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This was one of the best of the family-oriented sitcoms that premiered
in the late 1950's and continued that streak until the early 1960's.
And also the first ever sitcom that John Forsythe did for television
and that would continued onward toward his astounding career. The
series "Bachelor Father" was just that: a wholesome sitcom series that
featured the easy natural charm of a young John Forysthe and the
essential sweetness of his "getting into one situation after
another,and managing to get herself into problems",teenage niece,caused
this series to be a major hit and making John Forysthe a beloved
fixture in America.
Produced by Everett Freeman and Harry Ackerman,"Bachelor Father" was one of those sitcoms that appeared on all three major television networks between 1957 and 1962. The series produced 157 episodes,all in classic black and white and was produced by Revue Studios/MCA-TV Universal Television. Actually the series premiered on CBS-TV from September 15,1957 until June of 1958,which lasted one season on the network. Then in June of 1958,the series moved from CBS over to NBC where it concluded its run on the network for three seasons ending in September of 1961. In September of 1961,the series moved from NBC over to ABC for its final season ending in 1962. The final episode of "Bachelor Father" ended on ABC on September 25,1962. Originally,the series itself ran for five seasons on all three major television networks.
This classic series,which is nowadays rarely seen or broadcast in repeats,had a premise that was similar(My Three Sons,The Courtship of Eddie's Father,Family Affair,and Nanny and the Professor)...a single individual and his niece whom he was raising were people you'd like to know-the very definition of gentility,charm,restraint-even Kelly whose problems and situations were never due to her own outrageousness,but simply her age. "Bachelor Father",however,followed the misadventures and situations of Bentley Gregg(John Forysthe),a wealthy bachelor attorney living in a exclusive penthouse complex in Beverly Hills. Gregg assumes the responsibility of raising his niece Kelly(Noreen Corcoran),after her parents were killed in an automobile accident. Other members of the Gregg household include the Chinese housekeeper and Bentley's personal assistant Peter Tong(Sammee Tong),the next door neighbor and Kelly's boyfriend,Howard Meechum(Jimmy Boyd)and the family dog,Jasper. Plots were centered on Bentley's adjustments to his new role as an adoptive parent,Bentley's search for the right woman to share his life,while Kelly deals with the usual problems of adolescence and young adulthood(and throughout the course of the series)and she goes from high school to college,and less often Peter's misadventures with some financial scheme or to make a play for attractive woman to be attached to Bentley.
Forsythe's well-dressed handsomeness,his distinguished voice,his movement and the affluence of his character gave this series an upper middle class reassurance that was unlike any other family oriented series of his day. However,the series ran five seasons in which the program never finished any of the seasons in the top 25 ratings. Had this series went into its sixth season for the 1962-63 season(which it never happened)plots would have undoubtedly extended to Kelly's impending marriage to Bentley's junior partner and seeing Kelly's graduation episode from college and her entrance into womanhood. The series ended prior to either the wedding or the college episode. After "Bachelor Father" ended in 1962, John Forysthe would return to another sitcom three years later with his own sitcom series "The John Forysthe Show"(NBC-TV:from September 13,1965 until March 1,1966),which was short-lived and another family oriented sitcom "To Rome With Love", produced by Don Fedderson(of My Three Sons and Family Affair)for CBS which lasted two seasons from 1969 until 1971.
"Bachelor Father" just began running on Antenna TV and I haven't seen it in many years. The show holds up as an enjoyable riff on the traditional family sitcoms of the period. Along with "My Little Margie", it is the pioneer of the single-parent comedies that proliferated in the 1960s. John Forsythe, always an engaging actor plays smooth-talking Bentley Gregg, a handsome single Beverly Hills attorney whose life is turned upside down by his 13-year old niece, nicely played by Noreen Corcoran, who has lost her parents in an automobile accident. Sammee Tong, as Peter, the Gregg's houseboy, steals the show with his hilarious lines and perfect delivery. A parade of beautiful starlets passed through the series as Bentley's many girl friends. These included Barbara Eden, Mary Tyler Moore, Connie Hines, and most memorably in one episode, Forsythe's future "Dynasty" wife Linda Evans (billed by her real last name, Evanstad) as one of "Niece Kelly's" girlfriends who develops "A Crush On Bentley." It is good to see this series again and it is a reminder to younger viewers that there were some quality programs made "back in the day" besides "I Love Lucy" and "The Honeymooners", great as those are. Treat yourself to a relaxing half-hour of fun by watching "Bachelor Father."
