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The Jaded Eye
Three Sons With One Sin
by Gerry Ayers
 

I'm a little late with this, so bear with me. Like 45 years worth. But better late than never when it comes to stirring combustible viewpoints.
The television sitcom MY THREE SONS ran on two networks: ABC from 1960 to 1965 and CBS from 1966 to 1972. Called a "cornerstone" (I.e moneymaker) of those network lineups, it pumped out a whopping 380 episodes.
So, in the late '60s you'd watch the "war that came into your living room." Walter Cronkite would give you the grim details at 6:30. And by 9:30 or so on the same channel you'd get grave injustice because not one episode of MTS mentioned the Viet Nam war, which was raging and slaughtering America's boys on a daily basis.
How could they be so naive? But Gerry, you know the golden rule. Don't mix potent politics with a semi-comedy, semi-serious show. I say...why not? I mean this popular show could have made the ultimate anti-war statement during prime time. At least two of the three sons on the show were eligible or close to eligibility for the draft. Instead of addressing it, they went total cheesecake.
Didn't the Tet offensive raise any eyebrows in this household of all men? At least all men in most episodes through the years. Or were they merely "three blind mice."
Could this have happened at their dinner table? "Hey Uncle Charlie, did you serve in World War II," says one son. "Why do you ask that," says the huffing uncle. "Well because I'm afraid of this Viet Nam thing. One of my friends in school, well, his brother was killed there last week."
What's more mentally stimulating? That episode I just concocted, or watching that clueless crew frolic with the family dog at a picnic? You know, maybe Ernie lost his glasses or something before they headed out. Meanwhile, as I said, our "real sons" were getting killed day in and day out. Sloshing through rice paddies, not picnic groves.
Didn't any producer or director give this topic any thought? Wasn't it the morally responsible thing to do? Or did the network bigwigs not want to "rock the boat" regarding the ratings? Or lose sponsors due to questionable content.
Footnote: I have not watched all 380 episodes of MY THREE SONS. But all research tends to show the Viet Nam debacle was never mentioned. If you can prove me wrong, contact me! That's one episode I can't miss!
Now, I know what you are thinking. If MTS got to rant about the Viet Nam war, where do we draw the line with other TV shows airing their political views? Does this constitute entertainment for the mindless masses, or merely a weekly viewpoint force fed during a sitcom?
Could the Brady Bunch, with three daughters and a merry maid at the helm, preach to us about abortion, women's rights, and birth control? Could Sanford and Son or The Jeffersons (moving on up) go on and on about slavery, racial injustice or black discrimination? How about the Partridge Family showing the virtues of going vegetarian, proclaiming red meat is the "enemy of all colons in this country." Nope, that would infuriate all the fast food sponsors. And sponsors mean.....money!
Sorry, I'm holding my ground. With literally hundreds of anti-war demonstrations going on at the time across this country, and the majority of Americans wanting a pullout, don't you think ONE EPISODE out of 380 could have included a realistic father to son talk about the ravages of war?!
Was that Douglas family so oblivious (stupid) to notice what was going on beyond the cozy confines of their front door? The father read the paper each night. Uh, what, did he avoid reading about the numerous napalm bombings? Of civilian casualties?
If memory serves, Archie Bunker and his son in law had constant verbal debates about the war and other hot button topics. So why couldn't the My Three Sons gang have beaten them to the punch years earlier? Spineless wimps!
Did the directors and cast think President Lyndon B. Johnson would lose sleep over it? Truth be told, he ALREADY WAS tossing and turning as angry Americans chanted "Hey, hey LBJ, how many boys did you kill today?"
So, I am the director for that one infamous episode. The one where the sons schoolmate had a brother (age 20) killed in Viet Nam. And they talk to the father (Fred MacMurray) and Uncle Charlie (William Demarest) about the destruction and horror that Viet Nam brought about.
About why this long lasting war was a huge mistake. On how constant B52 bombing runs couldn't win guerrilla warfare. On how prisoners suffered and were tortured. How the war tore the country in half. It might have taken two episodes!
Look, instead of being a lame, silly putty type show (trash) it could have made great strides with the male population and made important footprints. Could have crossed lines in the sand. But, in my opinion, they blew it. They disregarded American boys for the sake of themselves and sponsors. To me, that is intolerable.
Maybe you thought the show was cute and entertaining. And after that nasty newscast, showing real dead bodies, this was an "escape." No. Go play a round of golf or do a movie. Whether black and white or in color, this show was a farce on how we really lived and thought.
"But Dad, Muhammad Ali doesn't want to go to Viet Nam, what's up with that?" says Robbie, the oldest son. "Should I burn my draft card like some others are doing? Can I go to the protest next week at the local college?
Little Ernie chimes in: "Uncle Charlie, what's a draft dodger?"
In their vanilla wafer version, I bet conservative old wart Charlie would say "It's something to prevent cold air from getting into your house during the winter."
My version: "Many people feel this war is unjust and won't partake, so they take action as to not going into the military for any type of service. Some move to Canada, some enroll in college, and only sons are exempted. So boys, you are prime meat for the chopping block."
Come to think of it, in 380 episodes, I don't think drugs or sex were mentioned either. Man, did this family have ANY serious hang ups or man to man debates? When things got tough, there was only one thing to do.
Take the dog, Tramp, out for a walk.


 
 
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