The history of 'My Three Sons' in 7 incredible numbers

This underrated family comedy made the record books.

My Three Sons is one of the more underappreciated shows in television history. A sort of rebottling of the principle formula behind the success of The Shaggy Dog, the Fred MacMurray vehile put up some gargantuan stats. Few sitcoms have enjoyed the kind of success seen by My Three Sons, which ran from 1960 to 1972. The series is not mentioned in the same breath as other classics, yet it is hard to argue with a dozen years of popularity. The show has roots in TV history and ripples that reach to masterful work of the modern age, with cast members that appeared on I Love Lucy (WIlliam Frawley) and Mad Men (Barry Livingston).

We tallied some interesting stats on the family comedy.


Over its 12 seasons, Sons logged an impressive 380 episodes. That makes it the second longest running live-action sitcom in history. Ozzie and Harriet holds the title with 425. Want to binge-watch the entire thing? You're going to need some time off.


My Three Sons is the rare series to enjoy successful runs on two networks. The first five seasons aired on ABC before the show jumped to CBS. The reason? Colors. ABC was reluctant to cover the cost of producing the show in color.

65, 10

MacMurray worked out a pretty sweet deal for himself. His contract stipulated a cap of 65 days total work, with a relaxing ten-week break in the middle. This arrangement caused for some unique (at the time, at least) filming arrangements. The sitcom was shot out of sequence, with production continuing sans MacMurray during his vacation. Eagle-eyed viewer will note minor continuity curiousities and frequent scenes with MacMurray away from the rest of the cast.


Despite its popularity, My Three Sons interestingly never cracked the top ten. The closest it came was in season two, when it ranked at No. 11 on the Nielsen charts.


Season five, however, lured the most eyeballs. That's the number of viewers for the 1964-65 season. There were 52.7 million households with televisions at the time. A quarter of the country ain't bad.

5 (or 8)

"My Three Sons" is a misnomer. There were more sons, and a daughter. Over the course of the show, MacMurray's character Steven Douglas had five children. Mike, Robbie and Chip made up the original triumvirate. The adopted Ernie followed. Then stepdaughter Dodie was added. My Four Sons and Daughter is more apt, though the total number of children on the series is eight, when you count the second threesome of Robert, Steven and Charles, Robbie's triplets. MacMurray must have never heard W.C. Fields' famous quip about childen and animals.


Lawrence Welk's version of the theme song, written by Frank De Vol, peaked at No. 55 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961. 

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RedSamRackham 50 months ago
* Stanley "Chip" Livingston told how Willliam "Bub" Frawley played pranks on Vivian Vance filming Lucy Show in adjoining studio. ☺
Drew 50 months ago
Just yesterday, I saw an interesting interview with Barry Livingston (Ernie) on the odd production sequence. When McMurray was off, there was a five foot nothing female production assistant standing on an apple crate off camera serving as McMurray's stand in - so Ernie, or whomever would be looking up at the correct angle. 😳
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