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Dom Com about Steven Douglas, a wise, kindly widower, raising his three sons by himself; kind of like half The Brady Bunch. Starred Fred MacMurray and William Demarest. The show lasted from 1960 to 1972, a total of 378 episodes in 12 seasons.


This show provides examples of:

  • Absentee Actor: Sort of. Fred MacMurray's contract allowed him to shoot all his scenes for the season in a short time frame, allowing him much more time off than would normally be available to a series star. This meant that an episode was almost never completed all at once, and the other actors regularly found themselves shooting scenes that belonged to episodes for which MacMurray's contribution had been done weeks or even months before. The staff had to be very meticulous about things like wardrobe, props, makeup, etc. to preserve continuity, making sure that, for example, haircuts didn't vary much over the course of a season so that scenes shot weeks or months apart would match in the finished product.
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  • Afraid to Hold the Baby: Discussed in "Marriage By Proxy". Steve tells Mike that he was too afraid to hold him for about a week after he was born, not wanting to infect Mike with his "adult germs."
  • The All-American Boy: Chip is blonde, plays baseball (National Pastime), substitutes a raft for a treehouse (Raft on the River), and even wished for a younger sister (The Lostling). His brothers have elements of it as well. Robbie tinkers with machinery in the garage and Mike has a fondness for letterman jackets.
  • Always Identical Twins: Robbie and Katie's triplet sons, Stevie, Charley, and Robbie Jr, are identical.
  • Canine Companion: Chip and his dog, Tramp, are often paired together in plotlines or individual scenes.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Possibly the originator of this trope, except in name. As mentioned below, Bub was no longer referred to sometime after William Frawley left; sometimes, even flashbacks showed only Uncle Charlie. Once after Mike left, it was discussed having the two younger boys move in with him, and then he was mentioned no more, neither was Ernie's being adopted. One imagines the re-marriage and Dodie would have eventually been so retconned, making Beverly Garland's character a very tired woman. Knowing of this policy, Katie's actress wondered what would happen to her if the show continued without Robbie. It only lasted one season past this, though.
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  • Cock Fight: One-sided on Robbie's part in the episode Brotherly Love, when he thinks Mike is trying to steal a girl he has a crush on.
  • Companion Cube: Dodie's puppet doll, Myrtle,note  although it was used less as the series went on and Dodie aged.
  • Cousin Oliver: Ernie (the Douglas' adopted son, joining the household in 1965), and later, Dodie (played by Dawn Lyn), as Steve's stepdaughter after he re-marries in 1969.
    • In the case of the addition of Dodie, the former Jump the Shark website entry for My Three Sons had some very negative remarks about the character, eventually prompting Lyn to post her own entry sharing her positive experiences on the show and working with MacMurray, Garland, Demarest and the rest of the cast.
  • Deadpan Snarker: All of the casts. Even the mild-mannered Steve has his moments.
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: Also Smoking Is Cool. Steve smokes a pipe, and in several later episodes, Robbie also takes up pipe smoking. In addition, at least one episode showed Katie taking a job as a cigarette vendor at a nightclub (although Katie never smokes in any episode).
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Most of the 'Bub and Mike' episodes, particularly the first season, are decidedly more manic and slapstick than the more phlegmatic episodes that come later in the run. Steve in particular is more like a mild Bumbling Dad than the wise sage that he would later become.
  • Elopement: Chip and Polly in season 11. Also seems to be a Fourth Date Marriage, as they get married seven episodes after her introduction.
  • Endangered Soufflé: In "Happy Birthday, World," son Robbie tries to earn extra money by setting up a home business making birthday cakes. At one point, while he's making a set of cakes, a door is slammed in the house and causes the three cakes in the oven to collapse.
  • Fainting: Miss Pitts does this after mistakenly believing Chip beat his grandfather's dead body.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: Steve and Barbara meet in the first episode of season 10, get engaged three episodes later, and are married four episodes after that.
    • More or less the standard on this show, with the only exception being Mike and Sally, who are engaged for over a season and half.(They did, however, get engaged five episodes after her introduction.)
  • Kindly Housekeeper: Leona, a one-shot character.
  • Long Runner: Ran for 12 seasons (five on ABC, seven on CBS). Had it not been for faltering ratings during the final season, the possibility existed for renewal for the 1972-1973 season.
  • Long-Runner Cast Turnover: The only two actors in the main cast who remained on the show all 12 seasons were Fred MacMurray and Stanley Livingston (Chip).
  • May–December Romance: Somewhat, as a 50s-something Steve begins a romance with a widowed 40-year-old woman (Barbara, played by Beverly Garland) and eventually marries her.
    • This was also joked about in "Big Ol' Katie".
  • House Husband: Or rather "House Grandpa" for Bub, and later "House Uncle" for Uncle Charlie.
  • Insistent Terminology: Myrtle is a puppet, not a doll, as Dodie will tell anyone who refers to her as such.
