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Tropes used in My Three Sons include:
- An Aesop
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Possibly the originator of this trope, except in name. As mentioned below, Bub was no longer referred to sometime after William Frawley left; sometimes, even flashbacks showed only Uncle Charlie. Once after Mike left, it was discussed having the two younger boys move in with him, and then he was mentioned no more, neither was Ernie's being adopted. One imagines the re-marriage and Dody would have eventually been so retconned, making Beverly Garland's character a very tired woman. Knowing of this policy, Katie's actress wondered what would happen to her if the show continued without Robbie. It only lasted one season past this, though.
- Cousin Oliver: Ernie (the Douglas' adopted son, joining the household in 1965), and later, Dodie (played by Dawn Lyn), as Steve's stepdaughter after he re-marries in 1969.
- In the case of the addition of Dodie, the former Jump the Shark website entry for My Three Sons had some very negative remarks about the character, eventually prompting Lyn to post her own entry sharing her positive experiences on the show and working with MacMurray, Garland, Demarest and the rest of the cast.
- Deadpan Snarker: Most of the characters, even the level-headed Steve has a few moments.
- Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: Also Smoking Is Cool. Steve smokes a pipe, and in several later episodes, Robbie also takes up pipe smoking. In addition, at least one episode showed Katie taking a job as a cigarette vendor at a nightclub (although Katie never smokes in any episode).
- Dom Com
- Grumpy Old Man: Bub and later uncle Charlie, but they really love their family.
- House Husband: More like "House Grandpa" with Bub, and later "House Uncle" with uncle Charlie.
- Long Runner: Ran for 12 seasons (five on ABC, seven on CBS). Had it not been for faltering ratings during the final season, the possibility existed for renewal for the 1972-1973 season.
- May-December Romance: Somewhat, as a 50s-something Steve begins a romance with a widowed 40-year-old woman (Barbara, played by Beverly Garland) and eventually marries her.
- Missing Episode: Averted. But with 380 episodes, two rerun packages were made of the show. The first (and most popular) consists of the 1965-1970 color episodes, spanning the sixth through midway through the 11th seasons. The other package has the first five seasons (1960-1965, all black-and-white) and the final 1 1/2 seasons (the second half of the 1970-1971 and the full 1971-1972 seasons). To those unfamiliar with the workings of syndication, the shows that aren't part of the package currently shown on cable or their particular local station might conclude the other episodes are either missing or lost.
- Missing Mom: Steve's first wife had died at some point before the series began, leaving him a widower with three sons. At some later point, Steve hires his father-in-law (his first wife's father), Charles "Bub" O'Casey (William Frawley), to help manage the household.
- Product Placement
- Put on a Bus: At least three instances:
- Bub O'Casey, who left in early 1965 after Frawley's health began to fail. Bub was said to be on a tour of Europe, and when Frawley died in 1966, no mention was made of Bub's passing. (His replacement was Uncle Charley, played by William Demarest.)
- Mike Douglas, played by Tim Considine, who left after the first color episode of the 1965-1966 season when he grew tired of the role. He was married to his girlfriend, Sue Ann (played by Meredith MacRae), and the two moved out east ... never to return. His role was replaced by Ernie (Chip's orphaned friend, played by Stanley Livingston's real-life brother, Barry).
- Robbie Douglas, the middle son played by Don Grady, who left the show in 1971. Robbie, who followed his father into engineering, was sent to an extended construction project in Peru.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute
- Theme Tune
- Very Special Episode: Although very few of the episodes dealt with socially relevant themes, one of the final episodes -- "Whatever Happened to Ernie" -- had the Douglases helping a family of one of Ernie's classmates after it is believed that the teen had fallen into drug use.