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1960s / Vanishing TV Character - Bub OCasey
My Three Sons was one of televisions's longest-running sitcoms, airing 380 episodes over 12 seasons. It first aired on ABC from 1960 through 1965 and then on CBS from 1965 through 1972. The premise of the show was that Stephen Douglas (played by Fred MacMurray) was a widowed aeronautical engineer with three sons whose ages spanned about 12 years. We never learn much about his deceased wife--not even her first name. With Stephen Douglas often busy, his father-in-law, crusty but good-natured Bub O'Casey, was brought into the family fold to be the equivalent of the 'mother': the person who would cook, clean, shop, do laundry, mend clothes, and so forth. Bub was played by William Frawley who had earlier gained TV fame as Fred Mertz on I Love Lucy in the 1950s. The show was immediately popular but never quite managed to crack the Nielsen top 10 in ratings. Fred MacMurray, who was once the highest paid actor in Hollywood, only agreed to be in the show if he could shoot all his scenes in three months. ABC agreed to this unusual demand. This meant the scripts for an entire season had to be prepared so MacMurray's scenes could all be shot over the space of three months and then pieced together with scenes involving only the other cast members who had a standard shooting schedule. Four seasons into the show, a problem arose: Frawley's health was declining to the point where ABC could not get him insured in case it had to pay for an entire season of episodes to be re-shot with a replacement if Frawley died or was incapacitated by illness. Thus ABC felt it was financially prudent to unceremoniously drop Frawley from the cast midway through the 1964-65 season. (It was explained that Bub had gone to Ireland to look after his 104-year-old Aunt Katie.) Enter William Demarest, who took on the role of Charley O'Casey--Bub's seafaring brother. He was persuaded to become the new Mr. Mom at the Douglas home and proved to be even more grumpy than Bub, but just as lovable deep down. Bub was seldom mentioned again once Uncle Charley entered the scene. Apparently Frawley resented Demarest for replacing him in the cast. Because only the 1965 to 1970 episodes are widely syndicated, many newer fans of My Three Sons are utterly unaware of Bub O'Casey. The insurance concerns were very valid: Frawley died suddenly in March 1966 at age 79.