‘My Three Sons’: The Curious Reason the Hit Show Moved from ABC to CBS

by Joe Rutland
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Television shows in the 1960s were going from black-and-white to color. It costs more to film in color and caused “My Three Sons” to move.

The show, starring veteran movie actor Fred McMurray, originally was shown on ABC. After five seasons, though, it moved over to CBS. Why? Because ABC flatly refused to cover the expenditure of shooting episodes in color.

That move happened before the 1965-66 season. But “My Three Sons” remained a Top 20 show in the ratings and finished its 12-season run on TV on CBS.

“My Three Sons” is not the only show from that era to go from black-and-white to color. Among many others are “I Dream of Jeannie,” “Gilligan’s Island,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Bonanza” and “Gunsmoke.”

CBS was known as “The Tiffany Network” because of its programming and a powerful cash machine. Big-time stars like Lucille Ball and Jackie Gleason helped CBS rake in advertising dollars. This, in turn, allowed the network to shoot its programs with the finest technology and film at the time.

‘My Three Sons’ Plots End Up On ‘The Brady Bunch’

You’ve heard that old line about “imitation being the sincerest form of flattery,” right? Well, it’s probably true in this case.

It’s a bit obvious that “The Brady Bunch” show writers were fans of “My Three Sons.” Even though “The Brady Bunch” centers around six kids, girls and boys, the show began borrowing ideas from several episodes.

According to IMDb, a lot of plotlines from “My Three Sons” found their way to “The Brady Bunch.” Even though there are differences in the shows and they had their own unique quirks, a few episodes appear to share similar plots.

“Several episodes of the later series ‘The Brady Bunch’ contained ‘recycled’ plots from this show: Katchoo (1969) was from Tramp or Ernie (1966). The Winner (1971) was from A Hunk of Hardware (1966). And Two Petes in a Pod (1974) was from The Wrong Robbie (1966),” according to IMDb.

Fred MacMurray Was Movie Star Before TV Series

Before ever stepping into the role of Steve Douglas, Fred MacMurray was a major movie star. One of his most memorable film roles is in 1944’s “Double Indemnity.” His costars were Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson, two Hollywood heavyweights in the movie world.

MacMurray, though, found himself playing roles in a few Walt Disney films, too. Those included “The Absent-Minded Professor,” “The Shaggy Dog,” and “The Happiest Millionaire.”

Much like some of his contemporaries, MacMurray would take his film earnings and make real estate investments. Those paid off handsomely and allowed him to be one of the wealthiest actors in Hollywood.

He was born on Aug. 30, 1908, in Kankakee, Ill. MacMurray died on Nov. 5, 1991. He was 83 years old.

Even with his film stardom, though, Fred MacMurray will always be remembered as Steve Douglas on “My Three Sons.”

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