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Series / Family Affair

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Family Affair was a 1966–71 CBS Dom Com about three children named Cissy, Jody, and Buffy, who — having lost their parents to a car accident — went to live with their bachelor uncle Bill Davis (Brian Keith) and his British manservant Mr. French (Sebastian Cabot) in a swanky Manhattan apartment.

Today, the show is mostly remembered for both its creator-producer Don Fedderson and the network insisting that the character of Buffy should remain a young, prepubescent child, even as actress Anissa Jones entered puberty and got closer and closer to high school.

A revival of the series, starring Gary Cole as Uncle Bill and Tim Curry as Mr. French, aired on The WB during the 2002 season.

Not to be confused with British soap opera Family Affairs.

This series provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: In the second episode, Mr. French reads Winnie the Pooh to Buffy and Jody. Earlier the same year, Sebastian Cabot had narrated Disney's Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree and he would go on to narrate the other two classic Disney Pooh shorts too. Repeated references to French reading them the book are made throughout a good part of the series.
  • Artistic License – Linguistics: The children are said to come from Terre Haute, Indiana, but they always pronounce it as "Terre Hut" instead of the correct local pronounciation "Terre Hoat".
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Christmas Special, "Christmas Came a Little Early." The Christmas party given by Bill and the family makes Eve happy, but Eve is still going to die soon. The episode ends with Buffy realizing this sad truth and crying in Bill's arms.
  • And Starring: On the revival, thanks to Tim Curry getting top billing (followed by Caitlin Wachs, Sasha Pieterse and Jimmy "Jax" Pinchak), Gary Cole gets "And.."
  • Broken Pedestal: In one episode, Cissy develops a crush on her psychology teacher Julian Hill, played by Robert Reed of future Brady Bunch fame. But when he visits the apartment, he horrifies Cissy by calling Buffy and Jody "little monsters" when they accidentally spill hot coffee on him (although he immediately apologizes). After a talk with Bill, Cissy learns to respect Mr. Hill as a teacher yet realize that he's a human being, not a flawless idol.
  • Candy Striper: The episode The Candy Striper sees 15-year old Cissy wishing to join her friend Sharon as a Candy Striper at the local hospital. The minimum age for volunteers is 16, so Cissy needs her Uncle Bill to meet with the hospital administrator to give permission for her to work. Cissy nearly causes an incident when she brings an old woman a glass of water before surgery, but she makes up for her earlier misstep when she helps a pregnant woman on the maternity ward deliver a baby.
  • Comic-Book Time: Buffy, six in season one, mentions that she's "almost nine" in the third-to-last episode of the final season (five). You could argue that the series takes place over a shorter amount of time than it was aired...if not for the fact that the fifth season opens with an episode called "It Can't Be Five Years" where the fact that the kids first came to live with Uncle Bill exactly five years ago is repeatedly and explicitly stated!
  • Companion Cube: Mrs. Beasley, Buffy's doll, which she still treats like a living person even as a preteen in the later seasons.
  • Delicate and Sickly: Eve Plumb of future Brady Bunch fame plays a terminally ill little girl in the episode "Christmas Came a Little Early".
  • Dom Com: A classic example of the genre, with most episodes taking place in and around the family's apartment.
  • Don't Split Us Up: Cissy, Jody and Buffy were originally split up and each sent to live with different relatives after their parents died. In the first episode, Bill initially takes in just Buffy, and is reluctant to take in all three siblings, but by the end of the second episode he decides not to split them up again.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Mr. French's first name is Giles.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Buffy's signature hairstyle.
  • Heartwarming Orphan: All three kids.
  • The Jeeves: Mr. French, the very British "gentleman's gentleman" who also serves as cook and babysitter to the children.
  • Kiddie Kid: Jody and Buffy in the later seasons, due to being Not Allowed to Grow Up.
  • Last-Name Basis: Bill just calls his servant "French," while the children call him "Mr. French." This is his preference, since he dislikes his first name, Giles.
  • Lethal Chef: Now and then Cissy attempts to cook for her uncle and siblings, but the results are comically bad.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Aunt Fran. In the pilot, she coaches Buffy as to what to say to Bill, and she points out in front of Bill, that his penthouse has plenty of room to house a child. In a later episode, she decides she wants Buffy back with her and thus attempts to manipulate Buffy, again.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Buffy's new friend Lana in the season 3 episode "The Latch-Key Kid" creates a hairdo out of Buffy's hair that would be the envy of many high-end salon hairstylists despite her young age and complete lack of professional training.
  • Nephewism: Part of the show's premise; Buffy, Jody and Cissy move in with their uncle after losing their parents in a car crash.
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: Buffy and Jody were still made to act like 7-year-olds toward the series' end when theynote  were pushing 13, not only on the show but in their real-life public appearances too. The whole sordid story is on the trope's analysis page.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Cissy's real name is Catherine, but hardly anyone calls her that. Sources such as the show's IMDb page give Buffy's full name as "Ava Elizabeth" and Jody's as "Jonathan," though these never seem to be stated in the show, so the canonicity of these is dubious.
  • Parental Substitute: Uncle Bill and Mr. French both serve as this to the kids in different ways.
  • Plot Allergy: In the episode "The Award," Jody and Buffy start to constantly itch, and Uncle Bill worries that they've developed a psychosomatic allergy because he's been overly strict with them. But actually they're allergic to the modeling clay they've been secretly using to make a "Best Uncle Award" sculpture for Bill.
  • Precocious Crush: In one episode, Jody becomes enamored of his substitute teacher. Eventually the family realizes why: the teacher bears a striking resemblance to his Missing Mom.
  • Practically Different Generations: Cissy is nine years older than her younger siblings Buffy and Jody.
  • Show Within a Show: In one episode, Mr. French is cast as Henry VIII in a movie about the famous king. But when Bill sees a private screening before the premiere, he sees that the film has been edited as a comic farce that will humiliate Mr. French, so he threatens the producer with a lawsuit to prevent it from ever being released.
  • The Tonsillitis Episode: In "A Matter of Tonsils," Buffy and Jody both have their tonsils removed.
  • Very Special Episode: "Christmas Came a Little Early", which sees the family holding an early Christmas for a terminally ill classmate of Jody's.
  • Written-In Absence / Suspiciously Similar Substitute: When Sebastion Cabot became ill and had to miss part of the first season, Mr. French was said to be off accompanying the Queen on a tour of the Commonwealth. His brother, Nigel French (John Williams), took over the household duties in his stead.

The 2002 revival series provides examples of:

  • Darker and Edgier: Sasha Pieterse's version of Buffy responds to Mr French's dismissal of her love for her doll as a friend by threateningly saying "You're beginning to ANNOY Mrs. Beasley!"