PREVIOUSLY ON POP CULTURE MYSTERIES…
AND NOW THE POP CULTURE MYSTERIES CONTINUE…
I returned to my office, worn out and weary after a day of shaking the beep boop machines to see what would fall out vis a vis the mystery of what happened to the original Brady Bunch spouses.
Correction – I let Agnes the Librarian do all the work. This new fangled technology confuses me more than Chinese Algebra translated into Greek.
Like a monk studying a holy book, I poured over the printouts Agnes made for me and came up with the following:
OBSERVATION – Though tame by today’s standards, the Brady Bunch was ahead of its time.
No matter what happened to the original Brady Bunch spouses, one thing became apparent to this sleuth after watching a few episodes:
Mixed/blended families were not a big staple of old television.
Hell, I remember watching a few sitcoms in the early 1950’s. When the show called for a night time scene, the mother and father would be shown sleeping in separate beds, as if the fictional characters weren’t canoodling like a pair of jackrabbits when the cameras were off.
I’m still getting up to speed on all the pop culture I missed, but I’m fairly certain Mr. and Mrs. Brady were one of the first TV couples to share a bed on camera.
And if you can imagine that it wasn’t easy getting couples to share a bed on TV, it was yeoman’s work to get a show on the air that featured a man with kids marrying a woman with kids. Happens all the time but for whatever reason, it used to be considered unseemly to talk about.
THEORY #1 – The Original Brady Spouses Were Bumped Off
As a detective, one of the first tasks at hand is to establish motive. Did someone have a reason to do something? Someone having a reason to do something doesn’t automatically mean they did said thing but it can give you some insight into the case.
Mr. Brady’s Motive – None as far as I can see. He was the only one bringing any money into the house. Why would a guy bump off his first wife just so he can marry some dame and dole out extra cash to raise her three kids? Hell, he even had to keep a housekeeper on the payroll just to corral all those rugrats. Doesn’t seem like a deal most fellas would sign up for, let alone kill for if you ask me.
Mrs. Brady’s Motive – To be a kept woman. Carol never had a job and yet Alice the housekeeper did all the work around Casa del Brady. Sure, it’s understandable that with six kids a woman might need an extra hand, but out of all the episodes Agnes the Librarian showed me on the library’s beep boop machine, I didn’t see Carol lift a single finger, fold a bed sheet, or even rinse out a pair of track marked underpants.
As said above, motive does not always mean guilt (or that a crime even occurred in the first place). All I’m saying is if some rich architect broad wanted to give me a life where I could just sit back and let some happy go lucky housekeeper do all the work, I might tempted to outfit my wife for a pair of cement shoes.
Luckily, I’m not married at present. And honestly, out of the three wives I loved and lost, Muffy’s the only ex that I’d seriously consider the proposition for. And even then, I wouldn’t. I might be many things, but a law breaker ‘aint one of them, Jack.
Conclusion – If there’s one thing I’ve learned in all my years as a law man, it’s this:
Few secrets last forever. Sooner or later, they bubble up to the surface.
You’ve got a big house with six kids, a man, a woman, a housekeeper, an occasional cousin (Oliver) and regular visits from Sam the Butcher. Had the original Brady spouses been put on ice, then someone would have noticed something off in the family dynamic and would have squealed louder than a prize pig at the county fair.
Thus, this detective concludes there was no foul play.
Theory #2 – Divorce
Splitsville. Calling it quits. The old dumparooni. Make no mistake about it, divorce was a taboo topic back in the day.
I asked Agnes to run the stats on divorce between 1950 and today. Here’s a chart that barked at me like a junkyard dog in search of a bone:
TOP REASONS GIVEN FOR DIVORCE BY YEAR
1950 – Husband attempted to murder me more than seven times and I’ve had enough. I hope Jesus will forgive me for breaking my vows.
1965 – Husband cheated on me fifty times and the fifty-first time was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I hope I don’t burn in hell for leaving.
1975 – Husband cheated on me ten times and hey, you other women can put up with more than that if you want but ten times is too many for this empowered female. Vows schmows.
2000 – I hate my husband’s face.
2010: I need more me time.
2015 – Husband farted in my presence, broke my fantasy of living in an ideal perfect marriage. Note to self: find a fartless husband.
SOURCE: The Fake Institute for Made Up Research
See a pattern? As time progressed, people became more accepting of couples breaking their wedding vows like so many smashed dishes.
In the olden days, people either stayed together until the end of time and if they didn’t, then no one wanted to hear about it, especially on national television.
I determined Mike Brady and his first missus weren’t divorced. More on that later.
First, here’s the intel I honed in on vis a vis Carol:
“Creator Sherwood Schwartz maintains Carol was divorced from her first husband, but nothing about it was mentioned on the series. At that time, divorce was a subject matter that was still considered largely taboo for television, particularly a series aimed at family audiences.”
Further, after viewing the first episode, The Honeymoon, which shows Mike and Carol getting married, Carol tells her parents, “I don’t know what I’d of done without you the past few years.”
Is that a vague clue? Did Carol have to rely on her parents after her first marriage turned as sour as a six month old jug of buttermilk?
Another clue – Carol, before the wedding, tells Mike, “A few years ago I thought it was the end of the world…”
Why did Carol feel like it was the end of the world? Perhaps because her first marriage blew up like a Tiajuana firecracker on Cinco de Mayo?
CONCLUSION: Would that most of my cases wrap-up so easily. Carol and her first fella broke up but the subject was considered too risqué to discuss on TV at the time.
THEORY 3 – Death
In the first episode, there’s a scene in which Bobby has hidden a picture of his biological mother, afraid that Carol wouldn’t approve of him having it displayed in his room.
Mike tells Bobby to put the picture back up, that he and Carol don’t want Bobby to forget about his mother, and that she’d be proud of him.
CONCLUSION: Seems obvious that the first Mrs. Brady died from natural causes, though I suppose there could have been some kind of accident. We aren’t told the details of the original Mrs. B’s demise, but it was obviously a tragic event that caused a lot of sadness in the male side of the Brady Bunch household.
Mr. Battler, for the sake of your 3.5 readers, I’ll wrap this report up with some info about the show:
THE BRADY BUNCH
Years on air – 1969-1974
Robert Reed (Mike Brady)
Florence Henderson (Carol Brady)
Ann B. Davis (Alice Nelson aka Alice the Housekeeper)
Maureen McCormick (Marcia Brady)
Eve Plumb (Jan Brady)
Susan Olsen (Cindy Brady)
Barry Williams (Greg Brady)
Christopher Knight (Peter Brady)
Mike Lookinland (Bobby Brady)
WHERE TO STREAM IT:
Available on Hulu. Though vague, the first episode provides answers as to what happened to the first Brady spouses.
FINAL OBSERVATIONS: Parents. Kids. Love. Happiness. It’s what every family wants. Ideally, it all lasts forever. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out. Sometimes the Man Upstairs makes a mess of your plans and takes a parent away or sometimes a couple isn’t able to make it work as a package deal.
Sometimes parts of families come together to “form a family.” A new one. Who are we to say that’s wrong?
Corny as it may seem today, The Brady Bunch was a pioneer when it came to putting mixed/blended families on television.
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Copyright (C) Bookshelf Q. Battler 2015. All rights reserved.
Detective and stamp images courtesy of a shutterstock.com license.