The 50's-60's

The 50's & 60's

When TV Single Dads First Walked the Earth

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This is the Paleontological TV Single Dad era.

In the first twenty years of television, the TV Single Dad grew from the bare bones of the most simple of plotlines: the typical show consisted of a daughter and her father, and the daughter's efforts to "improve" her father's life. From these simple beginnings, the flow of scripts evolved, covering the relationship of fathers in the unusual (to society) nuturing parent role, and their children.

A point to ponder: most of the Single Dads around today grew up learning about the Single Dad experience from the fictional Dads on this page. Our point of reference for fathering isn't Ward Cleaver: it's Fred MacMurray and Bill Bixby.

Author's Update: There's been a few suggestions for the 50's-60's page: "Popeye", "Journey to the Center of the Earth", "Space Angel", and "Clutch Cargo", to name a few. I am working on adding some of these shows. Please be patient while I collate the information. Thanks!


First, the Questionable Shows of the 50's and 60's...

Make Room for Daddy / The Danny Thomas Show 1953-1957

NBC

Questionable Dad: Danny Williams (Danny Thomas) / Entertainer

Why It Doesn't Count: It's a toss-up between this show and Eight Is Enough as to which series generates the most "why don't you include?" emails.

A quick history lesson: Danny Thomas produced one of longest-running family comedies, known as Make Room for Daddy - - in various forms, this show appeared on two networks from 1953 all the way to 1971.

In the show, Danny was married to Margaret Williams, played by Jean Hagen. During a contract dispute, Miss Hagen quit the show in 1956, leaving Danny without a TV wife. The writers skittered around this development by declaring Danny to be a widower, and a year of TV Single Dadness ensued. However, Danny was remarried on the show after less than a year of bachelorhood.

As shown in The Rules, this fails the Mike Brady Clause, and is thus not a true TV Single Dad show. Too bad, Danny!


The Tammy Grimes Show 1966

ABC

Questionable Dad: Simon Ward (Hiram Sherman) / Uncle-Banker

Why It Doesn't Count: Tammy Grimes was an orphaned heiress to her parents' monstrous fortune. The case for this show is that Tammy doesn't control the purse strings -- it's really Uncle Simon who's in charge of the finances. However, Tammy and her twin brother Terrence (played by "Bad Darren" Dick Sargent) actually own their own home, and Uncle Simon does not live with them. Sorry, Tammy.


Next, the Hall of Fame Shows of the 50's & 60's...


My Little Margie 1952-55

Margie

CBS

NBC

DAD: Vernon Albright (Charles Farrell) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Investment Banker

KIDS: Margie (Gale Storm), 18

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead a few years. Unknown cause.

STAND-IN "MOM": Mrs. Odetts (Gertrude Hoff)

The granddaddy of them all, My Little Margie set the stage for most TV Single Dad sitcom plots: the child decides Dad needs a new wife, and goes "shopping" for one. Dad winds up meeting the child's "pick" and things go awry. Dad winds up yelling at the child, and then apologizes. Everything is fine until the next exciting episode...

Although it's the earliest known TV Single Dad show, My Little Margie was a radio cross-over from CBS. The television version of the radio series, produced by Desilu, made it to the screen as a summer replacement for I Love Lucy.

Update: Alert Viewer Gord Bates reports that the company Vernon Albright worked for was "Honeywell & Todd". Thanks, Gord!


Life with Luigi 1952-53

CBS

DAD: Pasquale (Alan Reed) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Restaurant owner

KIDS: Rosa Pasquale (Jody Gilbert), 18

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead.

STAND-IN "MOM": unknown

A radio crossover (started on radio in 1948)  - this show missed being the first TV Single Dad show by only a few months. Pasquale sponsored the title character's immigration in the hopes of having him marry his rather obese daughter. Wacky hijinks ensued, of course. 

Alan Reed is better known as another TV Dad: he was the voice of Fred Flintstone on The Flintstones ten years later.


Bonino 1953

Bonino

NBC

DAD: Babbo Bonino (Ezio Pinza) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Basso Profundo operatic singer

KIDS: Doris(Lenka Peterson), Jerry(Chet Allen, then Donald Harris), Carlo(Oliver Andes), Francesca(Gaye Hudson), Andrew(Van Dyke Parks)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead, recently

STAND-IN "MOM": Martha (Mary Wickes) / Maid

This series holds the distinction of being the earliest TV Single Dad show created specifically for television.

Though short-lived, this was a live sitcom starring the famous opera star Ezio Pinza as a (guess what?) famous opera star, Bonino. Bonino's wife died, leaving him with a "party of six." Bonino gave up opera touring to raise his kids, but found out that the kids were a leetle more independent than he was expecting.

The series was created by Fred Coe and David Swift, producers of the popular NBC show Mister Peepers. Coe and Swift previously worked with Ezio Pinza on The RCA Victor Show in 1948, and were interested in building a series around Pinza's vocal and dramatic talents.

I imagine it must have been really interesting to watch a show where five kids had to hit their marks, live, every week.

Very Kewl Update: Just got a cast correction in from none other than Carlo Bonino himself, Oliver Andes!

"Hi Jim,
It was even more interesting to actually hit the marks on live TV. I notice that several web sites have the same incorrect information. The part of Francesca was played by Gaye Huston.
Keep up the good work.
Oliver Andes (Carlo)
"

Much obliged!

Be sure to check out the interview with Van Dyke Parks in the Interviews section!


My Son Jeep 1953

NBC

DAD: Dr. Robert Allison (Jeffrey Lynn) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: M.D. (like Donna Reed's husband)

KIDS: Peggy (13) (Betty Lou Keim), Jeep (10) (Martin Huston)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead.

