"Celebrity is the chastisement of merit and
the punishment of talent."
the punishment of talent."
- Emily Dickinson
I've included overviews of all the series we've looked at so far, but it seems ridiculous to do so for this one. Even if you didn't grow up watching it on-air or in syndication, you likely know the set-up. (It's all in there in the theme song if you really need it.) The franchise itself has had surprising staying power, but let's limit our focus to the prom episode of
|Season 3, Episode 12.|
There's not too much to "Getting Davy Jones", so to help pad things out, I've included some thoughts on Celebrity and American Culture by our old friend Ian Svenonius. I trust you'll be able to make out which sections are describing the episode and which are from Svenonius's The Psychic Soviet (2006).
"Like an offish breed of show dog, celebrities's bloodlines intersect at a thousand points.
|"As their family trees criss-cross more and more, the telltale totems of incest appear: idiocy, hemophilia, even madness.|
|"The wagons have been circled too long."|
That'd be Svenious, not plot summary. And not necessarily reflective of anyone on The Brady Bunch, specifically, or even this episode. Although when I did a word-search for Brady Bunch/ Svenonius, this essay ("Scion-tology") came up, as he mentions its 90s big-screen remake as further evidence of the decadent West's cannibalizing itself. So, tenuous though it may be, there is a connective thread.
Marcia and her friends are in charge of putting together the entertainment for their Junior Prom. But time's running out, and they've got nobody lined up.
|Jan barges in with an idea to save the day:|
|Not the underwater-locker guy, then.|
He's in town, and Marcia is convinced she's got an 'in': she's not only the President of the local Davy Jones Fan Club, she's also the bearer of a handwritten document from the man himself pledging his aid to her in case he's ever in town.
"He wouldn't say 'If I'm ever in your town, I'll be happy to show you my appreciation' if he didn't really mean it."
|'Twas a simpler time.|
"He's the hottest thing around here since pepperoni pizza." - Mrs. Brady
Marcia tries everything she can think of to get through to Davy but to no avail. This doesn't stop her from prematurely announcing the news to her friends, who quickly spread the news.
"Movie stars had bewitched audiences globally since the medium's initial appearance, and film was widely recognized as a fantastic disseminator of ideology (...) While actors had been thought ruffians and rogues in Shakespeare's time for their shifty ability to become other people, they were now exalted icons of the culture (because) they enact the unfulfilled promise of the Enlightenment and American Revolution, the ability to radically change one's situation: to transmute lead into gold.
|"The workers long for the ability to metamorphose as these alchemical entities do. (This) constellation of celebrity - like royalty - serves to re-enforce their un-worth."|
|The Brady kids brainstorm.|
Peter calls up the hotel and pretends to be the manager of a band ("The Three Desperadoes" - one for your local Pub Quiz) but even this amazing bit of espionage nets no result. Finally, Greg comes up with a plan: he and Marcia will pose as room service and go up to Davy's room directly.
The scheme works, but Davy's not there. He's down at the studio cutting an album.
|Marcia heads down there and strolls on in.|
|Davy's manager played by Britt Leach, a familiar face of 70s and 80s TV.|
A quick word here on the contemporaneous popularity of Davy Jones. Despite Marcia's and Mrs. Brady's assertions, Davy struggled to establish himself as a solo artist after the Monkees broke up. Says Glenn A. Baker, author of Monkeemania: The True Story of the Monkees: "for an artist as versatile and confident as (he was) the relative failure of his post-Monkees activities is puzzling. For all his cocky predictions to the press about his future plans, Davy fell into a directionless heap when left to his own devices."
Thanks to performing the song on this episode, "Girl," is probably his best-known solo tune, but it sold poorly and didn't appear again until Davy Jones was re-released on CD.
"The ideal of the everyman who could grow up to confound expectation and achieve greatness had been, though, largely fantasy, a defining American archetype. (...) Everyone, rich and poor, envied the Americans for their freedom from etiquette, and their apparent class mobility. Then, somehow, everything reversed. (...) Now the inheritors of wealth, name, and power are everywhere."
"When the neophytes do manage to crash the palace gates they are outfitted with various surgical corrections (...) These surgeries are always grotesque, a self-mutilating penance for impure blood."
The idea of a pop star appearing as him or her self on a TV show was not invented by The Brady Bunch, of course, but the practice became increasingly widespread as corporate mergers intensified over the 70s and 80s. By the time the 90s rolled around, the idea of a company's TV production branch showcasing product from its music and clothing branches was commonplace. I don't know if any of this applies to "Getting Davy Jones" or not, but I suspect it might.
Anyway, Davy overhears Marcia telling his manager about the promise he made her via this letter Marcia has framed and decides he can't let a little girl down. He follows her home and gifting her a copy of the album he was still in the process of recording (!), asks if she would accompany him to the prom. She says yes, of course.
|Whereupon they are catcalled by the younger Bradys.|
The episode ends without showing us Davy and Marcia at the prom, so it's not quite a real prom episode, really, but then again was The Brady Bunch a "real" show? That is, was its aim to realistically explore blended family dynamics? Of course not.
But I'm a Structuralist at heart, and I feel that media is more than just a form of entertainment; it is the entrails of our culture. If you want to learn who and what a society is, deconstruct its pop art. Even when its meaning is unintentional or hidden unto itself, we can, like pagan priests poking through sacrificed guts on altars of old, observe much more at work than mere plot dynamics or marketing concerns. "Getting Davy Jones" takes place against the American New Wave, for example, and can certainly be viewed as a reaction against it.
In Brady's case, it is perhaps the artificiality of its premise - a blended family just as happy as a nuclear one that never has a disagreement without a happy ending - that's worth considering. In the midst of unpleasant truths about the collective family (country), many Americans preferred to contemplate the Bradys.
"Initially, the Bolsheviks had longed to abolish the family, recognizing its intrinsically antisocial character, that its motivation was for its own well-being and security above all others. (...) Unfortunately, poverty forced the USSR to abandon its futurist scheme in favor of the old, faulty model of familial child rearing. Their failure has wrought this abomination of celebrity bloodlines that wreaks its terror on us all."
"Their failure translates into our terrible and urgent responsibility."