Family Affair

Family Affair is an American sitcom that aired on CBS from September 12, 1966, to March 4, 1971. The series explored the trials of well-to-do engineer and bachelor Bill Davis (Brian Keith) as he attempted to raise his brother's orphaned children in his luxury New York City apartment. Davis's traditional English gentleman's gentleman, Mr. Giles French (Sebastian Cabot), also had adjustments to make as he became saddled with the responsibility of caring for 15-year-old Cissy (Kathy Garver) and the five-year-old twins, Jody (Johnny Whitaker) and Buffy (Anissa Jones).[1]

Family Affair
Created byEdmund L. Hartmann
Don Fedderson
Directed byCharles Barton
William D. Russell
Theme music composerFrank De Vol
Composer(s)Jeff Alexander
Nathan Scott
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons5
No. of episodes138 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)Don Fedderson
  • Edmund Beloin
  • Henry Garson
  • Edmund L. Hartmann
  • James H. King
  • Charles Van Enger
  • Richard L. Van Enger
  • Sam Vitale
Camera setupSingle-camera
Running time25 minutes
Production company(s)Don Fedderson Productions
Family Affair Company
DistributorViacom Enterprises
CBS Television Distribution (domestic)
NBCUniversal Television Distribution (internationally)
Original networkCBS
Picture formatColor
Audio formatMonaural
Original releaseSeptember 12, 1966 (1966-09-12) 
March 4, 1971 (1971-03-04)

Family Affair ran for 138 episodes in five seasons. The show was created and produced by Edmund Hartmann and Don Fedderson, also known for My Three Sons and The Millionaire.


William "Bill" Davis, originally of Terre Haute, Indiana, is a successful civil engineer who develops major projects all over the world. A wealthy bachelor who often dates socialites, Bill lives in a large apartment on East 62 Street off Fifth Avenue, in Manhattan, and has a quintessential gentleman's gentleman, Giles French, for a valet. His quiet lifestyle is turned upside-down when his two nieces and nephew move in.

Bill's brother Bob and sister-in-law Mary had died in an automobile accident a year prior to the premiere episode (the DVD collection's notes mistakenly state "tragic plane accident"). Their children—15-year-old Cissy and her young twin siblings, Buffy and Jody—had been dispersed among relatives in Terre Haute for that year, but none of them wanted to continue raising the children, so they all attempted to give the responsibility to Bill. "Uncle Bill" is not keen on the idea at first, but the children endear themselves to him. First comes Buffy, followed by Jody and, finally, Cissy. Mr. French is initially mortified by the situation, becoming effectively the children's nanny on top of his valet duties. As time passes they all become a family, albeit an accidental one.

When Sebastian Cabot became ill, Giles's brother, Nigel "Niles" French (John Williams) was introduced. He worked for the Davis family for nine episodes in 1967, while Giles was said to be touring with the Queen in the Commonwealth countries. In the last season, Bill hired a part-time housekeeper, Emily Turner (Nancy Walker), to assist Mr. French.

Various other characters were also seen regularly, including several acquaintances of Mr. French's who are in service (most notably Miss Faversham, played by Heather Angel), colleagues of Bill's, and friends of Cissy's.


As Don Fedderson's other program, My Three Sons, had done for Fred MacMurray, Family Affair used a 60-day production schedule to accommodate Brian Keith. All of his scenes for the season would be shot in two 30-day blocks, while his co-stars would fill in after the actor's work was completed. This enabled Fedderson to harness actors like Keith and MacMurray into television commitments, while still enabling each to make motion pictures. As a result, each season had a single director for each of the 30-odd scripts.

Due to the popularity of the series with girls, Buffy's doll, "Mrs. Beasley" (which she often carried with her), was marketed as a Mattel talking toy in the United States. Mattel went on to produce two additional dolls, as well, patterned after Buffy: the "Tutti"-sized Buffy and larger "Small Talk Buffy" (talking doll), both of which featured accompanying miniature Mrs. Beasley dolls.


The theme song was composed by veteran television composer Frank DeVol. The opening featured credits appearing over a kaleidoscope-patterned background.

Most episodes in the fifth season opened with either Sebastian Cabot or the twins, saying, "Good evening, so nice of you to join us." and closing the episode saying, "It's been very good of you to watch and we do hope to see you again next week on Family Affair."


  • Brian Keith as William Sean Roger "Uncle Bill" Davis
  • Sebastian Cabot as Giles French
  • Kathy Garver as Catherine Allison Rachael "Cissy" Patterson Davis
  • Johnny Whitaker as Jonathan Joshua "Jody" Patterson Davis
  • Anissa Jones as Elizabeth "Buffy" Patterson Davis
  • Heather Angel as Miss Faversham, Mr. French’s friend (seasons 1–5)
  • John Williams as Nigel "Niles" French (season 1)
  • Nancy Walker as Emily Turner (season 5)
  • John Hubbard as Theodore "Ted" Gaynor, Bill’s business partner (season 1)
  • Betty Lynn as Miss Lee, Bill’s secretary (seasons 1–2)
  • Sherry Alberoni as Sharon James, Cissy’s girlfriend (seasons 1–3)
  • Gregg Fedderson (producer Don Fedderson's son) as Gregg Bartlett, Cissy’s boyfriend (seasons 2–5)
  • Karl Lukas as Scott "Scotty" Parker, the doorman (seasons 1–3)

