In our quest to celebrate some of our favorite fathers, we jump into the world of Tom Corbett on The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.
The series debuted on television in September of 1969 and lasted until spring of 1972. The show was based on a 1963 film starring Glen Ford and Ron Howard, which was based on a novel, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father by Mark Toby.
Tom Corbett (Bill Bixby) is a magazine publisher in his 30s. His wife Helen passed away, and he is raising his son Eddie (Brandon Cruz) who is six with the help of his housekeeper Mrs. Livingston (Miyoshi Umeki). Eddie thought his father needed to remarry, so he plotted to set his father up with various women. As the show continued, the plots were less about Tom marrying and more around daily life for him and his son. Rounding out the cast is Norman (James Komack), Tom’s friend and photographer for the magazine; Tina (Kristina Holland), Tom’s secretary; and Joey (Jodie Foster), Eddie’s friend.
Mrs. Livingston was a bit formal, but we also saw her smile at some of Eddie’s antics. We knew she cared about him. She called Tom “Mr. Eddie’s father.”
Miyoshi Umeki who played Mrs. Livingston would retire from acting after the show went off the air. She went to work with her husband who had a film editing equipment and rental business.
It was a talented cast, and everyone seemed to work well together. Tom was a loving and fun father but also made sure Eddie had discipline when necessary. With all the chaos going on in America like the Vietnam War and the Manson Murders, it was a heart-warming show about a unique family. Each episode ended with a heart-to-heart talk between father and son.
Here is a typical plot from the show. This episode from 1972 was titled “The Choice”: Tom starts dating Eddie’s substitute pediatrician, Liz Park. Before things get too serious between the two of them, Liz tells Tom that she is going to Switzerland for three years to study. Although they are attracted to each other, and it will be hard to break up, they decide to keep dating till she leaves. When they get closer, she decides not to go to Switzerland. After one of their dates, they come back to Tom’s and find Eddie with a high fever. Liz treats him and she realizes that pediatric surgery, her chosen field, is too important to give up and ends up leaving for Switzerland.
There was an impressive list of guest stars on the show including Willie Aames, Yvonne Craig, Bill Dana, Sammy Davis Jr., Will Geer, Pat Harrington, Tippi Hedren, Carol Lawrence, Anne Meara, Erin Moran, Pat Morita, Suzanne Pleshette, Lori Saunders, Jerry Stiller, Sally Struthers, Cicely Tyson, and George Takei.
James Komack was not only part of the cast, but he was the creator and executive producer of the show. During the run of the show, Bixby would try his hand at directing and directed eight episodes. (He would go on to direct 92 other episodes of shows as well as tv movies.) Other directors on the show included Hal Cooper, Harry Falk, Randall Hood, Leslie Martinson, Alan Rafkin, and Bob Sweeney.
The popular theme song was written and performed by Harry Nilsson. While the show was playing, scenes of Tom and Eddie bonding in various moments appeared. The lyrics were:
People let me tell you ’bout my best friend,
He’s a warm-hearted person who’ll love me till the end.
People let me tell you ‘bout my best friend,
He’s a one boy cuddly toy, my up, my down, my pride and joy.
People let me tell you ’bout him he’s so much fun
Whether we’re talkin’ man to man or whether we’re talking son to son.
Cause he’s my best friend.
Yeah, he’s my best friend.
Bixby received an Emmy nomination in 1971. (In that same year, Komack was nominated for producer and Umeki was nominated for a Golden Globe for supporting actress.) The show continued to have good ratings for season two, but during the third season, Komack started putting more emphasis on his role. Bixby didn’t agree with the focus and ratings began to plummet, and the show was cancelled.
DVDs were released between 2011 and 2014.
Like so many of the popular 1960s shows, this one was slated for a reboot. Nicholas Cage wanted to remake the film but lost interest when his son got too old for the role. In 2003, the WB filmed a pilot based on the show with Ken Marino and Josh Hutcherson but it was never picked up.
Although the show was not real life, it did mirror it. Cruz came from a broken home and when it got too unbearable to stay there, Bixby let Brandon live with him. Cruz said Bixby’s life had some sadness and despair in it. His six-year-old son died from a throat infection and his wife, actress Brenda Benet, committed suicide less than a year after.
Cruz is now a case manager for Walking Miracles Malibu, a drug and alcohol recovery community. He has nothing but praise for Bixby. “James Komack was the producer, writer, co-star and director, but Bill set the tone of what went on the set. If Bill was happy, everybody was happy because he was the easiest guy to work with when he was happy, and that was pretty much all the time. He was a very private guy, he didn’t let a lot out.”
Brandon relayed something that occurred on the set one day. “He showed everybody how to treat other people nicely. A guy got fired on the set one day, and I don’t know what he’d done, but he was one of my favorite guys on the crew. I told Bill, ‘Hey, I really like that guy.’ And he got his job back because Bill wanted me happy. It’s just the way he worked. It was a big family, and everybody loved working on that show.”
Cruz and Bixby stayed close and in touch till Bixby died. They called each other on their birthdays, and Brandon’s son is named Lincoln Bixby Cruz.
The show demonstrated how close and loving Tom and Eddie were. They truly were best friends, and it’s nice to know some of that closeness carried over into their real life as well.