Retro Review examines episodes of short-lived, forgotten, or obscure television shows. Each column includes both a summary and a review.
Accidental Family – “Halloween’s On Us”
Aired October 27th, 1967 on NBC
Teleplay by Joseph Bonaduce
Story by Ray Brennen & Barry E. Blitzer
Directed by Earl Bellamy
Accidental Family starred Jerry Van Dyke as a nightclub entertainer who, after gaining custody of his young son, buys a farm in the San Fernando Valley. Lois Nettleton co-starred as a divorcee living as a tenant on the farm with her young daughter. Together, the four make up an “accidental” family. NBC cancelled the sitcom halfway through the 1967-1968 season after just 16 episodes due to low ratings.
Jerry Van Dyke as Jerry Webster
Lois Nettleton as Susannah Kramer
Teddy Quinn as Sandy Webster
Susan Benjamin as Tracy Kramer
Laura Barry as Eleanor
Danny Bonaduce as Danny
David Fox as Brian
Bill Henry as Man
Kay E. Kuter as Policeman
Linda Sue Risk as Crying Girl
Richard Steele as Harold
Kay Stewart as Woman
Kelly Van Dyke as Marsha
John Byner as Dewey
Tracy and Sandy are trying to join the secret Junior Gargoyles club. Tracy is allowed in but snobby club president Brian tells Sandy he has to do something for the club before he’s allowed to join: throw the best Halloween party ever.
After receiving several phone calls from Sandy, Jerry convinces his friend Dewey Davis to entertain at the Halloween party. He dismisses Sue’s ideas for the party, like hamburgers and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, as boring. The kids arrive and shortly thereafter Dewey shows up with Chinese food, which Brian poo poos. He prefers hamburgers.
When it’s time to go trick or treating, Jerry insists on taking the kids in a truck even though they want to walk around on their own. Jerry and Dewey suggest the kids perform to get more candy, which of course Brian doesn’t like. The two demonstrate at the next house with their own routine and are invited inside. While they’re inside, most of the kids fall asleep. They’re disappointed when they learn Jerry and Dewey didn’t get any candy. Brian calls it the worst Halloween in history.
Back at the farm, the party plods along. Dewey’s impersonations fall flat. Sue’s hamburgers are tough as leather because Jerry kept the kids out longer than expected. Jerry and Dewey try to get the kids excited by taking home movies but wind up melting Sue’s ice cream.
To keep Brian from leaving, Sue promises more ice cream and sends Jerry and Dewey off on a scavenger hunt. Thinking they’re competing with the kids, Jerry and Dewey go all out, only go wind up getting arrested for cat burglary. When they get back to the house, they find the kids playing happily on their own, bobbing for apples.
Brian has so much fun bobbing for apples he lets Sandy join the Junior Gargoyles.
I’ve watched maybe half of the 16 episodes of Accidental Family and I’ve enjoyed them all. “Halloween’s On Us” is no exception. Jerry Van Dyke is clearly the star but Lois Nettleton more than holds her own. Sue is far more subdued than Jerry and almost always the voice of reason and yet she can be funny, too.
One of my favorites moments in the episode comes when Sue asks Jerry to take off the monster mask he’s wearing. He does and she immediately screams at the sight of his face, covering her mouth with her hands both to accentuate the horror and to stifle her laughter. Jerry takes the joke at his expense in stride.
Jerry Van Dyke and John Byner play off one another well, whether they’re performing for strangers or playing around with a film camera. David Fox does an okay job portraying the stick-in-the-mud Brian who complains about everything and everyone. The rest of the child actors, including Teddy Quinn and Susan Benjamin as Sandy and Tracy, give age-appropriate performances.
According to the Internet Movie Database, “Halloween’s On Us” marked the television debut of Danny Bonaduce, whose father wrote the teleplay for the episode. Also featured in a minor role is Jerry Van Dyke’s daughter Kelly Van Dyke.
Where to Watch
Accidental Family is not available on DVD nor is the show streaming anywhere. You can find “Halloween’s On Us” on YouTube, however.
Do you remember watching Accidental Family on NBC in 1967? Did you watch this episode? Hit the comments with your thoughts.