#133: Brady Nation

133.1  Dear Stolf: Wasn’t there an episode of “The Brady Bunch” where Carol’s grandmother married Mike’s grandfather? How did that mess up their family tree?  …from Phoebe B. in TVLand


133.2  Dear Phoebe: You remember rightly…episode 22 of the 4th season, entitled “You’re Never Too Old”…and in the finest sitcom tradition, Florence Henderson played her own grandmama and Robert Reed…well, you can see him in the picture above, doing his best Barnaby Jones impersonation.

133.3  Now to do up a Brady family tree right, you’d need to watch every episode of all 5 seasons…but you wouldn’t be done yet, because of the Saturday morning cartoon series, various spinoff series and specials, and even the 2 parody movies…which you might not think of as canonical, except for the fact that series creator Sherwood Schwartz produced them too…which is why the satire was so good-natured. But anyway, gleaning the web and other sources, here’s what I come up with…

chart 466

133.4 The elderly couple you asked about are at the top. The pilot episode, which aired as the first episode on 9/26/1969, contained the following information: Mike’s full name, Carol’s full name, including married and birth surnames, and her parents’ names. Carol and the girls, with their orange cat Fluffy, were living with her parents before the wedding. Grandparents Joan Tompkins and J. Pat O’Malley were never seen again, nor was the feline.


133.5  A couple of notes on Chart 466…many years later, on the short-lived series “The Bradys” in 1990, Mike is sworn in as City Councilman as “Michael Thomas Brady”…oops. Aunt Jenny, who made one appearance played by Imogene Coca, is Carol’s aunt…one source, as yet unconfirmed, says she’s a Tyler. Then there’s annoying little Cousin Oliver who appeared in the final 6 shows of the 5th season…his parents were going away on a research dig and couldn’t take him along…their names are mentioned but they themselves are never seen. Note for New Englanders: Carol once mentions she grew up in Swampscott, Massachusetts.

133.6  As to the mysterious first Mrs. Brady and absent Mr. Martin…when Sherwood Schwartz first came up with the idea for the series, and the first script in 1965, he envisioned Mike as a widower and Carol as a divorcee. There was little interest in the show until the Lucille Ball/Henry Fonda movie “Mine, Yours, and Ours” was a hit in 1968. Trouble was, ABC was not happy with the idea of a divorced women with kids…and for whatever reason, Schwartz was adamant. The compromise they came to was that Mike would indeed be a widower, but Carol’s status would remain unspecified. All we get in the pilot is when she says to her parents: “I don’t know what I would have done without you two these past few years” and then later to Mike: “A few years ago, I thought it was the end of the world.” So something happened to Mr. Martin, we just don’t know what…and that was the way it was intended.

133.7  Interestingly enough, the fuzzy status of Mr. Martin was on Schwartz’ mind around the time the 5th season rolled around…he said that he was seriously considering dumping the querulous Robert Reed and bringing back the long lost husband, but thought better of it…altho that idea was indeed used in the second movie, “A Very Brady Sequel,” with Tim Matheson impersonating Roy Martin. Odd coincidence: Matheson played one of the sons back in “Yours, Mine and Ours.”

133.8  As for the first Mrs. Brady, she is apparently only mentioned in the pilot episode, where Bobby puts her picture away in a dresser drawer, assuming his new mom wouldn’t want to see it, and Mike sets him straight on that point. The cool thing is, we actually see a picture of her…


…and using my best intuition, I have added it to a picture of Mildred Seidman, who was married to Sherwood Schwartz for 69 years. Can’t say it’s a definite match, but to my eye it’s not impossible. And after all, that’s the tricky way they do such things on TV, nez pah?

4 4

133.9  And speaking of how they do things on TV, the Aunt Jenny episode starts out with Jan finding a picture of “herself,” yet the clothes don’t look right. Turns out Aunt Jenny looked just like Jan when she was her age…and of course, on the show, they use a photo of Eve Plumb to be the young Jenny. Getting back to Mike…altho studio press releases always referred to him as a widower, I don’t believe that was ever specifically spelled out…wife is D-E-A-D…on the series itself, much as the scene with the photo implies it.


133.10  Finally, the frisky old folks…he is reluctant at first, she is too much for him it seems, but he succumbs and they trot off to Las Vegas to get hitched. Sadly, I haven’t seen this episode…are more genealogical details mentioned? Certainly Carol’s grandmother’s surname of Hutchins could be a married (re-married) name, in which case she could be either Carol’s maternal or paternal grandmother. But I’m assuming the simplest case, that Carol’s mother was a Hutchins…we never do learn her first name.

