My Three Sons: The First Season , Volume Two
Directed by Peter Tewksbury
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Running Time: 461 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English
MSRP: $ 42.99
Release Date: January 20, 2009
Review Date: January 16, 2009
My Three Sons had one of the longest runs of any situation comedy in American television history, twelve years, but watching it now, at least the episodes of its first season, it’s a bit hard to figure out why. It’s a perfectly pleasant, mildly amusing domestic comedy featuring a houseful of five males coping as best they can without a woman around the house. There is usually no major drama; the biggest problems revolve around who’s taking whom to the dance or how that neighbor’s baby got into the back of the family station wagon, and the comedy, such as it is, involves mix-ups and misunderstandings that can all be worked out in basically twenty-five less-than-exciting minutes. The cast is amiable to be sure, but this is one show from the Golden Age that just doesn’t measure up to the best comedy work being done during the years of its run.
Widower Steve Douglas (Fred MacMurray) has three sons: high school senior Mike (Tim Considine), ninth grader Robbie (Don Grady), and youngest son Chip (Stanley Livingstone). As cook, housekeeper, and household referee is Steve’s father-in-law Bub (William Frawley). Together, they cope with their middle class existence in a house too small for the growing boys, the sons’ involvement with the neighborhood girls, and the usual sitcom hijinks the writers concoct for the boys (including building a hi-fi on the sly for a girl friend, dating two girls at one time, painting a neighbor‘s fence, quitting and rejoining the baseball team, looking around for a missing frog).
At the time, Fred MacMurray was still active making theatrical films (some for Disney which this series most definitely resembles), so his lack of presence in major portions of many episodes is understandable. The focus of the series is definitely on the three young men and on the cantankerous Bub who wants more discipline in the house but doesn’t go out of his way to assure that it happens. Occasionally, however, the writers do try something different. “Small Adventure” involves an unexploded stick of dynamite that the family dog Tramp brings home and the family narrowly misses setting it off all day long (not the usual sitcom nonsense, and the laugh track is silent for most of the episode). “Soap-Box Derby” offers parallel stories of Robbie’s working on a car for the race with Steve’s working on a new missile guidance system and both displaying their results simultaneously.
MacMurray and Frawley’s long show business careers were capped by their work on this series, and the three sons of the title continued to make appearances once the series was over though none ever reached any higher pinnacles than their work in this show. A few guest stars make memorable appearances, however. An impossibly young Beau Bridges is one of Mike’s staff sports reporters on the high school newspaper. Former Mouseketeer Cheryl Holdridge shows up as a high school femme fatale with eyes for Robbie. Veteran Arthur Hunnicutt drops by as a man offering pony rides for the kids.
Here are the eighteen episodes contained on the three discs that make up volume two of the first season:
1 - Organization Women
2 - Other People’s Houses
3 - The Delinquent
4 - Man in a Trench Coat
5 - Deadline
6 - The Lostling
7 - Off-Key
8 - Small Adventure
9 - Soap-Box Derby
10 - Unite or Sink
11 - The Wiley Method
12 - The National Pastime
13 - The Croaker
14 - The Musician (a very similar theme to “Other People’s Houses”)
15 - The Horseless Saddle
16 - Trial by Separation
17 - The Sunday Drive
18 - Fire Watch (a standout showcase for Tim Considine; my favorite episode in the set)
The program’s original 1.33:1 aspect ratio is replicated here in these new transfers. The show may be almost fifty years old, but these transfers look pretty sensational. The grayscale is solid and contrast is perfection with the resultant picture very sharp and filled with detail. Sure, there are occasional dirt specks, but not nearly as many as one might expect for so old a series, and though there is no anamorphic enhancement, there are only minor instances of aliasing. Each episode is divided into 5 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track is typical of its era. The dialog, music, sound effects, and laugh track are all found in the center channel as decoded by Dolby Prologic. No digital artifacts mar the listening experience of this slightly above average encode.
There are no special features with this set.
My Three Sons finished its freshman year ranking as the thirteenth most popular series on the air, an impressive rank for a mostly nondescript show. Compared to its fellow freshman stable mate The Andy Griffith Show, My Three Sons can’t compare in either humor or pathos. On its own, however, it’s mildly pleasant, and the completion of its season one episodes will undoubtedly delight fans of the program.