This 1969-1972 family sitcom was based on the 1963 MGM film directed by Vincente Minnelli. Both the film and ABC television series were adapted from the best-selling novel “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” by Mark Toby.
In the Minnelli film version, Ronny Howard (“The Andy Griffith Show”) tries unsuccessfully to set up his widowed father (Glenn Ford) up with Dollye Daly (Stella Stevens). I saw the film and didn’t like it. I remember there was a scene where Ford breaks down in tears in front of his young son Eddie.
I felt it had a very dark premise to it and couldn’t finish watching the movie.
Back in 1978, Glen A. Larson had a deal with Universal Studio to make a pilot episode of “Buck Roger in the 25th Century” for the NBC network.
Just like the movie, the TV series centers on the six-year-old boy Eddie (Brandon Cruz of “80 Steps to Jonah”) setting up his widowed, 30-something father Tom Corbett (Bill Bixby of “My Favorite Martian”), a Los Angeles magazine publisher, with various single young ladies. He wants to find a new mother and manipulates romantic situations involving his father.
While Tom Corbett is away at the office, a Japanese housekeeper, Mrs. Livingston, (Miyoshi Umeki) cares for young Eddie’s needs and schemes. She addresses her employer as “Mr. Eddie’s father.” Who does she really work for?
One of Eddie’s young friends is none other than the blond-haired child actress Jodie Foster. She also later appeared on a musical episode of “The Partridge Family” and the failed TV sitcom “Paper Moon” that centers around a Bible salesman/con and 11-year-old daughter traveling Kansas in the Great Depression era. Original father and daughter team Ryan and Tatum O’Neil starred in the 1973 film version.
At the office, we have Tom’s attractive secretary Tina Rickles (Kristina Holland). His business partner and magazine photographer Norman Tinker (James Komack) is a radical thinker. Also, Norman is an honorary uncle to Tom’s son Eddie.
In 1966, Sherwood Schwartz was the successful creator of the CBS sitcom “Gilligan's Island.” He read in the Los Angeles Times a four-line filler that about two-third marriages have children from a previous union in the home.
Towards the end of the family sitcom, Bixby falls out with co-star James Komack over the show’s future direction. Third season episodes involve Norman, Tom, and Eddie. These last episodes lost the father-and-son duo quality that made the show.
In 1969, I was a three-year-old child of divorced parents living in San Francisco. My mother was a working woman raising my younger brother, Dennis, and myself. As a small child, I’d watch the opening credits where Tom (Bill Bixby) and Eddie (Brandon Cruz) were having fun with one another while Harry Nilsson’s theme song, “Best Friend,” was played in the background.
During the TV sitcom run, Brandon Cruz was involved in various television work. He appeared in three TV movies—“But I Don’t Want To Get Married!” (1970), “The Going Up of David Levi “ (1973), and “Family Theatre: Married Is Better “ (1974). Also, you could’ve seen him in various TV episodes of “Gunsmoke,” “Kung Fu,” “Medical Center,” “Love, American Style,” “Police Story,” and “Doc Elliot.”
After the ABC sitcom ended, Bill Bixby went onto the Tony Blake role on the short-lived NBC television series “The Magician” (1973-1974), where he’s an illusionist that solves crimes with his feats of magic. Meanwhile, Brandon Cruz appeared in the 1976 theatrical film “The Bad News Bears” as Joey Turner. You may remember the scene where the Yankee pitcher Joey got slapped by his father while he was standing on the mound.
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That same year, Cruz appeared in the television movie “Jeremiah of Jacob’s Neck,” and the ABC Afterschool Special: “Mighty Mouse and the Quarterback Kid.” He was also in the 1978 theatrical film “The One and Only.”
Then, Bixby became David Banner on CBS “The Incredible Hulk” (1978-1982). He reunites with his former TV sitcom son Brandon Cruz in the first season. They appear in the seventh episode together. It is entitled, “747.” This was a take-off on the 1970s disaster movie, “Airport ‘75.”
In this episode, Cruz appears as the teenage boy Kevin, who joins his previous TV dad in the cockpit after the flight crew was disabled. He witnesses David Banner (Bill Bixby) turn into the Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) while the two are flying the plane.
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Bill Bixby went into directing while he was on “The Incredible Hulk.” During the late 1970s to 1981, Brandon Cruz was performing in the Nardcore punk band Dr. Know. His group released several records.
In 1991, the Young Artist Foundation honored the former television child star with a “Lifetime Achievement” Award for his role as Eddie Corbett in the 1969-1972 sitcom. Bill Bixby passed away in 1993 from cancer.
“The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” celebrated its fiftieth anniversary last year.
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