Just to look at it you would think that My 3 Sons was a Disney production. Its star Fred MacMurray had appeared in many Disney films of the 50’s and 60’s and is most likely recognizable from those appearances. Two of the three boys were also known for work with Disney. The eldest boy, Mike, was played by Tim Considine, who starred with MacMurray in Disney’s The Shaggy Dog. Middle son Robbie was played by a former Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeer, Don Grady. The youngest son, Chip, was played by Stanley Livingston, the only non Disney alum in that group. Another reason for the confusion is the decidedly Disney-like material the series covered. Steve Douglas (MacMurray) was a widowed single parent who was trying to balance his job with that of raising his three sons. Most of the stories involved the warm and fuzzy heartwarming stuff that Disney had pretty much cornered the market on in the films. Whatever troubles arose, no problem was so bad that a heart to heart talk couldn’t fix it. The style would prosper and continue in the form of 70’s shows like The Brady Bunch. The four guys were also joined by Steve’s father-in-law, Bud, played by I Love Lucy favorite William Frawley. That was no surprise, since the show was actually produced, not by Disney, but the Desilu studios.
My 3 Sons was for some time the second longest running sit-com on television. It lasted from 1960 until 1972. The series would undergo major changes as the boys each grew older and eventually married and led their own lives. Frawley would also become very ill after 5 years and leave the show. His replacement, William Demarest as Uncle Charley, is likely better known in the show. The syndicated version of the show often ignored these early black and white versions of the series, opting for the later color ones that featured the Uncle Charley character. It’s very likely you’ve never seen these early episodes as they appeared infrequently in the syndicated markets. The theme from Frank DeVol became pretty popular in the mid 60’s and even entered the pop charts at one time. The show also originally ran on ABC, but moved to CBS in 1965, also accounting for the different syndication packages. It was during that move that many of these big changes occurred.
This collection features the first 18 episodes of the second season. The wacky scenarios include: when the dog has puppies Dad decides its time to explain the facts of life in The Birds And Bees. Mike and Steve clash over a girl in The Crush, when Mike falls for Steve’s new girl. Robbie takes a new interest in English literature when a blond bombshell is assigned to tutor him in The Ugly Duckling. Chip’s stuck in a hard place when he’s assigned to write a paper on his mother, which he doesn’t have. He decides to write about Gramps instead in Chip’s Composition. Bub is tired of feeling stupid, so he goes to night school in Bub Goes To School. Robbie’s band has been practicing at the Douglas home, disturbing the peace in Robbie’s Band. In Chip Leaves Home, the youngster decides to run away to India. Steve has a tough work deadline that requires his undivided attention just when four attractive stewardesses move in next door in The Girls Next Door.
Each episode of My 3 Sons is presented in its original broadcast full frame format. The series was shot in black and white. The transfer is actually a remarkable one. There isn’t much in the way of print defects, and the picture is quite sharp. Black levels are rock solid, and working along with sweet contrast makes this a picture with razor-sharp detail. You won’t believe this stuff’s almost 50 years old.
The Dolby Digital Mono track delivers exactly what you are looking for and nothing more. The dialog is clear, and that’s all you’re going to get out of this minimalist presentation.
The Douglas family is back for another half season of episodes. Don’t get me started on that situation. I had forgotten until these DVD sets started to arrive just how simple and dated these things really were. Ahead of its time with the single father, certainly. It’s the simple life of the boys themselves that is somewhat endearing here. If kids today had to live lives like this without video games, cell phones, HD televisions, and iPods: “It’s liable to incur a rebellious reaction”.