This program was a forerunner (one of them) of today's benign, bland TV
show. Corny but cute, BF offers us a chance to look in on what used to
be a very common plot theme (parents dead, kids live with relative) of
the early TV era. BF was the first, from my limited research, to
exploit the theme and engage it as a series. As noted similar programs
followed and then dropped off by the early 70's. BF deals with its
premise, after the initial couple of episodes, by never mentioning why
Kelly is living with Bentley again.
BF is fun to watch. It is so of it's era, the direct opposite of Seinfeld which downplayed the present tense (in order to increase its syndication value), that you almost expect to catch 'Wagon Train' or 'The Ann Sothern Show' when its over. It's really nothing special. That is its charm.
Each episode's theme seems to be based on Bentley chasing ladies and its 'unintended consequences' or Kelly's awkward ritual of passage through her teens. All are done with a classy ease that makes one wish life really was so certain and clear. Bentley's 'dates' are all beauties of the era, all seem to fall into his lap, and all are a bit leery of his reputation. None break him down enough to actually merit more than dating. Kelly runs the usual gauntlet of teen angst and manages to deal with all as expected. She boarders on being super bright, average, bossy, selfish, cute, hip, sexy, dumb, boy crazy (often), jealous, etc.
BF in season 5 follows Kelly into college and possibly getting married. But, having run out of networks in the spring of 1962, BF is doomed to TV black space. It leaves us hanging without knowing what becomes of Kelly, Bentley or Peter. If anything, BF kept a 50's version of TV life in a time capsule, at least to 1962.
The final season (1961-1962) is all over the place. Howard returns for several (9) episodes, I think as Kelly's boyfriend. He then disappears later in the season, replaced by (love interest) Warren Kincaid (a lawyer working for Bentley). Four episodes in he also vaporizes. Kelly is a college freshman in season 5. Howard and Ginger are as well and attend the same school. Never having a formal finale, in the last episode 'Curfew Shall Not Ring' Kelly moves near campus but soon returns home. And, with yet another boyfriend: a low-budget character who eats a lot of cake. By my count she has at least 5 boyfriends in season 5.
Given the confusing final season, it's hard to guess which direction season 6 would have gone. Probably with Kelly in college, Bentley slipping back into his 'bachelor' ways and Peter remaining Peter.
Howard was dropped late in season 5. An important character he provided continuity, laughs and male teen 'insight' for Kelly, and Bentley. His relationship with Kelly was fun yet confusing. Was he her boyfriend or not? Ginger in season 5 is portrayed as a 'typical' teen girl and Kelly's close friend and confidant. Yet, oddly, appears in only 5 episodes. This is hard to understand. BF had continuity issues. Howard and Ginger were not developed much, if at all. 'Bentley' breaks down the 4th wall in a few episodes and provides narration in most throughout the series run. Given that, it's clear, the program is from his own POV.
Kelly glides through the series with limited character development. Bentley is a superficial male of that era. Only Peter shows any real change. Guest roles were weak, usually centered on Bentley. It had light, frothy plots, none serious. They also show no unique qualities, some were imitative of others, including rip-offs of 'I Love Lucy' (travel to Europe, Bentley on vacation (season 6, ILL, 'Building a BBQ')). BF would have benefited from better writing. The characters did have room for growth.
'Bentley' went on to star in 4 shows and as the pervert judge in 'And Justice For All'. He continued acting and voice work until a few years ago (he died in 2010 at 93). Peter, portrayed by Asian prototypical actor Sammie Tong, was lined up for a new show in 1963 in much the same type role. The show failed. A 'degenerate gambler', deep in debt and in trouble with the mob (even with real life help from Forsthye) Tong committed suicide in 1964, some claim, in order to avoid shame. Kelly (Noreen Corcoran) went on to sing, appear in TV guest roles and 60's beach movies (including a popular effort which featured Lesley Gore). Never really catching on she left the trade in 1969 to focus on dancing or production. Corcoran died in January 2016 at 71. She never married and had lived in San Francisco, California.
