12 July 2011 | ideabook
Fabian Wasn't Available/Smile If You Think Kelly Was Sweet
This program was a forerunner (one of them) of today's benign, bland TV show. Corny but cute, BF offers us a chance to look in on what used to be a very common plot theme (parents dead, kids live with relative) of the early TV era. BF was the first, from my limited research, to exploit the theme and engage it as a series. As noted similar programs followed and then dropped off by the early 70's. BF deals with its premise, after the initial couple of episodes, by never mentioning why Kelly is living with Bentley again.
BF is fun to watch. It is so of it's era, the direct opposite of Seinfeld which downplayed the present tense (in order to increase its syndication value), that you almost expect to catch 'Wagon Train' or 'The Ann Sothern Show' when its over. It's really nothing special. That is its charm.
Each episode's theme seems to be based on Bentley chasing ladies and its 'unintended consequences' or Kelly's awkward ritual of passage through her teens. All are done with a classy ease that makes one wish life really was so certain and clear. Bentley's 'dates' are all beauties of the era, all seem to fall into his lap, and all are a bit leery of his reputation. None break him down enough to actually merit more than dating. Kelly runs the usual gauntlet of teen angst and manages to deal with all as expected. She boarders on being super bright, average, bossy, selfish, cute, hip, sexy, dumb, boy crazy (often), jealous, etc.
BF in season 5 follows Kelly into college and possibly getting married. But, having run out of networks in the spring of 1962, BF is doomed to TV black space. It leaves us hanging without knowing what becomes of Kelly, Bentley or Peter. If anything, BF kept a 50's version of TV life in a time capsule, at least to 1962.
The final season (1961-1962) is all over the place. Howard returns for several (9) episodes, I think as Kelly's boyfriend. He then disappears later in the season, replaced by (love interest) Warren Kincaid (a lawyer working for Bentley). Four episodes in he also vaporizes. Kelly is a college freshman in season 5. Howard and Ginger are as well and attend the same school. Never having a formal finale, in the last episode 'Curfew Shall Not Ring' Kelly moves near campus but soon returns home. And, with yet another boyfriend: a low-budget character who eats a lot of cake. By my count she has at least 5 boyfriends in season 5.
Given the confusing final season, it's hard to guess which direction season 6 would have gone. Probably with Kelly in college, Bentley slipping back into his 'bachelor' ways and Peter remaining Peter.
Howard was dropped late in season 5. An important character he provided continuity, laughs and male teen 'insight' for Kelly, and Bentley. His relationship with Kelly was fun yet confusing. Was he her boyfriend or not? Ginger in season 5 is portrayed as a 'typical' teen girl and Kelly's close friend and confidant. Yet, oddly, appears in only 5 episodes. This is hard to understand. BF had continuity issues. Howard and Ginger were not developed much, if at all. 'Bentley' breaks down the 4th wall in a few episodes and provides narration in most throughout the series run. Given that, it's clear, the program is from his own POV.
Kelly glides through the series with limited character development. Bentley is a superficial male of that era. Only Peter shows any real change. Guest roles were weak, usually centered on Bentley. It had light, frothy plots, none serious. They also show no unique qualities, some were imitative of others, including rip-offs of 'I Love Lucy' (travel to Europe, Bentley on vacation (season 6, ILL, 'Building a BBQ')). BF would have benefited from better writing. The characters did have room for growth.
'Bentley' went on to star in 4 shows and as the pervert judge in 'And Justice For All'. He continued acting and voice work until a few years ago (he died in 2010 at 93). Peter, portrayed by Asian prototypical actor Sammie Tong, was lined up for a new show in 1963 in much the same type role. The show failed. A 'degenerate gambler', deep in debt and in trouble with the mob (even with real life help from Forsthye) Tong committed suicide in 1964, some claim, in order to avoid shame. Kelly (Noreen Corcoran) went on to sing, appear in TV guest roles and 60's beach movies (including a popular effort which featured Lesley Gore). Never really catching on she left the trade in 1969 to focus on dancing or production. Corcoran died in January 2016 at 71. She never married and had lived in San Francisco, California.
Bachelor Father aired for a few years on Retro TV (RTV). It was picked up by Antenna TV in September, 2012 and aired there on T-F from 4-5a EST and at 2-3a on Sundays. It was dropped at the end of 2014. According to sources the cable channel decided not to renew it after negotiations with the rights owners failed to reach agreement on long-term plans to broadcast the show. After decades of not being on broadcast television at all it has once again returned to TV black space. It also is not out in DVD.