STAND-IN "MOM": Mrs. Bixby (Leona Powers) / housekeeper

Another half-year wonder, this show was a precursor of Leave It to Beaver, but without June Cleaver. Jeep Allison got into the same kind of mishaps Beaver Cleaver would in the latter part of the decade, and Dr. Allison would have to sort out the mess when he got home from the office.

The repetitive motif of the kids finding suitable "new moms" for Dad to date pops up in this show. Jeep was always trying to get Dad to show some interest in his substitute teacher, Miss Miller (Anne Sargent). Wacky hijinks ensued.


Wonderful John Acton NBC 1953

NBC

DAD: John Acton (Harry Holcombe) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Court clerk and owner of the general store

KIDS: Julia (Virginia Dwyer)(22),  Kevin (Ronnie Walken)(12)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead.

STAND-IN "MOM": Unknown - possibly Aunt Bessie (Jane Rose)

Okay, you boomers - if you didn't see this show, picture Green Acres with Sam Drucker's family  as the focus. Easily forgettable, it was on from July to October of 1953 and then - - woosh - - -gone.

Update: Received a note from the son of the producer and director of Wonderful John Acton: "It was his first television show. Prior to that, he was a producer and director in radio, his most famous show being "Mr. District Attorney" which was very popular and ran from 1939 to 1952.

"Wonderful John Acton" was based on a real person, my father's maternal grandfather who was a politician in Kentucky at the turn of the 20th century. I met one of the cast, Ian Martin, some years later when I was 12 or so. I have a claim to fame in that Christopher Walken's character, Kevin Acton, was named after me. It was probably mom's idea.

Unlike his radio career, my dad's foray into television met with little success. After "Wonderful John Acton", he produced a show, "Mr. Citizen" which had a run of about a dozen episodes in 1955."


Note: the charming Jacqui Chen of www.salmonlust.com points out that "Ronnie Walken" is, indeed, the original name of the ubiquitous Christopher Walken. Wonders never cease. Thanks, Jacqui!


Sky King 1953-54

Sky King

ABC

DAD: Skyler "Sky" King (Kirby Grant) / Single Guy (?)- Uncle

DAD'S JOB: Pilot-Rancher

KIDS: Penny (Gloria Winters)(12) / Clipper (Ron Hagerthy)(10)

WHERE'S MOM?: Unknown. (Please e-mail me if you know the answer)

STAND-IN "MOM": Unknown

"Out of the blue of the western sky comes Sky King."

I never saw this show, but here's what I know about the series: Kirby Grant played a rancher named Sky King, who had a twin engine Cessna (named "Songbird") to catch rustlers et al. on his big "Flying Crown" ranch in Grover, Arizona. Sky had a niece named Penny and a nephew named Clipper. Penny and Clipper were constantly getting into trouble with the bad guys, and Uncle Sky typically had to rescue the kids from all sorts of perils.

The echoes of Sky King ring through the decades, as shows such as Space Ghost, Flipper, and Jonny Quest toyed with the "two kids in peril" motif. Strange.

Update: Alert viewer Ray Crenshaw (tbivins@greenwood.net) wrote in some more information about Sky's aircraft: "Sky King had two different airplanes, though both were Cessna's. The first plane was a 'Bamboo Bomber', it had two big radial engines and looked roughly similar to the plane Amelia Earhart flew and was subsequently lost in. Bamboo Bombers are exceedingly rare I'm told, probably even in the 1950's. Cessna released the new twin-engine '310' in around 1956... I wonder if they donated the new 310 for advertisement? This was, after all, just after WWII... it was commonly thought that almost *everyone* would fly airplanes in the (near) future. For a while it looked like it may happen... then the boom slowed down."

A toot of the Fred MacMurray Memorial Saxophone to Ray Crenshaw for the aircraft info. Thanks, Ray!

An additional clang of the Hop Sing Memorial Dinner Triangle to Jim Hecht for the clarificaation of Skyler's full name. Thanks, Jim!

I get more mail about Sky King than any other show in this entire website. What's really amazing is how many little boys were in love with Penny! :)

Another update: Alert Viewer Martin McGowan checks in with more details about the ranch and the planes:

Your previous correspondent is correct, there were two "Songbirds". The first, with the rotary engines, said to be similar to Emilia Eahrhart's plane, was a Cessna 310-B. It would take a Cessna Freak to tell you what the second one was----also a Cessna 310----but the letter designation is the hard part. The C-310 was the base designation of the Cessna twin engine private plane. The letters designated the evolutionary incarnation, so to speak. Sky King's ranch was called the "Flying Crown". Get it? He drove around in Chrysler autos/station wagons with the FC logo/brand on the door.


Fury 1955-60

fury

Syndicated

DAD: Jim Newton (Peter Graves) / Single (!)

DAD'S JOB: Rancher

KIDS: Joey (Bobby Diamond)(11)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead. So's Dad.

STAND-IN "MOM": Helen Watkins (Ann Robinson), Joey's schoolteacher; or possibly Pete (William Fawcett), the "Chief Cook and Bottle-Washer" for the Ranch.

Out there in the west, somewhere probably near Sky King's ranch in the 1950's, Jim Newton adopts a city kid/orphan named Joey. Joey tames Jim's "unbreakable" black stallion. Joey names the horse Fury. Fury and Joey wind up having the same kinds of adventures that Timmy and Lassie would have on their show.

Barry Williams, who would later portray the unforgettable Greg Brady on The Brady Bunch, once described this show as "the single most important program" to get him interested in acting. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or...

A tip of the Sebastian Cabot Memorial Bowler to Robert Carson (narcars@webtv.com) for the info on Jim's last name and the Stand-in Mom details. Thanks, Robert!

...and a clang on the Hop Sing Memorial Triangle for Norman Bensen (normand@webtv.net) for the information about "Pete." Thanks, Norman!

