Family Affair aired from September 2002 until March 2003 on The WB.
In this revival of the classic 1960's sitcom, Family Affair, nothing much had changed-the show even used the same instrumental theme song, and Buffy was still attached to her beloved doll, Mrs. Beasley.
Bill Davis ( Gary Cole), was a high-powered corporate executive living in a luxurous Manhattan apartment overlooking Central Park, whose sister Jenny , prevailed upon him to honor his promise to take his late brother's twins after her own kids had grown up. The adorable tykes, brassy Buffy ( Sasha Pieterse), and blunt Jody ( played by Luke Benward in the pilot and Jimmy "Jax" Pinchak in the series), arrived from the midwest and later the same day their older sister Sissy ( Caitlin Wachs), who had been living with Bill's other sister, Lucy showed up with a backpack and moved in too. Bill spoiled them all rotten, and his Gentleman's Gentleman, Mr. French ( Tim Curry), adjusted to their presence-it wasn't always easy-but their was much love amidst the consternation. French enrolled the twins in the Dovetail School, which had been organized by local parents looking for an alternative to the stuffy private schools in the neighborhood, while Sissy attended a performing-arts high school where Chelsea ( Marina Malota), was her best friend.
A Review From The New York Times
TELEVISION REVIEW; Again, Domesticity Hits A Bachelor and His Butler
By RON WERTHEIMER
Published: September 12, 2002
When it comes to shameless recycling, television executives are right up there with those raggedy guys with shopping carts who pull soda cans from trash barrels. So out of the Dumpster comes the revived ''Family Affair,'' beginning tonight on the WB network. Whatever effervescence this vessel once contained is long gone.
You may remember the original ''Family Affair'' (1966-71). That mild sitcom, which itself bore a resemblance to ''Bachelor Father'' (1957-62), featured Brian Keith as Bill Davis, a high-living Manhattan bachelor whose life is turned around by the arrival of his orphaned nephew and two nieces. Uncle Bill and his plump and shaggy British butler, French, played by Sebastian Cabot, were quickly won over by the adorable kids: the little twins, Buffy and Jody, and their teenage sister, Cissy. Inoffensive adventures ensued.
More inoffensive adventures followed when another British butler was turned into a nanny against his better judgment in ''Mr. Belvedere'' (1985-90), based in turn on a series of movies (1948-51) starring Clifton Webb. Unlike Cabot's sweet French, the television Belvedere, as played by Christopher Hewett, was a gruff perfectionist, although his requisite heart of gold did emerge from time to time.
The new ''Family Affair,'' which begins with an hourlong episode before reverting to the standard half-hour format, continues the evolution of the butler, offering Tim Curry as an eye-rolling French who has his own golden heart somewhere inside his crisply pressed black suit. Mr. Curry's penchant for over-the-top performance has been restrained here, scuttling what little chance this show had to be amusing.
Before the kids show up tonight, Bill (Gary Cole) tells French, ''I'm having company for dinner tonight.''
French rolls those eyes and says, ''The amazing lady from the airplane.'' The laugh track reacts hysterically. The butler promises his boss, ''I'll prepare the usual make-out menu.'' More guffaws.
Poor Bill never gets to enjoy the menu or the make-out, because the twins (Sasha Pieterse and Jimmy Pinchak) arrive unexpectedly, along with Buffy's little doll. If you already know that the doll is named Mrs. Beasley, this remake may break your heart.
Sissy (Caitlin Wachs), now spelled with an S, soon completes the new family. She can't wait to begin her life in exciting New York. Ms. Wachs must not have been paying attention when everybody was instructed to act like a cardboard cutout. Her Sissy almost seems like the sitcom equivalent of a real person. Almost.
When French finally understands that the kids have come to stay, he whines, ''Well, I guess the golden years of honor and dignity and vomit-free footwear had to end sometime.'' The laugh track roars. If you find that line a hoot, too, here's the show for you.
