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My Three Sons

Caproni

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I've gotten into My Three Sons through its reruns on MeTV. It's another of those old school comedies that I've always known about, but I've let it slide right under my radar. I actually enjoy it.

My Three Sons aired from 1960 to 1972, totaling twelve seasons and 380 episodes. It aired on ABC in black-and-white from 1960 to 1965 (184 episodes) and then on CBS in color from 1965 to 1972 (196 episodes). The series was still placing #13 in the Nielsen ratings in 1965 when ABC decided to cancel it because they did not want to pay the expenses to shoot the show in color. CBS immediately picked up the show and starting airing it in color until it was cancelled seven years later.

The same time My Three Sons was moving from ABC to CBS, cast member Tom Considine (who played the eldest son Mike) had decided to leave the show. He married his on-screen fiancee Sally (Meredith MacRae) in the story line, and was not seen on the series again, although he was occasionally mentioned. To keep the "three son" concept of the title intact, father Stephen Douglas (film star Fred MacMurray) adopts a young boy into the family.

My Three Sons had an impressive run. It lasted for twelve seasons (despite network changes) and spent eleven of those twelve years in the Nielsen top thirty (it was still ranking at #19 as late as 1971). Most historians group the series into the infamous "rural purge" series of sitcom cancellations in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Any fans?


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Crimson

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Not really a show I care for much, to be honest. I think it's one of those shows that emphasized the sit over the com; I just don't find it very funny. Worse, I recall it having one of those out-of-proportion laugh tracks. I think the earlier episodes with Bill Frawley were at least better than the show's later seasons. I can understand why some like it, though: it's one of those cozy, comfortable shows.

The most interesting thing about the show is how it was filmed. Fred MacMurray apparently had little interest in the series, and shot all of his scenes in two batches over a few weeks' time. He would read his lines to a point off camera, change his sweater, and do the same for the next script. The other actors would then film their scenes which would be spliced with MacMurray's. The only other show I am aware of filmed in that method was Doris Day's sitcom; Doris, like Fred, seemed to view her series with disinterest bordering on contempt.
 
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Caproni

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Not really a show I care for much, to be honest. I think it's one of those shows that emphasized the sit over the com; I just don't find it very funny. Worse, I recall it having one of those out-of-proportion laugh tracks. I think the earlier episodes with Bill Frawley were at least better than the show's later seasons. I can understand why some like it, though: it's one of those cozy, comfortable shows.

The most interesting thing about the show is how it was filmed. Fred MacMurray apparently had little interest in the series, and shot all of his scenes in two batches over a few weeks' time. He would read his lines to a point off camera, change his sweater, and do the same for the next script. The other actors would then film their scenes which would be spliced with MacMurray's. The only other show I am aware of filmed in that method was Doris Day's sitcom; Doris, like Fred, seemed to view her series with disinterest bordering on contempt.
I was not aware of that concerning Fred MacMurray. I just assumed he enjoyed working on the show because he did it for twelve years. He must have just saw it as a job, an easy and consistent way of keeping a steady cash flow. And that's understandable, too.

My Three Sons is one of those cozy, old-fashioned comedies. That's one of the reason I like it. It isn't laugh-out-loud funny, but I do find it humorous and it warrants a few chuckles per episode. Now, I might couldn't handle the show in large doses, but I can easily sit through three or four episodes at a time and enjoy the whole ride.

It's practically a legend that Doris Day resented doing The Doris Day Show. She was oblivious to the fact that Marty Melcher had obligated her to a sitcom, but she did it because there was a contract. I always heard she enjoyed the show better in the final two seasons when she had gained more creative control and brought in the swinging career girl aspect to the story.


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Whether she enjoyed the work or not, Doris Day looked lovely on her series.
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Crimson

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I was not aware of that concerning Fred MacMurray. I just assumed he enjoyed working on the show because he did it for twelve years. He must have just saw it as a job, an easy and consistent way of keeping a steady cash flow.

Yes, I don't think Fred was resentful towards the show in the way Doris was (justifiably) towards hers, but that he saw it as an easy paycheck.

Bill Frawley, on the other hand, resented both how MY THREE SONS was filmed (being used to the sequential filming of I LOVE LUCY) and even more so when he was pushed out. The boys in the cast seemed to like Frawley a lot more than his replacement, William Demerest. Frawley was apparently something of a rowdy grandfather figure to the boys, and used them as pawns in his feud with Vivian Vance; he would encourage them to play tricks on her while she filmed THE LUCY SHOW on the sound stage next door.
 

Seaviewer

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I've heard about the way MacMurray filmed his scenes as well. Didn't know about the switch to colour and network change, though. But even all in black and white and on the same channel there did seem a fresh start at that point. I think they even moved house then.
 

Caproni

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I still find it rather fascinating that Fred MacMurray filmed all his scenes at one time. And if he did that for twelve years, and on two different networks, that's quite a record.
 

Chris2

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The “McMurray Method” was also used for Brian Keith in “Family Affair”, from the same producers.

The show’s best years are the first five in B&W, though the first two color are still decent and use the same format (albeit with Charley instead of Bub, and Ernie instead of Mike). After that, they started marrying everyone off and it went downhill). More people are familiar with the color years though, because the B&W episodes weren’t originally part of the syndication package. We used to watch it in reruns in the 70s and my mom would sometimes comment about an older brother who moved away. We just thought she was mixed up. LOL.
 

DallasFanForever

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Wow! I never knew that about the way Fred Macmurray filmed his scenes. That’s absolutely mind boggling to me! Now I’ve gotta go back and look at some old episodes to see if it’s noticeable at all
 

Caproni

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I was thinking about MY THREE SONS earlier today. I wish there was somewhere I could watch it online, preferably for free.​
 
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