Bachelor Father aired for a few years on Retro TV (RTV). It was picked up by Antenna TV in September, 2012 and aired there on T-F from 4-5a EST and at 2-3a on Sundays. It was dropped at the end of 2014. According to sources the cable channel decided not to renew it after negotiations with the rights owners failed to reach agreement on long-term plans to broadcast the show. After decades of not being on broadcast television at all it has once again returned to TV black space. It also is not out in DVD.
I hadn't seen Bachelor Father on TV in probably 45 years until recently a local affiliate cable station started running it on weekdays in the late morning. It's enjoyable, rather amusing and very innocent. No bad language or sexual innuendo. Set in southern California, Bentley Greg (John Forsythe) is a wealthy attorney who resides in his Beverly Hills home with his orphaned niece, Kelly and houseboy, Peter. Most of the plots seem to revolve around seemingly trivial events, but that is more reflective of the 1950's and early 60's before the "sexual revolution" and wide spread drug use became common. Performances by the regular cast members are usually very satisfactory, although sometimes exaggerated to make a point. Episode plots are light-hearted if not particularly memorable, but I enjoy viewing a TV show first broadcast when I was in elementary school.
Bachelor Father (1957-1962) was a rare show that was produced during the late fifties. John Forsythe starred as "The Bachelor Father". An unwed father who lived in a house with his young niece and Chinese manservant. An interesting show when I was a young lad and it was one of my favorites because the manservant served as a comic foil and he would make me laugh. I saw quite a few of these episodes because they would air late at night on a local independent television station. the intro of the show would show the mack daddy John Forsythe, his niece and the manservant tooling around in the family automoblie. Not a great show but a different look at life in the mid to late fifties. A break from the staples like Leave it to Beaver. I'm Mike Tee Vee, keep it on this station!
I generally agree with the other poster's comments here, but as one who
grew up in the relative same era in which the series' story lines
existed, who saw the series in first-run syndication, may view it from
a slightly different perspective.
"tvpdean's" comment that Brian Keith's character on "Family Affair" was always "railing against fate," implying he was somehow brash or hard-nosed with his juvenile charges, strikes me as way off base. In fact, what was so appealing & endearing about Keith's portrayal of engineer/playboy "Uncle Bill (Davis)" was that he WAS a "tough guy" who was very gentle and reasonable with his two nieces and nephew, albeit with the help of his manservants, "Giles French" (and, briefly, "Niles French"). Not that Keith's character was above sometimes shouting in frustration, but that's only human in any situation. Keith's "Bill Davis" was a helluva lot more realistic than Forsythe's "Bentley Gregg" on this series, though actually Forsythe would play the sort of character "tvpdean" implies Forsythe was on this series in another, later sitcom, "To Rome With Love," which was produced by Don Fedderson, the same guy who created "Family Affair" and "My Three Sons" (and who also produced Betty White's first series, "Life With Elizabeth").
Also, it was certainly not "apparent" this series' family lived in an Eastern or Midwestern city. What with "Gregg" running around with all sorts of starlets and their driving in an open convertible all the time (as "Mike Tee Vee" so duly noted), I'd say it was rather suspiciously like sunny, Southern California. It would also make sense that it would be West Coast, where in those days there was much more an influx of Asian persons, such as houseboy "Peter Tong," than on the East coast or in the Midwest.
"tvpdean's" assertion this series was an ancestor of single father figure dating shows is right on the mark, however, and "The Courtship Of Eddie's Father" is a good analogy, although Bill Bixby's character on that show was an actual father, not an uncle (as Forsythe is here); and also, Bixby's character was a widower, whereas Forsythe's "Gregg" was, presumably, never married. But "Bentley Gregg" and Bixby's "Tom Corbett" (not to be confused with "Tom Corbett, Space Cadet") did have one, other trait in common--Asian servants; the aforementioned "Peter" on "Bachelor Father" & "Mrs. Livingston" as housekeeper to "Mr. Eddie's Father" (and babysitter/governess to master "Eddie" himself).