...plus a wave of the Mrs. Livington Memorial Feather Duster for "Momcat316@aol.com" on the tip about William Fawcett playing "Pete." Thanks, "Momcat"!

Update: There's more upset Alert Viewers out there. Here's a recent note from the Broken Wheel Ranch - "I emailed you once before about your incorrect information about Fury. Nan Leslie played Packy's mother, she was not Jim's sister, or even his dead wife. If you are looking for a female for a stand in mother, then you would want it to be Ann Robinson, who was Joey's scool teacher Helen Watkins. She was always at the ranch, and was there for Joey every damn time he got hurt, which was every few episodes.

If you would like to see more info on it, please visit our site at: http://brokenwheelranch.com"

I stand corrected.


The Adventures of Champion 1955-56

CBS

DAD: Uncle Sandy North (Jim Bannon) / Single (?)

DAD'S JOB: Rancher

KIDS: Ricky (Barry Curtis) (12)

WHERE'S MOM?: Don't know. Where's Dad, too?

STAND-IN "MOM": Champion (?)

Hey who's ripping whom off here? This show, produced by Gene Autry as a "vehicle" for his Wonder Horse, Champion, sounds pretty much like the plot of Fury (above). Get this: out west, Ricky North lives on his uncle's ranch, and is the only person able to ride this black stallion named Champion. They have a bunch of adventures defeating bad guys and getting into all kinds of dangerous situations. Sound familiar? I wonder who came up with the idea first.

Tidbit: this show was the first 'spin-off' in the history of television (from The Gene Autry Show of 1950-56). Just consider: Laverne & Shirley owes its pedigree to Gene's horse.


Brave Eagle 1955-56

Brave Eagle

CBS

DAD: Brave Eagle (Keith Larsen) / Single

DAD'S JOB: Chief of the Cheyenne

KID: Keena (Keena Nomkeena) / Foster son

WHERE'S MOM?: Don't know.

STAND-IN "MOM": Morning Star (?) (Kim Winona) Brave Eagle's girlfriend

A "now, with-it" western, told from the point of view of the Native Americans. Brave Eagle had to lead his tribe in simple survival and run-ins with the white man and other Indians. Kinda like Captain Kirk with teepees instead of starships.

Here's how everything in television is related - via marriage. Keith Larsen was married to Vera Miles, who later appeared as Beth in the TV Single Dad show How the West Was Won. Small world, ain't it?

Please e-mail me if you have any details about this show. Thanks!


The Great Gildersleeve 1955

Syndicated

DAD: Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve (Willard Waterman) / Single

DAD'S JOB: Water Commissioner of Summerfield

KID: Marjorie Forrester(Stephanie Griffith), Leroy Forrester(Ronald Keith) / Niece & Nephew

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead. So's Dad.

STAND-IN "MOM": Birdie Lee Coggins (Lillian Randolph) / Housekeeper

Technically, this show started before WWII -- but it was a *radio* show when it began in 1941. Gildersleeve was a spin-off character of the Fibber McGee & Molly radio show, and was originally portrayed by Harold Peary. The premise of the spin-off was that Gildersleeve's niece and nephew were orphaned, and needed their Uncle Throckmorton to move to Summerfield.

In the early 50's, Peary was replaced by Waterman in the title role. The series moved to television mid-decade, but suffered from being mostly radio scripts with insufficient on-screen action. Waterman later re-created the role for solo appearances on The Lucy Show.

Big tip of the Porter Ricks Memorial Scuba Mask to Alert Viewer Gwnachman for the heads-up on this series. Thanks!


Circus Boy 1956(NBC)-57(ABC)

Circus Boy

NBC

ABC

DAD: Big Tim Champion (Robert Lowery) / Single (!)

DAD'S JOB: Circus Owner

KIDS: Corky (Mickey Braddock {Mickey Dolenz})(10)

WHERE'S MOM?: Mom and Dad both dead - killed in a high-wire act. 

STAND-IN "MOM": Unknown

Consider the role of disastrous high-wire acts in the history of TV Single Dads. In this show, Corky the Circus Boy loses his acrobatic parents in a trapeze mishap, and winds up sharing adventures with Big Tim Champion.  A decade after this show premiered, Youthful Ward Dick Grayson would lose his acrobatic parents in a similar manner, and wind up with millionaire Bruce Wayne as a guardian on Batman.

A mandatory "Did You Know" for this show is that young Corky was played by the young Mickey Dolenz of The Monkees fame.


Bachelor Father 1957-62

Bachelor Father

CBS

NBC

ABC

DAD: Bentley Gregg (John Forsythe) / Single (!)

DAD'S JOB: Lawyer

KIDS: Kelly (Noreen Corcoran)(14)

WHERE'S MOM?: Mom and Dad both dead. Bentley was Kelly's parents' attorney and executor - wound up with wardship!

STAND-IN "MOM": Peter Tong (Sammee Tong)

Should have been called "Suddenly Dad;" this show was a retake on the My Little Margie scenario, except Uncle Bentley was a less competent father than Margie's dad.

Sammee Tong entered into legend the character of the wisecracking, foreign-born housekeeper, an icon that would recur in shows such as Bonanza, Family Affair, et al.

Update: Alert Viewer Karen Collins chimes in with notes on a nexus-point for John Forsythe - "Interesting to note: Linda Evans, in her first role (I believe), played Kelly's best friend on Bachelor Father, and later played John Forsythe's wife on Dynasty." Fascinating, as Linda Evans also co-starred on a famous TV Single Mom show, too - The Big Valley.
Thanks for the info, Karen!


Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion 1955-57

Gallant

NBC

DAD: Captain Michael Gallant (Buster Crabbe) / Single Guy

DAD'S JOB: Legionnaire

KIDS: Cuffy Sanders (Cullen Crabbe)(11)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead - - so's Dad - he's an orphan.

