My Three Sons

My Three Sons

U.S. Domestic Comedy

Created by Don Fedderson and Leave it to Beaver alumnus George Tibbles, My Three Sons was one of television's longest running and most influential domestic comedies. The program was conceived originally as a television vehicle for Fred MacMurray, (who owned 50% of the program), when Fedderson was approached by Chevrolet to develop a program that was "representative of America." During its twelve year run, the program averaged a respectable, but not spectacular 22.2 rating and a 35% share, and underwent enormous narrative and character changes. It is most significant for its development of a star-friendly shooting schedule and for its redefinition of the composition of the television family.

The program's narrative concept has proven equally influential. Until 1960 most family comedies were centered on strictly nuclear groupings–mom, dad and biological children. While an occasional Bachelor Father, or The Bob Cummings Show might focus on the comedic exploits of an unmarried adult raising a niece or nephew, most programs, from I Love Lucy to Father Know Best, depicted the humorous tribulations of two-parent households and their biological offspring. My Three Sons initiated what was to become a popular trend in television–that of the widowed parent raising a family. While initial director Peter Tewksbury called the premise a truly depressing one, producers Tibbles and Fedderson chose to ignore the potential for pathos and flung themselves wholeheartedly into the comedic consequences of a male-only household. Ironically (some might even say with more than a touch of misogyny), the bulk of the program's first five years did not focus on the stereotypical male ineptitude for all household chores, but instead continually reinforced the notion that males were, in fact, far domestically superior to the "hysterical" female guest stars.

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