Family Affair
by Phil Boatwright
In 1966 Family Affair, perhaps the gentlest family comedy ever, premiered on CBS. The sweet-natured sitcom had Brian Keith playing bachelor Bill Davis, an engineering consultant who lives in a posh Manhattan apartment with his proper English butler, Mr. French (Sebastian Cabot). Davis’ carefree existence is turned upside-down when his brother and sister-in-law die suddenly in a tragic plane crash, leaving their three children orphaned. Davis becomes an instant father figure to 6-year-old twins, Buffy and Jody (Anissa Jones, Johnnie Whitaker), and their big sister, Cissy (Kathy Garver). Through humorous trial and error, coupled with big doses of love and patience, the five become a real family.

Family Affair Season One debuts on DVD from MPI Home Video on June 27. The box set contains all thirty episodes from the first season on five discs, plus never-before-seen bonus features. Produced by Don Fedderson (My Three Sons) throughout its five-year run (1966-71), it was one of the first TV shows to air in color.

Kathy Garver played elder sister Cissy after appearing in The Ten Commandments (1956) and The Bad Seed (1956). The effusive actress was asked how she thought this generation would react to the decades-old cute comedy. “I’m constantly asked ‘When’s Family Affair coming to DVD?’ I think the values people remember from the show are ones they want to pass on to their children or grandchildren. They were stories about people who loved each other and showed it. Back in the turbulent ‘60s, shows like Family Affair were a refuge. This was a gentle, loving, sweet show, one that always taught a moral. I think there are still TV viewers who will embrace those qualities.”

Anissa Jones played Buffy on Family Affair. Buffy and her best friend, Mrs. Beasley, quickly became overnight sensations to the delight of little girls nationwide. From lunch boxes to paper dolls, Anissa Jones’ likeness was everywhere. She also had a featured role was in 1969’s The Trouble With Girls, opposite Elvis Presley.

Johnnie Whitaker was hand picked by Brian Keith to play Buffy’s twin brother, Jody, after Keith starred with him in The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming. After Family Affair, he co-starred with actress Jodie Foster in the Disney flick Tom Sawyer (1973) and on the Saturday morning kids’ show Sigmund and the Sea Monsters.

Both Anissa and Johnnie later had problems with the pressures of show business -- Anissa, sadly, losing her battle with drug use. Asked about the two-edged sword of fame, Ms. Garver responded, “I think you need a very strong family that does not use the child as the bread winner. There are many temptations in that industry. And if one doesn’t have the wherewithal to combat them, unfortunately, they’re going to succumb.

“If the child likes to act and has a talent, then go for it. But he or she shouldn’t be pushed into it. Unfortunately, Anissa was.

“Paul Peterson (The Donna Reed Show) has a wonderful organization called A Minor Consideration that offers guidance for the parents of youngsters who have entered show business. The organization is designed to help kid actors deal with the pressures of fame and publicity.”

And what’s up for the former big sister of Jody and Buffy? “I do a lot of audio books and voice overs. One big project coming up that I’m excited about is a recording of the King James New Testament, with James Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ) supplying the voice of Jesus. And I’m going to be doing a TV series called TV Dinners, an interview/cooking show she that will feature among other guests, former child stars. Kathy has also started The Family Affair Foundation, its function is many fold, including reading to the elderly and to children who need help in reading.

Want to know more about Kathy? Visit her at her site: kathygarver.com.