STAND-IN "MOM": Sergeant Du Val (Gilles Queant)

Somewhat like Rin-Tin-Tin, only subtract the dog and add the desert.

I'm pretty sure this is a first: Buster Crabbe's foster child was played by his real-life son Cullen.

This show was shot in North Africa, but owing to the fall of the French colonies during the same time period, the series moved to Italy in the final season.


A tip of the Lorne Greene Memorial 10-Gallon Hat to Ted Dec, who pointed out this little-reviewed series. Thanks, Ted!


The Rifleman 1958-63

Rifleman

ABC

DAD: Lucas McCain (Chuck Connors) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Rifleman / Homesteader

KIDS: Mark (Johnny Crawford)(12)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead for quite some time - unknown.

STAND-IN "MOM": Miss Milly Scott (Joan Taylor)

If you're over 50, this is probably going to be one of the first five TV shows you will name if someone asks you about TV Single Dads.

Take The Andy Griffith Show, remove the comedic parts, roll it back about 100 years, and you've pretty much got the environment of The Rifleman. This show develops another standard motif of the TV Single Dad shows: the "mom" character who can't really quite marry the TV Dad. This character-love interest-tension device pops up even in shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation (think about Lt. Worf and Troi!)


The Ed Wynn Show 1958-1959

NBC

DAD: John Beamer (Ed Wynn ) / Widower-Grandfather

DAD'S JOB: Retired?

KIDS: Laurie (Jacklyn O'Donnell) (18), Midge (Sherry Alberoni) (9)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead - so is Dad.

STAND-IN "MOM": John Beamer -- the grandfather.

Here's a great twist on the "Not the Dad-Single Dad Show" motif (like Bachelor Father) -- in this case, the "Dad" is the grandfather -- Ed Wynn's character, John Beamer. John's children died, leaving him with the duty of raising teenaged Laurie and elementary-school-aged Midge.


Jefferson Drum 1958-1959

Jefferson Drum

NBC

DAD: Jefferson Drum (Jeff Richards) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Newspaper Editor

KIDS: Joey Drum (Eugene Martin)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead - unknown how

STAND-IN "MOM": Unknown

Is it me, or don't you think this western format was done to death in the late fifties? Jefferson Drum (how's THAT for a name?) edited the town of Jubilee's paper, and fought bad guys in print and with pistols. Of course, there's always a bunch of episodes where somebody kidnapped Joey, and Dad had to yadda yadda yadda... Yawn. I think the writers for Jefferson Drum watched The Rifleman and just changed the character names.


Bonanza 1959-73

bonanza

NBC

DAD: Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene) / Widower x 3

DAD'S JOB: Rancher

KIDS: Adam (Pernell Roberts), Hoss (Dan Blocher), Little Joe (Michael Landon)(all in their 20's and 30's)

WHERE'S MOM?: Each of the three Moms died in childbirth - really! (or NOT -- read the Viewer Responses, below)...

STAND-IN "MOM": Hop Sing (Victor Sen Yung)

As Danny DeVito said in the movie Tin Men, this show is about "a 50-year-old man with three 49-year-old sons." Domestic conflict was solved the same way each week - the boys would go into town and get into a big fight at the saloon.

Strangely enough, Lorne Greene would play another TV Single Dad on television more than 17 years after the start of Bonanza, in the TV show BattlestaR Galactica.

Here's a reminiscence of the show by Larry_Warner@geoworks.com:

"I seem to recall an episode in which time flashes back to the wagon trail days, with Lorne capped in a dark toupee, and his wife (who was played by Inga Swenson of "Benson" fame, I believe) had just given birth to Hoss. She said she wanted to name him Hoss because it meant "big friendly man" or something in her native tongue (I suppose she was Swedish - the typecast seems to have stuck). Which is strange, considering it seemed more likely to be a nickname for "horse" since he was big."

Here's some more details provided by alert viewer David K. Anderson:

Adam's mother was the daughter of a New England whaling captain. Ben was a mate on his father-in-law's ship until his wife died giving birth to Adam. Ben decided to leave whaling and head West with his infant son. He made it to New Orleans where he met and married Little Joe's mother. She was a French beauty who also died in childbirth. Ben decided to head farther west taking his two sons with him. Hoss's mother was an Indian maiden (possibly played by Inga Swenson; I don't remember). Once again, she died in childbirth and Ben headed farther west to Nevada territory to found the Ponderosa and raise his motherless boys.

That should settle the controversy, right? Wrong. Libby Moore (lmoore@en.com)wrote in her version of the Cartwright Wives deaths...

"[Ben's] first wife, Adam's mother, did die this way [in childbirth], but Hoss' mother died in an Indian attack when Hoss was a baby and Joe's mother died when he was a small child, from a fall from her horse."

Had enough? here's some more thoughts on the Cartwright birth history from Alert Viewer Shirley Thompson....

Regarding your "alert viewer" David K. Anderson...   He lists the order of the sons birth as Adam, Little Joe and then Hoss.  Sorry, but anyone who is "alert" knows that it was Adam, Hoss, THEN Little Joe. Libby Moore is correct from what I can gather.

But wait! There's MORE from Valerie Ellis, yet another Alert Bonanza Viewer:


 Libby is right about the various ways the ill-fated Cartwright mothers met their end: Adam's mom, childbirth; Hoss' mom, Indian arrow; Little Joe's mom, fall from horse. And all kidding aside about the age of Pa vs. the boys, Lorne Greene really was only about a dozen years older than Pernell Roberts (No. 1 son Adam), who's 9 years older than Michael Landon (baby brother Little Joe). Trust us. We know this stuff. You probably got other emails from Bonanza Internet folks because someone passed on your URL. And I know way too much about '60s television and need to get a life. 

(There's no such THING as knowing WAY too much about '60s television, Valerie.)