By next week's half-hour, French has mellowed a bit, and somebody has put a damper on that laugh track. Still, the episode, about the family's reaction to the loss (temporary, of course) of Mrs. Beasley is neither funny nor touching. And the scenes in which Sissy and French wander Manhattan with fliers depicting the missing doll are tastelessly reminiscent of last September.
Sorry for your inconvenience, Mrs. Beasley. Would you like a slightly used soda?
WB, tonight at 8, Eastern and Pacific times; 7, Central time
Written and developed by Bob Young; based on the series created by Don Fedderson and Edmund Hartmann; Mr. Young, Gavin Polone, Sid Krofft, Marty Krofft and Randy Pope, executive producers. Produced by Pariah in association with Turner Television.
WITH: Tim Curry (Mr. French), Gary Cole (Bill Davis), Caitlin Wachs (Sissy Davis), Sasha Pieterse (Buffy Davis) and Jimmy Pinchak (Jody Davis).
A Review From entertainyourbrain.com
"Family Affair" Review
By Shawn McKenzie 09/13/2002
I understand that after the events of 9/11/2001, there was a rush by the networks to find more comfortable, “family-oriented” programming, and I’m fine with that, but entertainment value shouldn’t be sacrificed for the sake of it. That is just what is missing from the new WB show “Family Affair.”
“Family Affair” is the story of a bachelor named Bill Davis (Gary Cole) and his British butler named Giles French (Tim Curry.) Bill is a successful businessman with a nice apartment and the freedom to do anything he wants, like date hot women (such as the one in the pilot episode played by Dara Tomanovich.) One night in the middle of his date (with the woman played by Tomanovich), his sister, played by Eve Gordon, arrives with their deceased brother’s two youngest children, twins Buffy (Sasha Pieterse) and Jody (Luke Benward.) Uncle Bill isn’t really used to dealing with kids, and his Mr. French is even more clueless about them. Bill’s sister dumps them on him without his permission and leaves. While Bill considers sending them off to boarding school, French tries to figure out how to take care of them. One day, after the twins blow up the microwave (by putting a can of soup in it for French to eat), they hide in order to not be sent away. As Bill and French search for the twins, their older sister Sissy (Caitlin Wachs) shows up and finds the twins hiding in the closet. Bill decides to keep all three kids, much to the dismay of Mr. French.
This show is so groan-worthy I don’t know how I got through the whole episode. I should have known that it was going to be bad when I heard the laugh track. I don’t think it was filmed before a live studio audience, because the laugh track is forced (since the show is not funny at all.) I might be biased, because I didn’t like the original series, which ran from 1966 to 1971, either. The original was way too sappy sweet for my taste (of course since I am only 27 I’ve only seen the reruns, but sappy is sappy.) I honestly thought with the introduction of edgier family sitcoms like “Married…With Children” and “Roseanne” that shows like “Family Affair” were a thing of the past. I guess the ratings in the next few weeks will be the test.
I find the appearance of Gary Cole in this show ironic. One of Cole’s best roles was as Mike Brady in the Brady Bunch movies. Those movies skewered one of the cheesiest TV sitcoms in history. Why in the world would he take on this horribly bad remake of an excessively cheesy show? Everyone I’ve asked this question has said it’s probably the money. If that is truly the case, it’s pretty sad, because I was starting to really like him from movies like Office Space and One Hour Photo, in addition to the Brady Bunch movies.
Tim Curry should NOT be given a sitcom! Didn’t anyone learn anything from his horrible ABC series “Over the Top?” I’d say he was the perfect choice for this role, but it’s not much of a role. He actually manages to out-British Sebastian Cabot (who was the original Giles French.)