  • It's a Costume Party, I Swear!: Robbie falls victim to one of these pranks (as does Bub) in "The Chaperone". Luckily, his Girl of the Week love interest (who was hosting) realized how mean-spirited the prank was and also came in costume.
  • Men Can't Keep House: Double Subverted. The men had been perfectly able to manage an all-male household before Katie joined them. But when she goes away on a visit to relatives, they've forgotten all of their housekeeping skills.
  • Missing Mom: Steve's first wife had died at some point before the series began, leaving him a widower with three sons. At some later point, Steve hires his father-in-law (his first wife's father), William "Bub" O'Casey (William Frawley), to help manage the household. The first wife's uncle, Charles ("Uncle Charlie") O'Casey, Bub's brother, takes over in 1965.
  • Not What It Looks Like: The entire plot of The Little Ragpicker. Miss Pitts, a neighbor, thinks the Douglas men are criminally dangerous because of a few out-of-context moments.
  • Old-School Chivalry. Moments of this occur throughout the series, like when Bub tells Robbie to tuck his shirt in after a lady enters their house in Chip Off the Old Block, or when Mike offers to drive a girl home rather than let her walk in Brotherly Love.
    • Discussed in "The Chaperone". Robbie complains that Bub ruined a party he (Robbie) was attending by insisting that the teenage party-goers behave this way.
  • One-Line Anxiety: In "Robbie Valentino", an educational film is being shot in Robbie's chemistry class, and he is given one line he can't stop worrying over: "Please pass the Bunsen burner."
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Almost every major character:
    • "Steve" for Steven Douglas
    • "Bub" note  for William O'Casey
    • "Mike" for Michael Douglas
    • "Robbie" for Robert Douglas
    • "Chip" for Richard Douglas
    • Chip's original best friend Hubert "Sudsy" Pfeiffer.
    • Later "Ernie", for Ernest Douglas.
    • Charlie, for Charles O'Casey
    • "Kate" for Katherine Douglas, Robbie's wife.
    • "Dodie" for Dorothy Douglas, Steve's stepdaughter.
    • AND the exception. Barbara, Steve's second-wife, is Barbara. Never Barb, or Barbie!
  • Overprotective Dad: Steve mentions in The Elopement that his father-in-law, Bub, fought him every step of the way when he wanted to marry his first wife. The show's premise and their interactions throughout the series suggest they got over it.
  • Panty Shot: in particular, it's "I see Paris, I see France, I see Dodie's underpants!"
  • Paranormal Episode: In the episode "Coincidence." After wishing that he'd had three girls instead of boys, Steve gives a ride to a mysterious hitchhiker visible only to himself. In a unknown neighborhood on the other side of town, Steve's car breaks down and he seeks help at a house with a widow, her mother-in-law and her three daughters - the distaff counterparts of his family, down to being the same age with similar names.
  • Precocious Crush: Dodie and several of her classmates all develop one on their new teacher, Mr. Turley, in "The Love God". It ends after Mr. Turley has dinner with the Douglases, brings his fiancee along, kisses her "right at the table", and "slobs his custard" while eating dessert.
  • Put on a Bus: At least three instances:
    • Bub O'Casey, who left in early 1965 after Frawley's health began to fail. Bub was said to be on a tour of Europe, and when Frawley died in 1966, no mention was made of Bub's passing. (His replacement was Uncle Charley, played by William Demarest.)
    • Mike Douglas, played by Tim Considine, who left after the first color episode of the 1965-1966 season when he grew tired of the role. He was married to his girlfriend, Sally (played by Meredith MacRae), and the two moved out east... never to return. The resultant void was filled by Ernie (Chip's orphaned friend, played by Stanley Livingston's real-life brother, Barry).
    • Robbie Douglas, the (initially) middle son played by Don Grady, who left the show in 1971. Robbie, who followed his father into engineering, was sent to an extended construction project in Peru.
  • Same-Sex Triplets: Robbie and Katie's three sons, Stevie, Charley, and Robbie Jr.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Bub and Steve play with this dynamic, especially in the episode "Brotherly Love." The former thinks his grandsons should solve their problems with fisticuffs, while the latter thinks they should resolve it with diplomacy. However, Bub is the homemaker and Steve is the breadwinner.
  • Spinning Paper: The opening of "Heat Wave".
  • Stalking Is Funny If Its Female After Male: Played with. Doreen Peters calls Chip at his home late one night, and she loiters in front of his house, but she's only a child.
  • Standard '50s Father: Steve Douglas is an exemplar. He smokes a pipe, works an office job, wears suits and cotton pajamas, loves his sons wholeheartedly and tries to raise them right.
  • Teens Are Short: Mike, Robbie and eventually Chip and Ernie, are considerably shorter than their father through their teens and (with Mike and Robbie) even into their twenties. Could be explained by their taking after their mother's family; Mike, Robbie and Chip are about the height of Grandpa Bub.
  • Title Drop: After the birth of Robbie and Katie's male triplets.
    Robbie: I'm just thinking about how much I love you... and my three sons.
  • Very Special Episode: Although very few of the episodes dealt with socially relevant themes, one of the final episodes — "Whatever Happened to Ernie" — had the Douglases helping a family of one of Ernie's classmates after it is believed that the teen had fallen into drug use.

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