My Three Sons
By Kari Croop,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Classic single-parent family feels surprisingly modern.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Most messages are light and comically moral, and they vary from episode to episode. But there's an overarching sense that a family must pull together to make things work -- and they can still get along, too.
Positive Role Models
In an all-male household, males share in the housework, including washing dishes, cooking, and cleaning. The men are more than capable at doing then-traditional "women's" work, so much so that it's portrayed as ordinary rather than extraordinary. As far as female role models go, women are typically written as one-dimensional, secondary characters; however, this changed later on in the series' run when the widower father eventually married.
Sex, Romance & Nudity
The boys' father dates women, resulting in light romantic situations. There's also some light comedy surrounding boys, girls, and young romance.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this classic series keeps it clean in terms of content, with only a little light romance surrounding the boys' and their father's love lives. There are also positive messages to be had in terms of pulling together, sharing responsibility, and challenging traditional male stereotypes.
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What's the Story?
In the wake of his wife's death, widowed father and aeronautical engineer Steven Douglas (Fred MacMurray) steps up to the plate to raise his three young sons Mike (Tim Considine), Robbie (Don Grady), and Chip (Stanley Livingston) as a single parent, with help from the boys' maternal grandfather, Bub (William Frawley). Later on, their household grows when Steven adopts an orphan (Barry Livingston) and marries a widowed teacher (Beverly Garland) with a daughter (Dawn Lyn) of her own.
Is It Any Good?
MY THREE SONS might be best known today for its familiar theme song. But it's also notable for being the first popular television show to break away from the two-parent household formula and reveal an all-new type of TV family -- one that stood in stark contrast to the working dad and housekeeping mom model idealized on then-popular programs like Leave It to Beaver. It also launched a future trend in TV programming toward more nontraditional families, from The Brady Bunch to Who's the Boss?
On Sons, men did the cooking, the cleaning, and the dishes. But they also did 100 percent of the parenting, at least until MacMurray's character re-married toward the end of the show's run. And to say that was a rare sight for the early 1960s is an understatement. Even today, you don't often see men on TV shouldering so many of the household chores, which makes Sons -- while obviously dated -- feel surprisingly modern.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the show's role in breaking traditional male stereotypes of its day. How common was it to see a single-parent household, particularly one headed by a male character, on television in the early 1960s? How did that change as the show continued into the early 1970s?
Are the issues raised in each episode still relevant to today's kids? How have family dynamics changed since the show first aired?
How well does the show's comedy hold up after decades off the air? Which elements still make it feel relatable for modern audiences?
- Premiere date: September 29, 1960
- Cast: Fred MacMurray
- Networks: Syndicated, Me-TV
- Genre: Comedy
- TV rating: TV-PG
- Last updated: February 25, 2022
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