“The Gilmore Girls” and “The Bernie Mac Show” have proven that it is possible to have a family show that doesn’t make you cringe. How they thought a new version of “Family Affair” would be found appealing when those other family shows mentioned above (and many others like them) have raised the quality bar. If you missed the pilot episode, don’t bother trying to catch it again. There are plenty of other good shows on Thursday nights (“Dinotopia” on ABC, “Survivor: Thailand” on CBS, and “Friends” on NBC are just a few that come to mind), so there should be no reason to watch this horrible catastrophe.
A Review From TeeVee.Org
Fall '02: An Affair to Forget
by Philip Michaels — September 30, 2002
Before we turn our attention to Family Affair -- an inconsequential trifle that's hardly worthy of your attention or concern -- we should probably address TeeVee's oft-prickly relationship with Tim Curry, actor, singer and object of peculiarly strong affection among a certain segment of Internet user.
A couple of years back, Curry starred in an ABC sitcom, landing the part of a hack actor who's fallen on tough times and moves back into the hotel run by his ex-wife (portrayed by Annie Potts with just a hint of weary resignation in her eyes). I can't really recall the name of the show right now -- My Embarrassing Ex-Husband, Please Avert Your Eyes, Six Pounds of Shit in a Four-Pound Bag -- it's really not important. The point is, the show was terrible, Curry's performance was painful to watch, and we weren't exactly shy about saying so.
Repeatedly. In bold type. And in an especially eye-catching font.
Now, you may or may not know this, but Tim Curry has won himself quite the following in thirty-plus years of entertaining the world. And that following tends to be a) female b) passionately devoted to all things Curry, from his voice work in Fish Police to his turn as Wadsworth in "Clue" and c) absolutely bonkers. They read our pan of Tim Curry's work in that terrible, terrible TV series and did what any loyal, ardent nutbag would do in their place -- they flooded our mailbox with vitriolic letters, calling on us to turn in our TV-criticizing badges.
Well, you know how well we take criticism. The resulting scrum -- she got real ugly real fast. And while we take no great pleasure in making people cry, we did what we had to do. The result? There are a dozen or so Tim Curry fans out there who probably don't have our little Web page bookmarked right now. Oh, and Tim Curry? We used to be indifferent to him -- now, thanks to the efforts of his fervid fandom who bombarded us with letter after letter attesting to Tim Curry's unimpeachable curriculum vitae, we've become sickened by the very thought of him and his continued employment.
So well done, creepy Internet fans.
Which brings us to Family Affair, WB's showcase Thursday night sitcom starring none other than TeeVee's very first nemesis. Long-time readers of the site probably read somewhere that the Singing Frog Network was planning to revive the 1960s family comedy with Curry reprising the Mr. French role immortalized by Sebastian Cabot and thought, "Man, I bet the Vidiots are lined up three-deep to review that show." Maybe you had visions of us rubbing our hands with glee, sharpening our rhetorical knives against our figurative whetstones, and dog-earing the pages of Roget's Thesaurus containing especially pejorative adjectives, all in anticipation of our sweet transvestite, transsexual Transylvanian friend's return to prime-time television and into our crosshairs.
Well, I certainly hate to disappoint folks, especially now that you've developed a taste for blood, but after watching Family Affair and Tim Curry's performance therein, I have to concede that Curry does nothing to embarrass himself or warrant much abuse from me.
This is not to say that Curry's turn as Mr. French meets the bare minimum standard of what we would characterize as "good." Oh, Lord, no. In the first five minutes of the pilot, Curry is rolling his eyes heavenward. By minute seven, he's shooting someone a withering stare. Lips quavering, eyes bulging, veins popping -- all the nuances we've come to appreciate from Tim Curry in works as diverse as "Muppet Treasure Island" and "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York" are on full display here. It's as if Curry modulates his performance not so much for the benefit of people watching him from the safety of their living rooms but more for any audience members passing over the sets in low-flying aircraft who might otherwise miss the subtleties of his work unless he amplifies it by a factor of 100. So Curry is a ham, and an unrepentant one at that.
Yet, on Family Affair, it strangely works.
