Was there really a Brady Bunch episode about measles?
The Brady Bunch Measles Episode
In fact, there was an episode about how all of The Brady Bunch kids got the measles.
Is There a Doctor in the House?
All six Brady kids have the Measles at the same time, and problems arise when Carol calls in the girls’ female pediatrician while Mike brings in the boys’ male pediatrician.
Why is that a big deal?
It’s not to most people. Except that all six kids coming down with measles at the same time does help to demonstrate how contagious measles can be.
And it’s not surprising that they wouldn’t be vaccinated, after all, they had Bobby’s tiki idol to protect them.
Anti-vaccine folks think it is an argument for the “fact” that measles wasn’t thought of as a serious infection.
After all, if they did a TV show about it, how bad could it be?
I guess they haven’t seen all of the TV shows with episodes about smallpox…
Measles on TV Shows
Other TV shows had episodes about measles too, including Lassie, The Honeymooners, The Doris Day Show, and even Leave it to Beaver.
In a 1956 episode of The Honeymooners:
A Matter of Record
TOMMY: Hello, Mr. Kramden. Hi, Mr. Norton. Your wife told me you’d be down here. I got some bad news. Steve Austin can’t play tomorrow. He’s got the measles.
NORTON: How d’ya like that. On the eve of a big baseball game my second baseman comes down with the measles. I’m tellin’ ya, Ralph, the life of a coach ain’t all beer and skittles. Haven’t we got no substitute?
TOMMY:That’s just it. We don’t have a substitute… (to Ralph) unless you’d play for us. How about it Mr. Kramden? Do you think you could cover second base?
Not being able to play baseball isn’t the end of the world, even when it’s a big game, but it’s not nothing.
In Father Knows Best, Kathy gets measles and ‘father’ has to promise to let her build a playhouse just so she will take her medicine. And he has to eat dinner with her outside in the playhouse.
Memories of being comforted by his teddy bear Billy, which was given to him by his Aunt Martha when he was sick in bed with measles, led Beaver to chase down a garage truck to save it in the episode “Beaver’s Old Friend.”
In The Doris Day Show in 1970, “Today’s World Catches the Measles,” one of the characters is described as being listless, develops a fever, and is eventually diagnosed with measles. What happens next? His contacts are put under quarantine.
A now vaccine-preventable disease, mumps, leads two major characters to be quarantined in a 1980 episode of M*A*S*H too.
And in a 1958 episode of Lassie: “The Crisis” – Ruth finds out that Timmy has been exposed to measles at school after he and Paul leave on a long drive to buy a calf. Several of his classmates has just been diagnosed with measles and his doctor came to his house to check on him, fearing that he might be sick too.
When Paul finds out that Timmy is sick, he takes a shortcut to get home quicker, but runs out of gas, and sends Lassie for help.
Paul: What is it son?
Timmy: I changed my mind about wanting the measles if it makes you feel like this.
Lassie also has to help out in the episode “The Hospital,” when Timmy gets chicken pox.
How else were vaccine-preventable diseases portrayed?
Remember Gone With The Wind and Scarlett O’Hara’s first husband? He died of measles.
And in the fifth season of Little House on the Prairie, “The Winoka Warriors,” one of the characters is blind – the result of a past measles infection.
Most of those episodes are from the pre-vaccine era though.
More recently, in 2001, the TV show ER got a media award at the first National Immunization Awareness Month because the show “portrayed the importance of vaccinations using the story of an unvaccinated child who was sent to the emergency room and subsequently died from measles. The episode effectively relayed the important messages that measles still occurs in this country, that the disease can be deadly and that it can be prevented by immunization.”
Vaccine Preventable Diseases on TV Shows
A sitcom making light of a serious issue isn’t exactly news though.
In the 1962 episode of Mr Ed, “Ed Gets Amnesia,” he hits his head and can’t remember Wilbur. That doesn’t mean that folks thought that head injuries and amnesia weren’t serious things, does it?
What does the episode a few years later, “Ed Gets the Mumps,” mean? In the episode, “Ed pretends to have the mumps in order to compete for attention with a neighbors’ baby who is attracting the attention of the Posts and the Kirkwoods.” If mumps wasn’t thought to be a serious infection, then why would he get any attention?
“My people were drawn to mountains, they came when the country was young and they settled in the upland country of Virginia that is still misted with a haze of blue which gives those mountains their name. They endured and they prevailed, through flood and famine, diphtheria and scarlet fever, through drought and forest fire, whooping cough and loneliness, through Indian wars, a Civil War, a World War, and through the great Depression, they endured and they prevailed. ”
The Waltons “Founder’s Day”
Many other shows include story lines about vaccine preventable diseases:
- Little Rascals “Tale of the Dog” (1944) – the gang gets the whole town scared that an epidemic is coming when they overhear Buckwheat talking to his friend Big Shot about giving smallpox to the gang. Smallpox is name they came up with for Buckwheat’s dog, because it had a lot of spots.