So actually, "Bachelor Father" has much more in common with "Family Affair"--a single uncle, with a manservant of foreign ethnicity, who adopted his niece and is leading an active romantic life. Although, in the later years of "Family Affair," Keith's "Uncle Bill" became much more domestic, less the globe-trotting playboy (except when his jobs took him out of NYC).
By the way--Noreen Corcoran, who played "Kelly" on this series, was part of a large family of kid actors that included Disney ensemble regular Kevin Corcoran ("Moochie" on the "Spin & Marty" episodes of "The Mickey Mouse Club," Tommy Kirk's younger brother in "Old Yeller" & "The Shaggy Dog," and himself star of Disney's circus boy film, "Toby Tyler." And since I brought him up, Sebastian Cabot was not, as commonly believed, British. Rather he was a Canadian citizen--which, I realize, would still make Cabot a British subject, but would hardly explain his British-sounding accent. I think that was "cultivated" for effect, much as William F. Buckley's upper crusty inflection.
John Forsythe was in our title role as Bentley Gregg well known
entertainment lawyer in Hollywood. He's quite the ladies' man and has
no intentions of getting married. You get family responsibility with
But family responsibility comes his way when his orphaned niece Noreen Corcoran comes to live with him. This is a new world for Forsythe, but the show is essentially Forsythe coping with new situations that he never thought he would.
Completing the household is Sammee Tong as Forsythe's valet, cook, and general factotum. His is a truly tragic Hollywood story as he committed suicide two years after Bachelor Father completed its run.
Can't prove it, but I think John Forsythe's character was based on entertainment attorney and man about town Greg Bautzer. Bautzer made a lot of the gossip columns of the day escorting some of Hollywood's best known female stars. Forsythe's character is a kinder gentler version of Bautzer.
This was a nice show and again a situation where Forsythe most definitely on the B list of big screen star opted for television as many of his contemporaries did. Bachelor Father was a good career move.
perhaps the original "single parent" television comedy. rich, handsome Uncle Bentley (forsythe) raises his orphaned niece Kelly (corcoran). series is loaded with mid-50s teenage angst, capers & madcap stunts. Uncle Bentley always had the sage wisdom & big buck$ to solve the problem, even though quasi-rebellious Kelley would never admit it till the end of show .the episodes were always sappy, saccharine & predictable. easy to watch for modicum of insight into what the era was like, or what is was supposed to be like. rent it, don't buy it
The easy natural charm of young John Forsythe and the essential sweetness
his "getting into problems" teenage niece Kelly Corcoran, caused this
to be a hit, and made Forsythe a beloved fixture in America. I remember it
very fondly though I haven't seen it since it was originally
Unlike one later series with a similar premise (The Courtship of Eddie's Father), both Forsythe and niece whom he was raising were people you'd like to know - the very definition of gentility, charm, restraint - even Kelly whose problems were never due to her own outrageousness, but simply her age.
Unlike another later series (Family Affair), Forsythe had a gentleness rare for paternal figures in television dealing with teenagers. (Brian Keith was curmudgeonly and would rail at fate!). It made the program tremendously reassuring.
Forsythe's well-dressed handsomeness, his restraint, his distinguished voice, his very movement, and the affluence of his character and home, gave this series an urban and upper middle class reassurance that was unlike most other series of the day (or any day for that matter).
E.g., Donna Reed (father a doctor) or My Three Sons (MacMurray an aircraft engineer) were suburban, patio barbecue and swimming pool sorts of series. "Father Knows Best" and "Leave it to Beaver" seemed to take place in a sort of mythical small American town. "The Life of Riley and "the Honeymooners" had dads going to the bus depot, the sewer or the "plant". Although "Make Room for Daddy" took place in New York, but the life of a nightclub comic (and the Danny Thomas character) was frenetic - voices constantly shrieking.
In contrast, Bachelor Father was set in a penthouse - and seemed to be in a large Eastern or Midwestern city - probably New York, definitely not southern California. It was lovely and I thank all those involved for presenting it so very well to create such fond memories.
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