How did Fred MacMurray become a beloved TV dad while he was portraying a major cad at the local cinema? While making the episodes that appear on My Three Sons: The First Season, Volume Two, MacMurray starred in The Apartment. Instead of being a family man, he turned Jack Lemmons bedroom into his den of infidel sin. While driving Shirley MacLaine to a suicidal cliff, he gave moral lessons to three young boys. Thank goodness William Frawley (I Love Lucys Fred Mertz) really raised the boys.
Before a discussion of the various episodes, lets place one fact on the table: the score has been changed. Every musical cue outside of the opening and closing theme songs has been rescored. Fans of the original series will be annoyed by this tinkering. However it seems to be the sad fact for so many of the TV shows that relied upon borrowing previously recorded music instead of creating their own sound snippets. I had no real problem with the new music, but the devoted might get frustrated.
“Organization Woman” has Aunt Harriet (Joan Tewkbury) visit the house while dad (MacMurray) is away. The house is a three ring circus with the boys constantly getting in each others way. Bub (Frawley) cant get his work done. Its a mess. She uses her efficiency expert training to come up with a schedule and traffic pattern to streamline the life in the house. How will dad react when he returns to see his kids living by the clock? “Man in a Trench Coat” has Robbie (Don Grady) suspect a spy is in the neighborhood. Dad is once again away on work. When he comes back, he thinks the kid has just read too many mystery stories. Or maybe the son saw Double Indemnity?
“Off Key” has Chip (Stanley Livingston) bragging to a friend about how great Robbie is. He swears he can fix things. Their brotherly devotion has Robbie fixing a broken piano wire at the friends house. Except he needs a little help from dad without letting the old man know about the dismantled piano. “Soap Box Derby” shows father like son with cross cutting. Robbie decides he must enter the Soap Box Derby contest to impress a girl thats smitten by his buddy. During the same time, Dad gets a major offer to help a defense contractor fix their missile system to land a major government contract. Their actions and attitude mirror each other. Normally a family sitcom is a stage play performed in front of three TV cameras. This episode is purely cinematic even down to the final scene when Bub attempts to save the day.
â€¨The tone of the show swayed from comedy to drama. “Small Adventure” has Tramp, the dog, dig bring home a stick of dynamite. Not too many comedies involve pets and explosives. “Fire Watch” isnt nearly as lighthearted as eldest son Mike Douglas (Tim Considine) gets a job with the Forestry Service. He views it as a summer vacation in the woods. But his superiors dont intend on letting the kid goof off. When conditions worsen, Mike must be a man on the job.
My Three Sons: The First Season, Volume Two closes out the first of a dozen seasons involving the Douglas family. Its not the most heartwarming of family shows. Yet it explores the family dynamic of three boys that are barely kept in control thanks to adult supervision. However it comes in the form of Bub and not their dad. MacMurray raises the boys through osmosis.
“Organization Woman,” “Other People’s Houses,” “The Delinquent,” “Man In a Trench Coat,” “Deadline,” “The Lostling,” “Off Key,” “Small Adventure,” “Soap Box Derby,” “Unite or Sink,” “The Wiley Method,” “The National Pastime,” “The Croaker,” “The Musician,” “The Horseless Saddle,” “Trial by Separation,” “The Sunday Drive” and “Fire Watch.”
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The black and white image is sharp and detailed. The single camera show has a cinematic look for most of the action rather than the usual sitcom angles. The audio is Dolby Digital Mono. As mentioned earlier, the score has been replaced. This shouldnt dissuade anyone who wants to enjoy the family conflicts. The magic of William Frawley hovers over mere musical notes.
My Three Sons: The First Season, Volume Two gives further proof that William Frawley knew how to juggle three boys better than Fred MacMurray. Frawley is always around when the boys are in a pinch. MacMurray threatens to squeeze them until they get it right. Many of the episodes reveal this series as more than the usual radio comedy adapted to TV with complicated editing patterns.
CBS DVD presents My Three Sons: The First Season, Volume Two. Starring Fred MacMurray, William Frawley, Don Grady, Stanley Livingston and Tim Considine. Boxset Contents: 18 Episodes on 3 DVDs. Released on DVD: January 20, 2009. Available at Amazon.
Tags: I Love Lucy, William Frawley