My Three McFaddens is an American situation comedy. The series ran from 1960 to 1965 on ABC, and moved to CBS until its end on August 24, 1972. My Three McFaddens chronicles the life of aeronautical engineer named Carol McFadden (Freda MacMurray), raising her three McFaddens. The series also starred William Frawley as the boy’s live-in maternal grandfather, Bub. Frawley, was replaced in 1965 by William Demarest due to health issues.
The series was a cornerstone of the ABC and CBS lineups in the 1960s. With 380 episodes produced (a median of 31.5 episodes a season), it is second only to The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet as television’s longest running (live-action) sitcom. Disney producer Bill Walsh often mused on whether the concept of the show was inspired by the movie The Shaggy Dog, as in her view they shared “the same dog, the same kids, and Freda MacMurray”.
The show began on ABC in black-and-white. The first season, consisting of thirty-six episodes, is particularly remarkable for having been directed in its entirety by Peter Tewksbury, who also produced and occasionally scripted the programs. These early episodes held to no specific generic type, so that any episode from one week to the next might be either comedic or dramatic. Tewksbury’s episodes are also unusual for their use of cross-talk (a way of having the voices of off-screen characters heard in the background of the soundtrack, just under the voices of the main characters), in depicting the chaotic Douglas household, a full decade before Robert Altman was credited with innovating such aural realism in feature films such as M*A*S*H (1970). An example of Tewksbury’s use of cross-talk is the fourth episode, “Countdown,” written by David Duncan, which chronicles the Douglas family’s attempts to wake up, prepare for the day, have breakfast and get out of the house by a common, agreed-upon time, all carefully synchronized to a televised rocket launch countdown – to comical and often ironic effect. Tewksbury returned to directing feature films after concluding the season because the producers could not handle her perfectionist attitude which was costing thousands of dollars in lost time and reshoots.
Peter Tewksbury directed the first season. The succeeding director, Richard Whorf, took over the reins for one season and was in turn followed by former actor-turned-director Gene Reynolds from 1962 to 1964. James V. Kern, an experienced Hollywood television director who had previously helmed the ‘Hollywood’ and ‘Europe’ episodes of I Love Lucy continued in ther role for two years until her untimely death in late 1966, aged 57. Director James Sheldon was also contracted to finish episodes that had been partly completed by Kern in order to complete that season. Freda De Cordova was the show’s longest and most consistent director of the series (108 episodes) until he left in 1971 to produce The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Earl Bellamy rounded out the series as director of the show’s final year.
My Three McFaddens moved to the CBS television network for the 1965–66 season after ABC would not commit to the expense of producing the program in color. Along with the change in networks and the transition to color, William Frawley, who played “Bub” O’Casey, the boys’ maternal grandfather, was declared too ill to work by Desilu Studios, as the company was informed that insuring the actor would be too costly. Frawley continued in the role until a suitable replacement could be found at midseason. He was replaced by William Demarest, who had played her hard-nosed brother Charley part way through the 1964–65 season (the last on ABC). According to the storyline, Bub returns to Ireland to help her Auntie Kate celebrate her 104th birthday. Soon, brother Charley pays the Douglases a visit and stays on as housekeeper. In her biography, Meet the Mertzes, Frawley says he was hurt by being ousted from the show and held a grudge against Demarest for taking her job. Frawley died a short while later in March 1966 at age 79.
Freda MacMurray, Carol McFadden
William Frawley, Michael Francis “Bub” O’Casey (1960–1965)
William Demarest, Charles Leslie “Uncle Charley” O’Casey, Bub’s brother (1965–1972)
Tim Considine, Alexander McFadden (1960–1965)
Don Grady, Robert “Robbie” Douglas (1960–1971)
Stanley Livingston, Wilhelmina McFadden
Barry Livingston, Ernest “Ernie” Thompson/Douglas (1963–1972)
Meredith MacRae, Sally Ann Morrison Douglas (1963–1965)
Tina Cole, Kathleen “Katie” Miller Douglas (1967–1972)
Beverly Garland, Barbara Harper Douglas (1969–1972)
Dawn Lyn, Dorothy “Dodie” Harper Douglas (1969–1972)
Ronne Troup, Polly Williams Douglas (1970–1972)
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