And then Whitney Miller wrote in to say the following:

I really like Bonanza, and the 3 people that sent in their little say so are all wrong. I'm sending one that you may want to put on your site and you may not want to:

Ben Cartwright first met and married Adam's mother, Elizabeth. She died right after Adam was born and Ben went westward with Adam where he met and married Inger Stevenson (a Swedish lady) when Adam was 6. Inger did not die while giving birth to her son, Eric, she died in an Indian attack a little while later. Eric Haus Cartwright was called Hoss because it meant "big friendly man" (which he did grow up to be) and because when Ben took Inger west from away from her brother, it was his one wish that they would call their first (and only!) son Hoss. Ben then took his 2 sons and went on where he met Marie, whom he fell in love with and married (I don't know how old Adam and Hoss were, but I think they were about 12 and 6). She had Joseph Francis Cartwright (whom they called Little Joe, or Joe later on in the series), but she did not die until he was 6 years old (does 6 seem to be a lucky number with the Cartwrights or what!?). Ben then took his 3 motherless sons away.

Now, I'm prepared to argue this point. I watch Bonanza about every day, and I know for a fact that Hoss is older than Joe (1 person says differently), etc.....


Want some more? Alert Viewer Jeff James writes in with: just seen the episode where Ben met Inga somewhere in Illinois.....Inga's Brother Günter...got called 'Hoss' by someone in a saloon. The old wino who called Günter this said it was an Old Appalachian Term meaning 'Big Friendly Man'. Gunter told Ben he was a Hoss and what it meant after he had Married Inga just before they left to GO WEST.

In the 'Wagon Trail' episode he said that if it was a boy would then it would be named after Inga's Father 'Eric' and that the Third boy after his father 'Joseph'. At Hoss birth they gave the Child both names and Ben said to Adam "Let's see which one sticks" Inga was killed by an arrow soon after in an Indian attack at Ash Hollow.


Dudley Do-Right 1959-1961(ABC), 1969-1970(CBS)

Dudley Do-Right

ABC

CBS

DAD: Inspector Ray K. Fenwick (voice of Paul Frees) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman

KIDS: Nell (voice of June Foray) (18-ish)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead - Unknown cause

STAND-IN "MOM": Nobody

Part of Jay Ward's Rocky and his Friends show, Inspector Fenwick suffered like any TV Single Dad, worrying over his naive daughter Nell and his even-more-naive subordinate future-son-in-law, Dudley Do-Right. Cartoon TV Single Dads always seem to have to worry more, with their daughters constantly being tied up by mustachioed villians like the archtypical Snidely Whiplash.

Dudley wound up with his own show, a decade after Rocky's premiere, on CBS.

Trivia: watch for Hans Conreid (the voice of Snidely Whiplash) popping up in other TV Single Dad shows as the decades spin by. Toward the end of Mr. Conreid's life, a fan asked him to "do a Snidely Whiplash voice." Hans Conreid replied, "DO a voice? I don't DO a Snidely Whiplash voice - I've always thought they knew my true nature and wrote the part around me!"


The Dennis O'Keefe Show 1959-1960

CBS

DAD: Hal Towne (Dennis O'Keefe ) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Newspaper columnist

KIDS: Randy (Rickey Kelman) (10)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead. Unknown cause.

STAND-IN "MOM": Sarge (Hope Emerson) / Housekeeper

Classic elements of TV Single Dad shows abound in this series -- Dad, a newspaper columnist (watch how often THAT career pops up in TV Single Dad shows) has a bulldog of a housekeeper, aptly named "Sarge", to watch his precocious son. Meanwhile, Dad's newsy entertainment column lets him rub elbows and stuff with movie stars and supermodels. Lucky for him mom's dead, huh?


My Three Sons 1960-72

My 3 Sons

ABC

CBS

DAD: Steve Douglas (Fred MacMurray) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Aerospace Engineer

KIDS: Mike(Tim Considine), Robbie (Don Grady), Chip (Stanley Livingston), Ernie (Barry Livingston) (I know it's four, read on)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead for quite some time / Ernie was adopted when his missionary parents moved to China (!)

STAND-IN "MOM": "Bub" O'Casey (William Frawley) / "Uncle Charley" O'Casey (William Demarest)

Face it, this show could be called Leave it to Beaver Without June, but it's so much more. It's a house where arguments never end and the toilet seat is always UP.

The show reached new limits, though, when the writers started marrying off the sons one by one. Mike, played by Tim Considine, got married and moved clean out of the program, necessitating the adoption of Ernie to keep the eponymous show, but Robbie (and later, Chip) brought their brides home with them. The boys then had to face the stark reality of pantyhose hanging from the shower rod and the need to close the door when changing their corduroys.

CBS finally wimped out by marrying off Fred MacMurray's character to Beverly Garland (a sure sign of impending disaster is when the main character gets married). Then, the show turned into a poor man's Brady Bunch.


The Andy Griffith Show 1960-68

Andy Griffith

CBS

DAD: Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Sheriff of Mayberry, NC

KIDS: Opie (7)(Ronnie Howard)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead for quite some time - unknown.

STAND-IN "MOM": Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier)

A comedic take on The Rifleman, The Andy Griffith Show relied on a formula pioneered in the series this show was spun off from: Danny Thomas's Make Room for Daddy. The formula was in this format: Dad sits down and has a heart-to-heart talk with the child; then, the child improperly applies the "lesson" of the talk to a comedic predicament, wherein Dad gets upset, but then realizes that the child was just trying to be obedient.


Stagecoach West 1960-1961

ABC

DAD: Simon Kane (Robert Bray) / Widower - Grandfather

DAD'S JOB: Stagecoach Driver

KIDS: David Kane (Richard Eyer) (13)

WHERE'S MOM?: Unknown

STAND-IN "MOM": Possibly Luke Perry (Wayne Rogers) / Stagecoach Co-pilot

Uh, this is kinda like Love Boat on a stagecoach, and without the comedy. Simon and Luke drove the stagecoach between California and Missouri, and Simon's son travelled with them.

