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‘My Three Sons’ Final Episode Aired On This Day in 1972

by John Jamison
(Photo by Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images)

‘My Three Sons’ spanned TV generations, and on April 13, 1972, its final episode aired.

The final episode was called “Whatever Happened to Ernie?” It finds Steve Douglas called upon by his boss to help sort out his son Gordon. Gordon is a teen rebel and classmate of Ernie’s who the parents suspect has begun to experiment with drugs.

What’s interesting is that the episode very easily could have been the Season 12 finale. Apparently, CBS had originally decided to end the series before changing their minds. They resolved to bring “My Three Sons” back for Season 13, but they flip-flopped again and ended up canceling the show for good.

The cancellation came as a disappointment to star Fred MacMurray and the rest of the cast alike, as the final season was enjoying solid ratings when the network decided to pull the plug.

The 1960s were an exciting time for television. Shows were moving over from black and white to color. And “My Three Sons” had some intimate experience with that. The show was forced to move from ABC to CBS because the original network refused to pay the increased costs that came along with color.

And despite all of the success that “My Three Sons” had, it never managed to break the top 10 shows on TV. At least, not according to Nielsen ratings.

Fred MacMurray Only Cast Member To Appear In Every ‘My Three Sons’ Episode

Fred MacMurray’s movie career created all sorts of scheduling conflicts for “My Three Sons.” His film obligations forced the show to film all of the episodes out of order.

The actor required that the show be filmed entirely according to his schedule. It’s only appropriate then that his character, widower Steve Douglas, was the only character who appeared in all 380 episodes of the show. Stanley Livingston, who played Chip Douglas, came close. But he failed to appear in three separate episodes.

Fred MacMurray’s scheduling conflicts were also responsible for a little-known “My Three Sons” fact. Because they were filmed out of order, the last episode to air wasn’t actually the last episode to be shot.