Remember when the Brady Bunch went to Hawaii? That episode with the bad luck Tiki idol and all the hula dancing?
How about when they went to the Grand Canyon and Thurston Howell III from “Gilligan’s Island,” masquerading as a villain straight out of “Scooby-Doo,” locked the family in a ghost town jail?
And of course you remember the time the Bradys went to New York City and ran afoul of a gang of bank robbers?
Clearly you did not subscribe to that venerable bastion of Nixon-era journalism, Tiger Beat magazine. For reasons best consigned to the void of history, in 1972 Tiger Beat commissioned in paperback form what would today be relegated to a dusty corner of the internet and surnamed fan fiction.
Excerpted from the short story that is the novel’s back-cover teaser: “Mike Brady has to go to New York on business and as a special surprise he tells the entire Brady Bunch (including Alice) that he’s taking them with him! What promises to be a fun-filled trip starts to turn into a dangerous adventure the night before the Bradys are to leave when their house is robbed. Then, they’re followed to New York by mysterious strangers!”
Gritty mystery writer Jack Matcha (no relation to the Japanese green tea powder) helpfully continues for four paragraphs, unspooling the entire plot and only leaving unspoiled the precise reason for the crooks’ interest in the family.
What could these dastardly criminals possibly want with the Bradys?
Hint: it involves architectural plans for a bank that Mike insists on carting around with him everywhere. Plans for a bank. Where money is kept. Which is a thing that crooks like to steal. Any thoughts as to why bank robbers might follow the Brady Bunch all over the Big Apple? Any at all?
The other oeuvres of Jack Matcha, “Hollywood mystery writer,” include The Brady Bunch in the Treasure of Mystery Island (1972), The Brady Bunch in the Adventure on the High Seas (1973), and Prowler in the Night (1959), delicately summarized on its front cover: “He was a gentle man who hated to kill — or so he would have told you if you lived long enough to hear him.”
Alice’s long-time beau, Sam the butcher, in other words.
Why would the Bradys want to go to New York City, anyway? What can the Modern Gomorrah possibly offer this wholesome family that Los Angeles cannot? Circuses, according to Greg. Yes, circuses. Right there, on page 7: “‘It’s a fabulous place,’ Greg said, ‘with museums, circuses, major league games. I mean, it’s the greatest.’”
It’s completely true: In the 1970s, West Coast children had to make the perilous journey to the City That Never Sleeps to partake in circuses. Google Woody Guthrie’s legendary folk song about the great Californian circus drought of nineteen-hundred and seventy-two if you don’t believe me.
Brady patriarch Mike is oddly cast as Jack Matcha’s Mary Sue in The Brady Bunch in The New York Mystery. Mike arranges the trip. Mike’s got a big design job to complete, so don’t bother him. Mike’s going to an architecture convention. Mike’s got a buddy they can all stay with on Long Island. Mike fixes up way-too-horny Greg with a 16-year-old girl who knows nothing of the arrangement. Mike makes all the jokes. “Mike ignored them, concentrating on the meal that was served them and the movie that followed.” “Carol looked helplessly at Mike.” Mike, Mike, Mike!
Mike is all-knowing and all-powerful. Mike is wisdom personified. Mike is so right-thinking, in fact, that he brings along highly sensitive documents that outline an easy way to break into a major Los Angeles banking institution, then leaves them in an unsecured location while he and his family traipse around notoriously-safe 1970s Gotham.
Stalked by shady gentlemen from LA to NYC, the Bradys decline to seek the assistance of New York’s Finest. Instead, they try to elude the crooks by jumping on the subway, which was a bold move, according to the Business Insider in its heartwarming 2013 feature, “New York City Used To Be A Terrifying Place.” One notable quote: “Much of New York City’s crime happened on the subway in the late ‘70s. … By September 1979, the police recorded over 250 felonies on the subway every week, the highest crime rate for any mass transit network in the world.”
But in the spirit of magical realism, the worst the subway can throw at the Brady Bunch is a couple jolts as it rockets underground at thrillingly high speeds. Then, in a yet bolder move, Jack Matcha sends Jan and Peter into Central Park. Alone. As night is falling.
Eventually good sense prevails, the police are contacted, and the crooks are apprehended. No thanks to Mike, however. Peter happens to snap a couple photos of the nogoodniks, which the NYPD sends to the LAPD. The Left Coast cops arrest the bank robbers inside the bank, just barely pre-robbery.
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One would have expected Mike to be the hero who saves the day. Perhaps something ego-shattering happened to author Jack Matcha in the course of writing. Toward the end of The Brady Bunch in The New York Mystery, Matcha seems to have a change of heart about his heroic avatar. “I’ll feel personally guilty if those men rob the bank,” Mike admits.
The correct word, Mike, is “liable.”
“Why don’t you come out to the West Coast?” Mike pleads with his Long Island architect pal. “I know I can get you a place in my firm. They need a good man.” Yes, your firm surely has a place for him, because you’ve been fired for negligence, Mike.
Even wife Carol gets in on the shaming: “‘[The kids] helped save you from a lot of embarrassment,’” she snaps.
For pete’s sake, after Mike lost the building plans, he wasn’t even going to inform the bank that they were wide open to robbery; he simply whined that he didn’t know their phone number and more or less threw up his hands in helplessness. Marsha had to tell him to send a telegram.
Mike Brady truly is the worst.