Maybe someday they'll make a show about the making of M*A*S*H, and Luke Perry could play Wayne Rogers -- just to square things up.


Ichabod and Me 1961-1962

CBS

DAD: Robert Major (Robert Sterling) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Newspaper editor

KIDS: Benjie (Jimmy Mathers) (6)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead. Unknown cause.

STAND-IN "MOM": Unknown.

The "Ichabod" of the title is Robert Major's boss at a small-town paper called the Phippsboro Bulletin. Robert moved from New York City to raise his young son in a small town.

Strange how much this sounds like a modern-day sitcom version of Jefferson Drum, doesn't it?

Oh, and Jimmy Mathers was the brother of TV's Beaver Cleaver, Jerry Mathers. No casting surprise as the producers (Connelly and Mosher) also produced Leave it to Beaver.


QuickDraw McGraw 1960-62

Augie Doggie

CBS

DAD: Doggie Daddy (voice of Doug Young) / Single?

DAD'S JOB: He's a DOG!

KIDS: Augie Doggie (voice of Daws Butler) (10?)

WHERE'S MOM?: Unknown.

STAND-IN "MOM": Unknown

If I didn't mention it before, cartoons *count* in the TV Single Dad universe. "Augie Doggie" was a supporting made-specifically-for-this-show cartoon under the "Quick Draw McGraw" umbrella.

Doggie Daddy, a blue beagle or some kind of hound (with a voice like Jimmy Durante), is the ambitious father of a precocious Augie Doggie. In this show, the son is waay smarter than the Dad, and certain predictable cartoon hijinks ensue.

A tug of the Benton Quest Memorial Beard goes to Shaul Ceder (ceder@netvision.net.il) for pointing out the Single Dad status of Doggie Daddy. Thanks, Shaul!

Does Augie have a mommy? If you know, E-mail me.


The Alvin Show 1961-62

Alvin

CBS

DAD: David Seville (voice of Ross Bagdasarian) / Single

DAD'S JOB: Booking Agent

KIDS: Alvin (voice of Ross Bagdasarian), Simon (voice of Ross Bagdasarian), and Theodore (voice of Ross Bagdasarian) Chipmunk

WHERE'S MOM?: Unknown

STAND-IN "MOM": Unknown

This one will cause arguments as to "Is David Seville a Single Dad?" -- except -- David has (on at least two shows) needed to make sure the boys got to school on time. He professed a requirement to get this task accomplished, so it must be inferred that he *is* the responsible guardian for Alvin, Simon, and Theodore. OK, they're *rodents*, but they're *talking* (and singing) rodents, so that makes them a special case. Besides, if they go, I can't include Duckman, either.

Update: Alert Viewer Cassidy Peterson checks in with ponderments on Alvin, the Chipmunks, and their mom - - "I'm pretty darn sure what I watched wasn't the original The Alvin Show, but I forget the specific name of the series I watched - probably "Alvin & the Chipmunks" . The Chipettes were involved. Anyways, the Chipmunks' mother HAS been shown. There was a Mother's Day special in which they visit her in her forest tree home - unfortunately I only saw it once, some years ago, but I think her logic behind leaving them with Dave was that she didn't think she could provide them with the kind of life they deserved (NOT that she couldn't take care of them, just that she couldn't take care of them like she wanted to). I also seem to remember her saving them from some sort of forest-dwelling meanie like a warthog or something? - but I could just be retroactively hallucinating."

A tip of the Ben Cartwright Memorial Stetson to Cassidy Peterson on the mom info. Thanks, Cassidy!


The Beverly Hillbillies 1962-71

Donna Douglass

CBS

DAD: Jed Clampett (Buddy Ebsen) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Bazillionaire

KIDS: Elly May Clampett (teenager - yeah, right)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead for quite some time - unknown.

STAND-IN "MOM": Granny Clampett / Daisy Moses (Irene Ryan)

Bet you forgot Jed Clampett was a TV Single Dad. Technically, he was also a father-figure to live-in nephew Jethro, but Jed's sister Pearl was on enough to put Jethro on the "debatable" list.

Update: The "Just what kind of kin IS Granny?" question has been solved. An Alert Viewer in Israel, Shaul Ceder (ceder@netvision.net.il) spotted a discussion between Jed and some Weather Bureau folks talking about "Hurricane Daisy" -- when the weather people discuss what steps they can use to stop the hurricane, Jed says, "Oh, you can't do that! She's still my mother-in-law!"

A tip of the Porter Ricks Memorial scuba mask goes to Shaul Ceder (ceder@netvision.net.il) for the Granny info. Thanks, Shaul!


The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters 1963-64

ABC

DAD: Doc Sardius McPheeters(Dan O'Herlihy) / Widower?

DAD'S JOB: Traveling Doctor

KIDS: Jaimie McPheeters (Kurt Russell) (12)

WHERE'S MOM?: Unknown

STAND-IN "MOM": Mrs. Kissel? (Meg Wylie)/ traveling companion

Long before he was Snake Pliskin, Kurt Russell was lovable Jaimie McPheeters, crossing the Rockies in a wagon train with his shifty dad, played by a stovepipe-hat-wearing Dan O'Herlihy.

Don't cry because the series was cancelled, because these actors had to move on with their careers. Kurt became the Official Teenage Kid of Walt Disney movies, Dan O'Herlihy would become the Voice of Kraft Music Hall on NBC, and Meg Wylie would become one of those big-headed aliens with the pulsing vein on her head in Star Trek. See? Every ending is a beginning.

