wait, didn’t Paula date a guy who looked like Mike Minor from Petticoat Junction?

The Governor & J.J.

Jim 1950s - 1960s

Aired: 1969-72

DAD: William Drinkwater (Dan Dailey) / Widower

DAD’S JOB: Governor

KIDS: J.J (20-ish) (Julie Sommars)

WHERE’S MOM?: Dead for a while – unknown cause.

STAND-IN “MOM”: none

This is My Little Margie meets Benson. J.J. was trying to get Governor Dad married off and re-elected at the same time.
Nothing ground-breaking, although it did manage to stay on the air for four years. That’s quite an accomplishment for a TV Single Dad show!


Jim 1950s - 1960s

Lancer 1968-1971

DAD: Murdoch Lancer (Andrew Duggan) / Widower

DAD’S JOB: Rancher

KIDS: Scott Lancer (Wayne Maunder), Johnny Madrid Lancer (James Stacy) 20-something, foster daughter Teresa O’Brien (Elizabeth Baur) late teens

WHERE’S MOM?: 3 kids – 3 different dead moms.

STAND-IN “MOM”: Jelly Hoskins (Paul Bringear) / Ranch Hand

Boy oh boy, this smells like Bonanza. Or maybe the Single-Dad version of Big Valley. Murdoch Lancer had a ranch, e-i-e-i-o, and bad-guy locals wanted his land, e-i-e-i-o. With two half-brothers (the Felix-Unger-y Scott and the Robert Downey, Jr.-lifestyled Johnny) they kept the bad guys away from sniffin’ around Murdoch’s adopted teen cutie daughter Teresa. Funniest thing about this show is that it lasted *4* whole seasons!

Update: Alert Viewer “Fletcher” chimes in with more details on teen-hottie Teresa:
“Teresa O’Brien was not one of Murdoch Lancer’s children, he was her Guardian. Her father was Murdoch’s ranch foreman and was killed in the first episode. Her mother wasn’t dead either. She turned out to be a ‘lady of the night’ and came back to the ranch in a later episode. Seems that she had run off when Teresa was a small child, probably ‘find herself’.”

A tip of the Jed Clampett Memorial Moth-Eaten Hat to ‘Fletcher’ for the info on Teresa. Thanks, Fletcher!

Update: Alert View “WinJ” pops up with more info on the mom’s demise:

“Scott’s mother died in childbirth. His grandfather took him back to Boston and kept him away from Murdoch with the threat of a custody suit. Johnny’s mother ran off with a gambler. We are uncertain when she died, only that she did at some point, leaving Johnny with the misguided belief that his father threw them both out. Not exactly the wholesomeness of Bonanza. Johnny was a gunfighter, Johnny Madrid, for at least 5 years, making him about 15 when he started that career. Teresa was the daughter of Murdoch’s best friend and foreman, Paul O’Brien. His wife ran off when Teresa was a baby to be an entertainer, Angel Day. Teresa was born on Lancer. When her father died, Murdoch became her guardian. Just to set the record straight.”

A nod of the Adam West Memorial Cowl to “WinJ” – thanks!

Mayberry R.F.D.

Jim 1950s - 1960s

Aired: 1968-71

DAD: Sam Jones (Ken Berry) / Widower

DAD’S JOB: City Councilman of Mayberry, NC.

KIDS: Mike (Buddy Foster)(7)

WHERE’S MOM?: Dead – unknown cause.

STAND-IN “MOM”: Aunt Bee (again!) (Frances Bavier)

What do you do when Andy Griffith wants off The Andy Griffith Show? Easy – you replace him (and Opie, too) with Ken Berry and son, keep Aunt Bee(!) and continue the franchise. The show lasted until the CBS purge of “rural” comedies in 1971.

Update: Here’s some info on Mike Jones from Alert Viewer Roberta Gibson: “I just read your clips of single tv dads and it brought back some happy memories! The clip about Mayberry RFD mentions a son named Mike. Mike was played by Buddy Foster who is Jodie Foster’s brother. I don’t know what happened to him after that show – I think I read somewhere that he is on the other side of the camera now.”

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)


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.