Notable guest stars


As discussed by Kathy Garver on the final season's DVD features, the show's cast suffered several deaths, most of which came prematurely: Anissa Jones (who played Buffy) died of a drug overdose (of sleeping pills) in 1976, aged 18.[2] Sebastian Cabot (who played Mr. French) died of a stroke in 1977, aged 59.[3] Brian Keith (who played Uncle Bill) committed suicide by gunshot in 1997, aged 75, two months after the suicide of his daughter, and himself having lived with cancer for some time.[4][5]


SeasonEpisodesOriginally airedRankRatingTied with
First airedLast aired
130September 12, 1966 (1966-09-12)May 15, 1967 (1967-05-15)1422.6The Dean Martin Show
230September 11, 1967 (1967-09-11)April 8, 1968 (1968-04-08)425.5Gunsmoke
328September 23, 1968 (1968-09-23)April 14, 1969 (1969-04-14)525.2N/A
426September 25, 1969 (1969-09-25)April 2, 1970 (1970-04-02)524.2N/A
524September 17, 1970 (1970-09-17)March 4, 1971 (1971-03-04)N/AN/AN/A

Home media

MPI Home Video has released all five seasons of Family Affair on DVD in Region 1 by MPI Home Video (under license from the Don Fedderson estate).

DVD name Ep. # Release date Special features / notes
Season One 30 June 27, 2006
  • Family Affair: Behind the Scenes with Kathy Garver
  • Photo Gallery
Season Two 30 November 21, 2006
  • "An Affair to Remember" (interview with Kathy Garver)
  • "Memories" (Five-minute piece with Garver showing Family Affair memorabilia)
Season Three 28 March 27, 2007
  • The Family Affair Reunion Special
Season Four 26 October 30, 2007
  • A Conversation with Johnny Whitaker
  • "The Child Stars"
Season Five 24 February 26, 2008
  • A visit by Kathy Garver to the CBS Studio City lot where the series was filmed
The Complete Series 138 November 25, 2008
  • Repackaging of Seasons 1–5 in a slimmer case

Awards and nominations

Year Association Category Nominee Result
1967Emmy AwardsOutstanding Writing Achievement in ComedyEdmund L. Hartmann
For episode "Buffy"
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in ComedyWilliam D. RussellNominated
Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Comedy SeriesBrian KeithNominated
1968Emmy AwardsOutstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Comedy SeriesBrian KeithNominated
Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Comedy SeriesSebastian CabotNominated
Outstanding Comedy SeriesEdmund L. HartmannNominated
1969Emmy AwardsOutstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Comedy SeriesBrian KeithNominated
Outstanding Comedy SeriesEdmund L. HartmannNominated
1971Golden Globe AwardsBest Television Series – Musical or ComedyFamily AffairNominated
2004TV Land AwardsBest Broadcast ButlerSebastian CabotWon
2010 Young Artist AwardsFormer Child Star "Lifetime Achievement" AwardKathy Garver[6]Honored

Remake television series

A remake[7] of Family Affair aired on The WB from September 12, 2002 to March 13, 2003. The remake was produced by Sid & Marty Krofft Pictures, Pariah Films, and Turner Television. Gary Cole played the role of "Uncle Bill" Davis and Tim Curry played Mr. Giles French. Fifteen episodes were produced, including the one-hour pilot, but only thirteen episodes were aired by The WB.

Appearances in other media

Gold Key Comics, an imprint of Western Publishing, published four issues of a Family Affair comic book series from January to October 1970.[8]

Merchandising efforts centered on Anissa Jones' "Buffy" character. Several books were published, including the 1970 hardback Family Affair: Buffy Finds a Star by Gladys Baker Bond and Buffy's Cookbook. There were dolls (Mattel's "Small Talk Buffy" and Mrs. Beasley, Buffy's doll on the show) and various other toys.[9]

A Mrs. Beasley doll, with her glasses missing, appears in the music video for the song California Tuffy by the Geraldine Fibbers.

In Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment, gang leader Zed (Bobcat Goldthwait) is seen tearfully watching the show in his hideout.


  1. Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle (1995). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946–Present Sixth Edition. Ballantine Books. p. 336. ISBN 9780345397362.
  2. Benoit, Tod (2009). Where Are They Buried?: How Did They Die? Fitting Ends and Final Resting Places of the Famous, Infamous, and Noteworthy. Black Dog Publishing. p. 163. ISBN 1-57912-822-X.
  3. Eder, Bruce (2010). "Sebastian Cabot". The New York Times. Archived from the original on December 23, 2014.
  4. Simon, Stephanie (June 25, 1997). "Actor Brian Keith Found Dead in Apparent Suicide". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on December 24, 2013.
  5. Rice, Rice (August 15, 2002). "An Affair to Remember". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on May 27, 2013.
  6. "31st Annual Young Artist Awards". April 11, 2010. Archived from the original on October 12, 2013. Retrieved March 31, 2011.
  7. Kissell, Rick (September 15, 2002). "Frog net in 'Family' way". Variety. Retrieved February 14, 2018.
  8. Family Affair at the Grand Comics Database
  9. Mansour, David (2005). From Abba to Zoom: A Pop Culture Encyclopedia of the Late 20th Century. Andrews McMeel Publishing. p. 251. ISBN 0-7407-5118-2. Retrieved November 6, 2010.
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