Tuesday, July 16, 2013

And They Were Never Seen Or Heard From Again...

Welcome to a new feature here at Bob Canada's BlogWorld: And They Were Never Seen Or Heard From Again.

Here we'll examine the phenomenon in which a TV series introduces a new character who's befriended by the main cast, becomes very important to them and then vanishes without a trace the moment the episode ends. It happens more often than you think.

Today we'll take a look at the Family Affair episode The Great Kow-Tow.

We begin with Uncle Bill entertaining the Changs, a sophisticated and urbane Chinese couple. The Changs appear to be old friends even though we've never seen them before.

Suddenly twins Buffy and Jody burst in to say goodnight to Uncle Bill. Mrs. Chang is mesmerized by their cheek-pinching cuteness.

In fact she's so smitten with the Twins that she offers to tuck them in, telling them a bedtime story about the mythical land of Fu Sang. She goes on about it for quite a long time in a transparent effort to pad out the running time.

Mrs. Chang decides she just can't get enough of the Twins and invites the whole family to their home for Chinese New Year, which just happens to be that weekend.

Cut to the gang arriving at the Chang's improbably spacious apartment, which is decorated in the Mid Century Oriental Restaurant Style.

They're introduced to Honorable Grandfather Chang. Poor Grampaw's health has begun to deteriorate because he feels there's no place for him in this modern world. He's even stopped eating, praying to whatever gods he worships for the sweet release of death.

The Changs shamefully admit they have two unseen and ungrateful teenaged children who want nothing to do with their culture or their fossil of a grandfather, which appears to be the cause of much of his tsuris.

But what's this? Grampaw Chang is so charmed by the Twins' toothy grins though that he's instantly invigorated. He leaps from his chair and starts showing them around the vast apartment.

Grampaw Chang is played by veteran character actor Keye Luke (of Kung Fu fame). He's dressed as stereotypically as you'd expect a Chinese man to be in a 1960s sitcom, complete with a long silk Cheongsam robe and small black hat. He's even got a wispy gray goatee and Fu Manchu mustache!

To his credit, Keye Luke gives the character as much dignity as the script and the 1960s will allow. Grampaw Chang speaks fluent English with nary a "Confucius say" or "Ah-so" to be found.

Unfortunately he's sporting some blatantly obvious fake gray hair and eyebrows in a lame attempt to make him look older than he really is (Luke was 64 at the time, but no doubt looked much younger). Maybe the makeup looked better on 1960s era TVs, what with their 250 scan lines of resolution.

The Wonder Twins are taken with Grampaw Chang too and start visiting him every day after school.

Since the Twins have no grandparents of their own, they ask the elder Chang to be their surrogate grandfather. They don't actually use the word "surrogate" though. They're six years old. That would be stupid.

Grampaw Chang is so touched by the tow-headed little Meigou Ren that he proudly accepts their offer. He even shows the Twins the family shrine and says they're now a part of his family as well, forever and for all time. It's a heartwarming occasion, as evidenced by the treacly violins on the soundtrack.

Grampaw then showers the Twins with gifts, including authentic Chinese clothing and their own pet birds. He even teaches them how to speak and write Mandarin. No doubt he's teaching them to write "F YOU!" notes to his horrible real grandkids.

Mr. and Mrs. Chang marvel at the change in Grampaw's health. The Twins have literally saved his life; giving him a reason to live again.

In the tag scene we see Jody, Buffy, Grampaw Chang and Mr. French in Central Park, "walking" their pet birds. The Twins tell Grampaw how much they love him and  how glad they are that he's their new grandfather.


One week later it's like this episode never happened. He's never even mentioned in dialog again. The Twins seem so cute, cuddly and wholesome throughout this episode, but don't let them fool you! They're nothing but a pair of dirty, manipulative little liars! 

They made an old man believe they wanted him to be their grandfather and buttered him up for some free birds and some sweet clothes. Then something more exciting came along and they dropped him like a hot egg roll. God knows what that did to poor Grampaw Chang. No doubt he stopped eating again and was dead by Christmas. Then just for spite they probably called the Department of Immigration on the rest of the Changs, just to make sure they were all legal.

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