- Highway Patrol “Typhoid Carrier” (1956) – after Hank Dooley’s daughter dies of typhoid fever, a worker on his farm flees with his wife because he knows that he is a typhoid carrier and the Highway Patrol goes after him.
- Broken Arrow “Medicine Man” (1956) – an Army doctor tries to help as smallpox breaks out among the Apache.
- The Millionaire “The Hub Grimes Story” (1957) – a professional football player with polio ends up in an iron lung.
- Casey Jones “The Dark Rider” (1958) – Quarantined passengers leave a train as Casey transports a sailor with smallpox to a hospital.
- The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp “Plague Carrier” (1958) – a smallpox epidemic breaks out in Dodge City.
- Have Gun – Will Travel “Soledad Crossing” (1961) – Paladin can’t get his prisoners into Soledad because they are under quarantine for a diphtheria outbreak.
- The Flintstones “In the Dough” (1961) – Fred and Barney have to put on wigs and dresses and pretend to be Wilma and Betty when they get measles and can’t go to the finals of a televised bake-off.
- The Rifleman “Quite Night, Deadly Night” (1962) – the town prepares for a outbreak as someone new arrives with symptoms of smallpox.
- Gunsmoke “The Quest for Asa Janin” (1963) – Matt comes across a wagon and finds a baby with two adults who died of smallpox.
- Daniel Boone “Crisis by Fire” (1966) – Daniel and his family are quarantined in their cabin during a smallpox epidemic.
- Marcus Welby, M.D. “The Basic Moment Part 1” (1972) – Dr. Welby’s daughter is exposed to rubella and considers having an abortion.
- Marcus Welby, M.D. “The Basic Moment Part 2” (1972) – Dr. Welby’s daughter delivers a baby with congenital rubella syndrome .
- The Waltons “An Easter Story” (1972) – Olivia gets polio.
- Little House on the Prairie “Days of Sunshine, Days of Shadow” (1982) – Almanzo has a severe stroke while recovering from diphtheria.
- Alvin and the Chipmunks “Car Sick” (1984) – Dave and the Chipmunks get measles.
- Full House “A Pox in Our House” (1988) – Stephanie spreads chicken pox to Jesse and Joey, who weren’t immune, as they had thought.
- Parenthood “The Plague” (1990) – the kids get chicken pox.
- Life Goes On “Chicken Pox” (1990) – Becca gets chicken pox.
- Home Improvement “Roomie for Improvement” (1992) – When Mark gets chicken pox, Tim has to leave the house, because he has never had them (and the vaccine hasn’t come out yet).
- Friends “The One with the Chicken Pox” (1996) – Phoebe is quarantined after catching chicken pox from Ben.
- South Park “Chicken Pox” (1998) – The kids have a sleepover at Kenny’s house because he has chicken pox.
- ER “Lockdown” (2002) – Everyone in the ER is quarantined as they think two patients have smallpox.
- Grey’s Anatomy “I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked” (2010) – Callie gets chicken pox. (Callie getting the chicken pox and being isolated and itchy is stolen from Shonda’s life. She told us this hilarious story of being quarantined in college with chicken pox and almost losing her mind. Be careful what you say in the writer’s room cause it will end up on TV … )
What to Know About the Brady Bunch Measles Episode
That there was a Brady Bunch measles episode doesn’t mean that people didn’t think that measles was a serious or deadly disease.
More Information on the Brady Bunch Measles Episode:
- The Disneyland measles outbreak: “Dr. Bob” Sears says measles isn’t that bad, and an antivaccine activist invokes the Brady Bunch fallacy
- Quoth Katie Tietje: Stop being mean to non-vaccinators
- TruthKings: Not so truthful about vaccines
- Bill Maher doubles down on his antivaccine misinformation…again
- ‘Er’ Uproar
- ‘Lil Poundcake’ injects new controversy in the HPV vaccine debate
- Doctors and Shots and Needle Pricks, Oh My!
- When preschool entertainment and vaccination controversy collide
- Daft complaint to the BBC by anti-vax activists
- Pediatricians Say Fictional TV Show’s Autism-Vaccine Link Could Be Literally Lethal
- Penn & Teller deconstruct the anti-vaccine movement, not to mention an old friend of the blog, Dr. Jay Gordon
- ‘Law & Order: SVU’ tackles the anti-vaccination movement
- ABC’s “Private Practice” and the Vaccination Debate
- An actual pro-vaccine storyline? On ABC?
- Remakes Vs. Originals: Omega Man Vs. I Am Legend
Updated September 15, 2017