Fred MacMurray tried to keep My Three Sons as fresh as possible

MacMurray and his three sons were no strangers to change.

With dozens of family-based sitcoms on television during the 1960s, many producers, actors and showrunners had to do whatever they could in order to stand out and stay relevant.

My Three Sons was one of the many television sitcoms that would have to go head-to-head with Beaver, Opie Taylor and the Andersons. 

There is no doubt that My Three Sons, despite having a talented cast of both kids and adults alike, had a lot going against it during the first few seasons it aired on ABC.

The competition was thick, the television landscape was constantly changing and there was pressure from the networks. And while 12 seasons is a long time to last in Hollywood, it wasn't without its fair share of changes and switch-ups.

Not only was there pressure to have a high-rated show of their own, there was an even greater sense of stress when it came to competing with other high-rated television series such as Leave It to Beaver, The Donna Reed Show, Father Knows Best and The Andy Griffith Show.

Fred MacMurray, who played the role of Steve Douglas, believed there came a time when nearly every TV show had to make big changes in order to keep itself from getting stale.

"Gunsmoke can go on forever, but we can't," MacMurray said in a 1969 interview with Asbury Park Press. "The kids grow up and grow in and out of problems. But it seems that almost anything you can do has been done."

According to the interview, My Three Sons had just started its 10th season on-air when MacMurray said the series was in need of new ideas and storylines in order to progress the story.

The My Three Sons kids were starting to grow up and some were even adults by the time the last season premiered in 1972. MacMurray's three fictional sons included: Mike Douglas (Tim Considine), Robbie Douglas (Don Grady) and Chip Douglas (Stanley Livingston).

One of the major changes the series underwent, according to MacMurray, was adding a new bride for his character to marry in season seven. Actress Beverly Garland was added to the cast list in order to stir up a little love from both Steve Douglas and fans at home.

She played the role of Barbara Harper Douglas and brought along a new daughter for everyone to meet. 

"I hope this is the right move," MacMurray said. "After 10 years you've got to make some changes. We've run out of things to do with five men."

My Three Sons was no stranger to change. Over the course of 12 seasons, the children had changed, William Frawley died, William Demarest moved in, marriages took place and the family moved from the Midwest to California.

MacMurray said he hoped that the marriage between his character and Garland's would add higher ratings and positive reviews to the series. 

"You might say we're getting married in self-defense, because so many shows now have widowers and children," MacMurray said. "There will be 12 shows in the coming season with widows or widows with children."

My Three Sons had 12 incredible seasons before coming to an end in 1972.

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25 Comments

Fredilu 9 days ago
There are a lot of factual errors in this article. I would expect MeTV to be a reliable expert source on anything Classic TV.
Charlotte 21 days ago
If you have to make major changes to a show to keep it fresh, then maybe it's time to let go. Many of the sitcoms tried to extend their stay by changing things up. Most of the time it didn't work. My Three Sons was one of them. Moving to Ca., bad Marrying with a goofy daughter, bad Having triplet grandsons all named after them, dumb. The story lines got weirder too!
willdo19 21 days ago
I think the first season was the best. Something almost magical about it. I can watch those episodes over and over.
THOMASTERRYJR 21 days ago
I never was a great fan of "My Three Sons". It was the only show which I would watch only the opening and closing credits because of the the theme song and the animation showing the person tapping his foot.
Runeshaper 21 days ago
It's definitely important to keep things fresh!

On a separate note, Fred MacMurray was a smart guy and it's no surprise that he had foreseen this realization for the show.
Scott76112 21 days ago
I was ambivalent about the show when it on originally. But where I grew up, there were only two TV stations, so we watched it anyway.

Having two brothers, "My Three Sons" could have been our family, but the show was nothing like us!

Still, the addition of Tina Cole got my attention way back then, and in reruns I still think she's adorable.

Beverly Garland was a good addition. As I've watched TV and movies over the last thousand years, I've seen her in lots of roles.

One of my favorites is "Decoy" -- she was an undercover policewoman, the first female lead in a cop show, I believe.
Bloodymama5 21 days ago
The black and white episodes of MTS were the best.
When the family moved to California the show went down hill, especially in seasons 10 - 12.
harlow1313 21 days ago
Other then the "pop culture" episodes, I most enjoy the show's mention on The Munsters.

The police threaten to take Herman to the station. He pleads, "Gee, do I have to go? I've already missed half of "My Three Sons."
Andybandit 21 days ago
I only watch MTS, when Robbie, Chip, and Ernie were on the show. I never knew there was a Mike Douglas. I only seen MTS in color.
cperrynaples Andybandit 21 days ago
Isn't it strange you prefer those episodes? Like TAGS, M3S was better in B&W!
It was a lot better and funnier. I liked Bub better then Uncle Charley and Mike better than Ernie. But funny to say, Katie was my overall favorite even though she was only on the color episodes. I guess I always liked cute blondes with nice legs.
MrsPhilHarris 21 days ago
For me the slippery slope started when Ernie and Charlie showed up, Mike left, Sudsy disappeared and the move to California. Barbara and Dodie were the nails in the coffin.
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MrsPhilHarris Bapa1 20 days ago
Just awful.
I forgot about Robbie working out of town. 🤭
cinamac Bapa1 20 days ago
I loved Polly! She was a natural California surfer type girl…Tina Cole was beautiful, but her bouffant hairdo and matronly wardrobe were already on the way out! That being said, I just recently started watching the series, from the onset, with Mike, Robbie, Chip and Bub and think the early episodes are the best! Although I grew up with Ernie and Uncle Charlie, I prefer Bub and Mike!
Weird about those twelth season credits! Neither Polly nor Dodie got a credit! I believe they lost those credits and just ran the tenth seasons credits over and over! Honestly, who remembers anything but the boys' torsos? in the sixth season, Robbie became Mike, Chip became Robbie, and Ernie became Chip!
cperrynaples 21 days ago
Technically, M3S NEVER competed with Father Know Best! It ended the same year M3S began! And would you believe it was still on when All In The Family premiered?
PS The Brady Bunch premiered the same year as that interview!
BrittReid 22 days ago
Beverly Garland...'The Alligator People'.
cperrynaples BrittReid 20 days ago
Yep, and she the '50's series Decoy! She was a police woman long before Angie Dickenson!
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