After all, consider the source material. This is a remake of a treacly-sweet, diabetic-coma-inducing sitcom in which unbearably cute moppets match wits with a stuffy, straight-outta-Wodehouse manservant. If that doesn't call out for Curry's special brand of over-acting, God only knows what does. Better to have a hammy, over-the-top butler here than in, say, "Gosford Park."
Besides, Curry at least gives the impression that he looked at the script, realized this was a comedy and figured the audience tuning in might want to entertained. He seems to be having fun with his part. Sadly, the same cannot be said for Gary Cole -- a usually excellent actor who's displayed a flair for comic timing in such past projects as "Office Space" and Harvey Birdman -- who looks like he's serving a prison sentence here. Cole might as well spend his time staring off-camera waiting for the check to clear before he delivers his next line, for all the visible enthusiasm he brings to Family Affair.
So, in one of those black-is-white, up-is-down moments that makes us ask the bartender to pour us a double, we tune in to Family Affair expecting Tim Curry to underwhelm us with his hackery. And, as it turns out, a pretty solid case could be made that his performance is the best thing going for this slop. Certainly, Tim Curry isn't the worst thing about Family Affair, not by a longshot.
No, that honor goes to the children.
Those children would be Buffy and Jody, two little nippers so dripping with cuteness that they were probably manufactured in a lab somewhere. Wide-eyed and sweet-voiced, the children coo when they're happy and make boo-boo-kitty faces when they're sad and generally act like Margaret Keane paintings come to life.
Their every line is like a dagger in me.
Look, this is not meant as a knock on the youngsters who portray Buffy and Jody, even if they're so unremarkable that midway through the third episode of the show, I couldn't determine whether the producers had found a new kid to play Jody or if they had just given the old one a different haircut or if they had the folks at Digital Domain whip them up one of those CGI children. More tellingly, I couldn't be bothered to care. At any rate, I'm sure the tykes that play the two urchins are delightful people and won't be knocking off liquor stores a decade from now with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen driving the getaway car. What's more, while I'm perfectly willing to spend half-a-dozen paragraphs defaming Tim Curry and his cadre of demented fans, I draw the line at picking over the faults and missteps of child thespians. Suffice it to say, the producers have decided to make the children do blisteringly stupid things like throw an entire can of soup into a microwave oven -- can included, mind you -- and we're expected to guffaw at the heart-warming cuteness of it all instead of demand that the sociopathic monsters get bundled off to the nearest reformatory school before they can kill again.
Exempted from this general rebuke of Family Affair's younger set is Caitlin Wachs, who does a credible job playing the part of the teen-aged Cissy. In a dramatic departure from the original series, in which several lamps in Uncle Bill's swinging bachelor pad and had more substantial roles than Cissy, the remake treats Cissy as a central figure in the storylines. And, lest we have any doubt that this is The WB -- the network that adolescent girls built -- Wachs plays Cissy with a whole Clarissa-Sabrina-Buffy grrl power vibe. She will probably be one of Family Affair's bright spots, though confirming that statement would require me to watch more episodes than required by the bare minimum of professional duty. And that ain't happening, son.
If you're familiar with the Family Affair m.o. -- and apparently, fans of the show are so legion that The WB decided this remake had more potential for success over Flipper or The Ghost and Mrs. Muir or even My Mother the Freakin' Car -- then you'll have little problem following along with the millennial edition. The theme song is the same. The premise is the same -- swinging architect and bon vivant raises his dead brother's kids with the help of his toffee-nosed domestic. The plots are the same -- last week's episode where Mr. French losses Buffy's doll was lifted more or less directly from the original series. And if most the cast of the original Family Affair hadn't shuffled off their mortal coil under particularly gruesome circumstances, you'd probably see the older actors popping up in cameos from time to time. About the only thing that's different in this version of Family Affair is that Gary Cole's Uncle Bill is a lot more open about his sexual conquests. In the premiere episode, for example, he's seen telling his date, an executive at a lingerie manufacturer (snicker), about the architecture of brassieres. Later, after his date has understandably fled at the sight of the children who are currently jumping up and down on the bed, a rueful Uncle Bill is heard to say, "Testing the bed springs, huh? I was hoping to do that myself tonight."
