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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

'The Courtship of Eddie's Father' S3 DVD: More Parenting than Wooing

The Courtship of Eddie's Father: The Complete Third Season
Warner Archive's recent DVD release of the 23-episode third and final season of the 1969 - 1972 sitcom "The Courtship of Eddie's Father" allows completing a collection of this sweet and gentle show. Prior Unreal TV reviews offer a recap of the first season and musings on the second season.

One warning regarding this set is that regular references to "Mr. Eddie's Father" do not amuse casual fans nearly as much as it entertains true devotees.

This show about "nothing" predates "Seinfeld" by roughly 20 years and merely tells the tales of youngish widowed dad Tom Corbett, played by Bill Bixby, and his elementary-school aged son Eddie, played by Brandon Cruz. Although the first season places a great deal of emphasis on the titular courtship, the focus shifts almost entirely to the "father" aspect by the third season.

Another change is that the "musical interlude" gimmick of earlier seasons is abandoned. A hypothetical example of this is a scene in which Tom asks Eddie to take dirty dinner dishes into the kitchen might prompt audio of the singer of the memorable theme song singing "have to clear the table."

Much of the appeal of "Father" relates to the incredible chemistry between Bixby and Cruz; they truly seem like a loving father and son. Additionally, Eddie comes across as a typical kid, rather than a sickly sweet or overly sarcastic sitcom brat.

Further many of us whose parents consider their jobs done if they keep us fed, clothed, and educated enjoy seeing the extent to which Tom cares for Eddie.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of two Special K cereal commercials that Bixby and Cruz filmed in character provides an excellent sense of the above-described vibe of their show.

The opening and closing credits include new sincere heart-to-heart talks that also often occur during the episodes themselves; Tom strikes a good balance between spending time with Eddie without being a helicopter parent and gives Eddie's needs and feelings far more consideration when making major (and minor) life decisions than most parents.

The season premiere is a prime example of the tone and "nothingness" of "Father." It involves Tom's recent enrollment in an art class inspiring Eddie to take up that hobby.

The "com" related to that "sit" comes in the form of Tom explaining to Eddie about the propriety of drawing a naked model leading to Eddie innocently paying a female classmate a quarter to pose nude for him; the jokes regarding that level of compensation for that service are hilarious.

Another episode from early in the season is a real treat in that it provides a look at the "mod" apartment of Tom's best friend/co-worker "Uncle" Norman Tinker. A cool aspect of this character is that "Father" producer James Komack of "Welcome Back Kotter" and "Chico and the Man" plays Norman.

Tom and Eddie having an inexplicable sleepover at that abode has Tom and Norman discussing the sense of the laid-back and free-spirited Norman of a need to act more mature. The ultimate reason for these thoughts provides a nice ending for this tale.

This early '70s-era self-examination is also a theme in which Tom hires a long-time friend, played by Pat Harrington, Jr. of "One Day at a Time," to write an article for the Sunday newspaper magazine of which Tom is the managing editor. Said friend's tales of adventures traveling the world inspire Tom and Eddie to consider that life.

Another of many episodes with a special guest star has the uber-cool Sammy Davis, Jr. playing a most heinously uncool actuary who is a weekend guest at the Corbett home. Seeing one of that character's comically neurotic precautions contribute to a genuine peril is hilarious.

The series finale goes a step further by having the married-couple comedy team of Jerry Stiller of "Seinfeld" and Anne Meara respectively play an owner and employee of a full-service telephone answering machine service. It is not believed that this apparent pilot for a spin-off ever leads to anything.

A cute scene in that episode has Tom caution Eddie about approaching an unfamiliar dog; this evokes thoughts about regularly petting dogs who people leave tied up outside Starbucks.

Another episode requires mention in that it is both surprisingly inconsistent with the typical tone of "Father" but is consistent with the current trend of parents acting assertively on behalf of their children regardless of the impact on others.

This "controversial" offering has Eddie's horribly off-key saxophone practices greatly annoying the Corbetts' admittedly pompous upstairs neighbor. Said fellow apartment-building dweller initially comes downstairs to complain during said practice and ultimately purposefully raises a ruckus at 2:00 a.m.

It is very surprising that the usually reasonable and congenial Tom continues to have Eddie practice in the evening, rather than merely finding him an alternative rehearsal space. The better news is that this sour note is the only one in the 73 episodes in this series.

The finale to this series of reviews on "Father" is that it is an amusing show that nicely portrays an ideal (but very achievable) father-son relationship. The conservative use of a laugh track is another nice touch.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Father" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.

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