133.11  And how does this impact the family? OK, you could say that the woman who was Mike’s maternal grandmother-in-law is now also his paternal step-grandmother…and the other way around for Carol…but I think that would be reaching. Likewise, I suppose the kids now have, respectively, either a new step-great grandfather or step-great grandmother…but then that new step-great grandparent was their natural great grandparent in the first place, so that’s pretty much academic.

133.12   If you really want to get down to cases…here’s a topic that is hotly debated among fans…were the kids actually adopted, or did they remain step-‘s? Again, any definitive answer would require you to view the original 117 half-hour episodes…and that’s just for a start. The adoption of step-children is currently the most common form of adoption in this country…and in the past it was usually just one parent who brought children to the marriage, and the other parent who would formally adopt them. That’s what made the “yours and mine” situation so novel in the first place. Today such mixing and matching is taken for granted.

133.13  Laws vary from state to state, but in general an adopted child is considered legally equivalent to a natural, biological child…and the parent is automatically the child’s legal guardian as well. But if the “other” parent is still alive, they must consent to the adoption, in which case they lose all legal rights as a parent. Now you can be a child’s legal guardian without adopting them…and a child’s legal guardian is not strictly speaking their legal parent. As far as I can tell, the difference is that a non-custodial parent who is ruled unfit can still withhold permission for adoption, but cannot prevent legal guardianship…their unfitness to parent being the whole point of a legal guardianship in the first place. But without some sort of legal determination,  a step-parent has no standing with respect to their step-children…they are what’s called “legal strangers.”

133.14  Does the girls taking the last name Brady tell us anything?…presumably they were Martins up to that point. Well, a legal name change can be granted in the absence of anything else…adoption, legal guardianship, whatever. In fact, as long as no fraud is involved, such children can be renamed for all intents and purposes without  going thru a legal process…in which case, they may use their new name at home, at school, etc…altho it won’t be their actual name for strictly legal purposes, such as social security number.

133.15  Having said all that, the question remains: were the boys adopted by Carol and the girls by Mike? It seems reasonable, given the closeness of this blended bunch, that each parent would have at the very least gotten legal guardianship of their respective step-children. I am aware of only 2 instances when the matter is even touched upon…and it should be pointed out that after the first season, the plots stopped revolving around the trials and tribulations of being “mixed”…after that, they were simply “a family.”

133.16  In the first season episode, “Every Boy Does It Once,” Bobby feels unwanted and runs away from home. The capper is a famous quote from Carol…I haven’t seen the episode, and it’s given on the net in various different versions…but it’s along the lines of “The only steps in this house are the ones that lead up to your bedroom.” The implication being that under their roof Carol is to be considered the boys’ “real” mother, likewise for Mike and the girls.

133.17  Well and good…still doesn’t say anybody’s officially adopted. This issue comes up again in the 5th season episode “Kelly’s Kids”  a.k.a. “The Three Musketeers,” actually a pilot for another Sherwood Schwartz series that didn’t sell. Ken Berry and Brooke Bundy are the Kellys, who first adopt a boy…played by Todd Lookinland, Mike “Bobby” Lookinland’s little brother…then wind up adopting his 2 best friends from the orphanage as well. At the beginning of the show, they’re talking with Mike and Carol…

Ken says to Carol: Y’know, your kids were our inspiration.
   Brooke adds: After those talks with you and Mike.
   Carol responds: Oh, you’re gonna love being parents.

So here the emphasis is on being parents, not the legal niceties…altho the Kellys did tell the Bradys they were adopting, not taking the boy on as foster parents or something like that.


133.18  Later, the Kellys are telling the Bradys how they’re now adopting a trio, not a singleton…

Ken, gesturing to Carol & Mike: In a way, you adopted 3 boys and you adopted 3 girls… 
   Carol can only say: Yes, we did…

Now maybe the Bradys were just being polite in not responding,” Well, actually, it wasn’t in a way…we really did adopt them.” But it sounds to me, given the way Ken put it, like they really hadn’t  adopted them, and the Kellys knew they hadn’t from “those talks” they had. That’s my take on it anyway…and thanks for bringing it — wait, I have to go outside…the sunshine is calling my name….

wicked ballsy


Here are Sherwood Schwartz’ original choices for Mike, Carol, and Alice…on the right is a full-length screen-capture from an “Andy Griffith Show” episode…this when they were still the Bradleys, not yet the Bradys.  And just to show you can’t please everybody, here’s a quote I found on the net from a disgruntled viewer… This show was naive and inconsiderate to never mention these children’s birthmother/birthfather or even their birthgrandparents…this is how blended families were looked at back then…ignore it and pretend it didn’t happen. Um, sure, Ok, whatever…


Copyright © 2013 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


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