We make mention of this only so that when the Parents Television Council puts out a press release hailing Family Affair as wholesome entertainment for the entire family while decrying CSI for tearing apart at the fabric of home life or denouncing Buffy for exposing the youth of America to the Black Arts, you can know that the organization is full of crap.
But even if Family Affair was as wholesome and squeaky clean as a Davy and Goliath rerun, that wouldn't make the show any more pleasant for me to watch. Then again, when cobbling together this twaddle, it's unlikely The WB was thinking, "Man, this is the show that's finally going to capture us the embittered 30-year-old male demographic!" Family Affair really isn't assembled with me in mind. And if you're a frequent visitor to this particularly misanthropic Web site, it's not meant for the likes of you, either.
In fact, if you're reading this review right now and you're favorably inclined toward Family Affair, it means you arrived here for one of two reasons -- 1) you searched on Google for articles about Family Affair in order to have your taste in insipid programming validated by a third-party or 2) you're a Tim Curry fan looking for sites to include on the links page for your slavish fan site. In either case, you've probably stopped caring what I had to say long ago and are busily composing the lengthy e-mail to inform me of what an asshole I am. (Not to dissuade you, but that revelation is hardly a news flash around these parts, so you might want to consider more productive uses of your time.)
Still, for the benefit of the one or two readers who've stumbled across this review honestly in the dark as to whether 30 minutes a week of Family Affair is 30 minutes too many, we ask you to respond to the following questions with a simple yes or no.
1. The day they canceled the original Family Affair was like another Kennedy assassination to me.
2. I believe that history will judge Tim Curry as the finest actor to ever share the screen with Susan Sarandon, Sylvester Stallone and Miss Piggy.
3. The sight of simpering children doing consciously cute things leaves me all weak-kneed with joy.
If you've answered yes to all three of the questions above, congratulations -- you and Family Affair will have a long, fruitful life together. If you answered no, you may want to consider alternative forms of entertainment.
The Tim Curry fans who are angrily e-mailing us now will be happy to provide you with selections from his canon forthwith.
The writings of Philip
An Article from Entertainment Weekly
On the Air
An 'Affair' to Remember
Updated ''Family Affair'' dodges original's curse -- The new Tim Curry show will take the charm from the original, but hopefully not its dramatic legacy of drug overdoses and suicide
By Lynette Rice
In remaking the classic ''Family Affair'' for The WB, veteran comedy scribe Bob Young has to overcome one big obstacle: the original CBS series' so-called curse. After the sitcom went off the air in 1971, Anissa Jones (Buffy) died of a drug overdose in 1976, Sebastian Cabot (Mr. French) suffered a fatal stroke in 1977, and Brian Keith (Uncle Bill) committed suicide in 1997.
''Yes, it's like 'Diff'rent Strokes.' It's cursed! People are dead! In prison!'' says Young (''Boy Meets World''). ''I see people wince and cringe and say, 'Oh, why couldn't you leave that buried?' I cringed too.'' But Young quickly changed his tune after screening the original ''Affair'' pilot (''utterly charming'').
The new show will stay true to the rich-bachelor-inherits-some-kids concept, right down to Uncle Bill's (Gary Cole) line of work (he owns a civil engineering firm), the snobby British butler (Tim Curry), and Buffy's infamous Mrs. Beasley doll. But Young -- who is even open to guest spots by Kathy Garver (the original Cissy) and Johnny Whitaker (the original Jody) -- will go only so far in re-creating the show's lasting legacy. ''I'm going to stand there [on the set] and say, 'Don't commit suicide, anybody!'''
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