Controversial ‘Brady Bunch’ Episode Wasn’t The First Classic Sitcom To Make Light Of The Measles

The 1969 episode is under fire for its comedic look at a serious illness, but it wasn't the first TV show to do so.

Robert Reed and Florence Henderson stand in a hotel lobby with their television family in a still from the TV series 'The Brady Bunch,' circa 1969. (L-R) Christopher Knight, Barry Williams, Mike Lookinland, Maureen McCormick, Eve Plumb, Susan Olsen, Henderson, Reed, unidentified.
Paramount Television / Getty Images

The 1969 episode is under fire for its comedic look at a serious illness, but it wasn't the first TV show to do so.

It’s been 50 years since The Brady Bunch came down with the measles, but the actress who played Marcia on the ’70s sitcom is still feeling the after-effects of the virus. Amid news that an anti-vaccination group has been using a vintage Brady Bunch episode for their own agenda, former child star Maureen McCormick is hopping mad, as previously reported by The Inquisitr.

In the 1969 Brady Bunch episode “Is There a Doctor in the House?” all six Brady kids come down with the measles, and they treat their illness like it’s a vacation. The kids laugh, lounge, and play board games as they enjoy several days off from school.

“If you have to get sick, sure can’t beat the measles,” McCormick’s Marcia famously declares in one scene.

Fifty years later, anti-vaccine activists are using the comedy episode to downplay the seriousness of the measles even in a wake of outbreaks across the country. The measles virus can cause pneumonia, permanent hearing loss, and can sometimes be fatal, all serious complications that are a far cry from Marcia Brady’s happy description of the contagious infectious disease.

Maureen McCormick told NPR she was not happy to be used as an example in the anti-vax video that has been widely circulating online. Not only does the now 62-year-old actress support vaccines and had her own daughter vaccinated, but she recalls her real-life experience with the measles was “not a fun thing” as the illness spread through her childhood home.

The Brady Bunch measles episode is a memorable one not just due to the smiling six-pack of measles patients but also for its guest stars: Dennis the Menace dad Herbert Anderson and a pre-Happy Days Marion Ross. Indeed, in the episode, Mike and Carol Brady’s biggest problem is choosing between a male and a female pediatrician, not the fact that all six of their kids have a serious infectious disease.

But back in the day, The Brady Bunch wasn’t the only show to make light of the measles. A 1961 Flintstones episode, “In the Dough,” had Fred and Barney donning wigs and dresses to pose as their measles-stricken wives Wilma and Betty for a TV bake-off. The ailing animated wives did quarantine themselves at the Flintstone home, but their husbands didn’t seem to be very concerned about their illness as Barney quipped, “Measles don’t hurt,” and Fred seemed only concerned about losing out on the Tasty Pastry bake-off’s $10,000 prize.

‘We ain’t blowing that dough for a measly measle,” Fred said.

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Vaxopedia notes that vintage sitcoms like The Honeymooners, Father Knows Best, and even Leave it to Beaver all featured lighthearted measles-themed episodes. In a 1959 episode of The Donna Reed Show, the title character downplays her son’s virus and even the family doctor says, “He’s only got measles.” At one point, the contagious disease is described as “kid’s stuff.”

Fast forward to 2015, when Law and Order: SVU got serious about the measles. The episode, titled “Granting Immunity,” starred Missi Pyle as Trudy Malko, a mother who faked her son’s immunization records because she believed vaccines lead to autism. In the episode, Trudy’s son came down with the measles, and she was later charged with reckless endangerment of a child. Not exactly a Carol Brady moment.