A tip of the Richard Mulligan Memorial Speculum to Gary Bradford for the tip about this series. Thanks, Gary!


Milton the Monster 1965-1968

Milton

ABC

DAD: Professor Weirdo / Single

DAD'S JOB: Mad Scientist

KIDS: Milton (voice of Bob McFadden)(last week)

WHERE'S MOM?: 10000 cemeteries?

STAND-IN "MOM": Count Kook

Producer Hal Seeger patterned this Saturday-morning cartoon after the success of such "monster" hits as The Munsters and The Addams Family. Milton was accidentally created with "too much tenderness" by Professor Weirdo, and was therefore a disappointment to his "dad."


The Baileys of Balboa 1964-65

Baileys

CBS

DAD: Sam Bailey (Paul Ford) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Fishing Boat Captain

KIDS: Jim (Les Brown, Jr.)(16?)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead

STAND-IN "MOM": Buck Singleton? (Sterling Holloway)

Who could not like this show? Sam Bailey ran a charter boat service in the middle of a ritzy yacht club named Balboa. He and his son Jim (and their first mate, a Gilligan-like character played by the amazing Sterling Holloway) lived on an island that was the antithesis of the aristocratic society of the yacht club. Of course, teenager Jim was in love with the daughter of Commodore Wyntoon (John Dehner) and wacky hijinks ensued. The daughter, Barbara, was played by the then teenaged Judy Carne.

The cast of this show was an astounding collection of character actors. John Dehner has been the voice of millions of Hanna-Barbera characters, and Paul Ford made his mark as the Mayor in The Music Man. And who would not recognize Sterling Holloway, the voice of Winnie the Pooh?


Flipper 1964-68

Flipper

DAD: Porter Ricks (Brian Kelly) / Widower (?)

DAD'S JOB: Park Ranger

KIDS: Sandy (Luke Halpin)(15), Bud (Tommy Norden)(10)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead, maybe.

STAND-IN "MOM": either oceanographer Ulla Norstrand (Ulla Stromstedt) or Flipper (?) (Suzy the Porpoise)

Porter Ricks is the reason real-life Dads don't get custody very often. Sandy and Bud were never were seen in school, never did homework, hardly ever wore sunblock or shirts in the Florida sun, lived in an alligator-infested swamp, and frequently wound up having guns pointed at them by criminals. It's arguable that Mr. Ricks was no mental marvel, as he couldn't remember to take off his street shoes before diving off the side of his Chris Craft (which he did about once an episode).

Update: Alert Viewer Chris (CFROSTY@aol.com) noted the second season appearance of semi-girlfriend/would-be stepmom Ulla Norstrand. Thanks for pointing her out, Chris!

Update: Alert Viewer Bob Stone says the boat used in Flipper was NOT a Chris Craft, but a 25-foot Thunderbird, made in North Miami. "It was a new design and was given to the show for promotion use." The boat also had one of the first Inboard/Outboard engines from OMC - which was quite an innovation at the time. Thanks for the info, Bob!

Note: The series was resurrected in 1995, with Bud growing up to become a marine biologist. That series doesn't count as a TV Single Dad show, though, because Porter Ricks is missing from the cast.


King Kong 1966

King Kong

ABC

DAD: Professor Bond / Widower(?)

DAD'S JOB: Ape Scientist

KIDS: Bobby (10), Susan (9)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead, maybe.

STAND-IN "MOM": Unknown

Rankin-Bass updated the King Kong story in this briefly-lived cartoon. In this incarnation, King Kong makes friends with the Bond family on the island of Mondo, an island near Indonesia. Bad guys were always gunning for Kong and his friends, so most of the time Kong was rescuing the kids, or the kids were rescuing Kong.


Kentucky Jones 1964-65

KY Jones

NBC

DAD: K.Y. "Kentucky" Jones (Dennis Weaver) / Widower (?)

DAD'S JOB: Veterinarian

KIDS: Dwight Eisenhower ('Ike') Wong (9)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead. Ike was an adopted orphan

STAND-IN "MOM":Unknown

The late Mrs. Jones applied to adopt a Chinese orphan just before she died. Kentucky was left to care for a 9-year-old daughter and still manage a veterinary practice in Southern California. Kentucky was a reluctant dad in the style of "Bachelor Father." By the way, the reason he was called "Kentucky" was because his initials were K.Y. ... fill in your own punchline here.

Author's Note: A lot of mail I receive about Dennis Weaver revolves around the mistaken idea that Gentle Ben was a TV Single Dad's show. I think people confuse the plots of Kentucky Jones and Flipper and come up with Gentle Ben. For the record, the mom on Gentle Ben was played by Beth Brickell. And it's easy to confuse Flipper with Gentle Ben, because in both shows, you've got a wild animal in the Florida Everglades.


O.K. Crackerby! 1965-66

O.K. Crackerby

ABC

DAD: O.K. Crackerby (Burl Ives) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: Richest man in the world

KIDS: Cynthia (Brooke Adams), Hobart (teenagers), and O.K. Jr. (age unknown)

WHERE'S MOM?: Dead - unknown causes.

STAND-IN "MOM": St. John Quincy (Hal Buckley), the Crackerby kids' tutor

O.K., like Jed Clampett, was a recent billionaire. The difference was that O.K. was not okay about his roots, and was always trying to get his kids accepted into "High Society." The tutor was hired to teach O.K.'s kids "ethics" instead of O.K.'s constant buying and selling of properties and people.

Update: An alert viewer from Israel pointed out that the Crackerby kids' tutor, St. John (SIN-gin) Quincy, was played by Hal Buckley. St. John was an American, despite his British-sounding name.

A tip of the Lorne Greene Memorial Cowboy Hat to Shaul Ceder (ceder@netvision.net.il) for the inside scoop on the Crackerby's stand-in "mom", and the existence of O.K.,Jr. Thanks, Shaul!


