This reviewer was never much of a fan of My Three Sons, as the series always seemed more like a parody of family life -- at least, as it was known in New York City -- without a lot successful humor in it. But with the passage of 48 years since it went on the air, the series is now a historical artifact in pop-culture terms. With that in mind, one can appreciate some of its content better in 2008 than it was possible to do in 1960 -- starting with the 18 episodes in this three-disc set from Paramount. First, and most important, that's 18 chances to see William Frawley, one of the screen's great character actors and funny-men -- a man who worked with Charles Chaplin and Abbott & Costello, amongst numerous others -- in action. For another, there's a certain eeriness watching Fred MacMurray, the series' star, playing a warm-and-fuzzy hapless widower dad, at precisely the same career point where he was filling the big screen with venomous sleaziness in Billy Wilder's The Apartment -- indeed, one comes away with new respect for MacMurray as an actor. And then there are the three kids, Tim Considine, Don Grady, and Barry Livingston, and their day-to-day concerns in that more innocent age -- in many ways, My Three Sons was an extension of the sensibilities behind Father Knows Best, and both series had in common director Peter Tewksbury.
Paramount has done right by the program here, at least as far as the clean, sharp black-and-white full-screen (1.33-to-1) film-to-video transfers. The episodes here look and sound a lot better than these same shows did in their incarnation on Nick-At-Nite in the early 1990's. And it's a pleasure, too, to see other artifacts of the era restored -- most especially the end credits with the images of various Chevrolet vehicles, Chevrolet being the show's original sponsor (and sponsors were visible everywhere in those days, and even occasionally got ownership of the series). That and the original Frank DeVol theme music, with the other elements, made this trip into the past worth it for this reviewer, especially as the shows are well-transferred; it's safe to say they look better today than they did when broadcast in 1960-61. As with other Paramount TV-based DVDs, the chapter-breaks on each show match the credit and commercial breaks points. Each platter opens to a simple, easy-to-use two-layer menu with "Play All" and individual episode access. There are no bonus features, which is sort of a shame, as all three actors who played MacMurray's sons are still with us to speak for themselves and the series.
Cast & Crew
Fred MacMurray - Steve Douglas
Stanley Livingston - Chip Douglas
Ronne Troup - Polly Williams Douglas
Norman Alden - Tom
Doris Singleton - Margaret