Hank 1965-66

Hank

NBC

DAD: Hank Dearborn (Dick Kallman) / Single

DAD'S JOB: Student-in-disguise

KIDS: Tina Dearborn (Katie Sweet) (5)

WHERE'S MOM?: Parents are dead.

STAND-IN "MOM": Franny (Kelly Jean Peters) / babysitter

Okay, adult brothers can be TV Single Dads, too! (See "Kirk" on my '90's page.) Hank Dearborn's parents died when he was 15, leaving him to support his little sister, Tina. Hank's determination to go to college despite his situation turned him into an "undercover student," sneaking into college classes using a variety of disguises. Of course, Hank was always trying to stay one step ahead of the registrar, Dr. Royal (Howard St. John).

Another waggle of the Songbird Memorial Wings for Shaul Ceder (ceder@netvision.net.il) for pointing out this '60's show. Thanks again, Shaul!

Update: Alert Viewer Valerie Ellis chimes in with some Sweet (as in Katie) info:

One role Katie Sweet did was on Bonanza. She was Peggy Dayton, the 9 (or so)-year-old daughter of the airhead (played by Kathie Browne) they tried to saddle Adam with when Pernell Roberts was giving them a hard time about his contract. She eventually went off with Guy "Zorro" "Lost in Space" Williams, who played Cousin Will Cartwright, when the female fans raised bloody hell about marrying off her and Adam. Katie Sweet was the best thing about those four episodes (The Waiting Game, The Cheating Game, The Pressure Game, Triangle Dec.1963-May 1964). She was a better actress than Browne and she and Roberts had much more chemistry than Browne and Roberts. But she must be closer to 45 or 50 than 40. I'm 43 and I was 7 when she was in those episodes. I only saw them in reruns. Hope this helps with the filmography.

It does indeed, Valerie - thanks!

More updates: Alert Viewer Janet Roy relates a childhood experience with Katie Sweet:

...Could not resist the urge to forward a bit of info about Katie Sweet. She should be 45 years old and going on 46.

When I was in the 7th grade at Turkeyfoot Jr. High in Edgewood, Kentucky,(Greater Cincinnati area), she came to our school for awhile because she was staying with her grandparents for some reason. (Never thought about the reason). She was in our grade but not my class. This was the school year 1967 - 1968. She had that super long hair and it flew around a lot. She made a few class plays until one day she announced she was going back to Hollywood to do a movie. That was the last time I heard of Katie Sweet.

It was around 1973 or so after graduation she did appear again in the Northern Kentucky area to attend NKU for drama. (Not sure whether to teach or further education).

She again stayed with her grandparents in Ft. Wright, Kentucky.

After reading the article in the Kentucky Post newspaper, no mention of her ever again that I heard of.

I wished always I kept that newspaper article. I never forgot the time she portrayed a ghost in the class play. She looked so cute and was never a shy person.

Thanks for the look back, Janet!

Update, 29 June 2005: And the finale? Katie Sweet herself writes in!

I used to be Katie Sweet.

And I'm alive and well and 49 and an insurance agent in Central Oregon -- go figure... I never did sneaky things behind the teacher's back but I did get in trouble for my skirts being too short at Turkeyfoot Jr. High in Kentucky. I can't believe people remember me or have any interest in whatever became of me. I have three daughters - 27, 8 and 6 and this stuff on the internet blows them away almost as much as it blows me away. I enjoyed my career and must admit, for all the cool jobs I had and all the cool people I met( like Alfred Hitchcock when I worked on The Birds) the highlight was when I met Sean Connery with whom I'd fallen in love from watching Darby O'Gill and the Little People on to James Bond.

A huge tip of the Ben Cartwright Memorial Ten Gallon Hat to Katie Sweet for filling in the details after all this fan mail. Thanks, Katie!


Thunderbirds 1964-67

Thunderbirds

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.


Jonny Quest 1964-65

Jonny Quest

ABC

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 my 90's page for more information.


Gidget 1966-67

Gidget

ABC

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.


Batman 1966-68

Batman

ABC

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!


The Farmer's Daughter 1963-66

The Farmer's Daughter

ABC

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.


Family Affair 1966-71

Family Affair

CBS

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 Second Hundred Years 1966-67

Second 100 Years

ABC

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.


The Guns of Will Sonnett 1967-1969

Will Sonnet

ABC

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.


Accidental Family 1967-68

NBC

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 Courtship of Eddie's Father 1969-72

Bill Bixby

ABC

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!


Mayberry R.F.D. 1968-71

CBS

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."


Lancer 1968-1971

CBS

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!


Governor & J.J. 1969-72

Dan Daily and Julie Sommars

CBS

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!


Daktari 1966-69

Daktari

CBS

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?


To Rome With Love 1969-71

CBS

DAD: Michael Endicott (John Forsythe) / Widower

DAD'S JOB: College Professor

KIDS: Alison (Joyce Menges), Penny (Susan Neher), Mary Jane "Pokey" (Melanie Fullerton)

WHERE'S MOM?: Died just before episode one.

STAND-IN "MOM": Harriet Endicott (Kay Medford) / Aunt, then Andy Pruitt (Walter Brennan) / Grandpa

Whenever I get the book version of this website published, I'm going to devote a whole chapter to the Standard Television Plot of Dad moving to another part of the world after Mom goes to heaven.

In this show, Professor Endicott takes a job in The Eternal City after his wife dies. Bella hijinks ensue.

This show marks several firsts. One of these firsts is actually a "second" - it's the first time an actor has played a Single Dad character on two different shows (John Forsythe). The show also marks the first (and one of the few) shows where the Single Dad is the father of an all-girl tribe (excluding only children like Gidget and My Little Margie). Kinda like an anti-My Three Sons.