Friday, April 3, 2015

The Museum of Comfort TV Salutes: Mrs. Beasley

Imagine a place where all of the instantly recognizable objects associated with classic television are on display. It doesn’t exist, so we’ll create it here, and pay tribute to many of our favorite Comfort TV things.

Let’s start with television’s most famous doll (or at least its most famous non-homicidal doll –sorry, Talky Tina fans). 

Mrs. Beasley was the best friend to Buffy Davis on Family Affair from the first episode of the series until its final episode, five years later. By then, most young girls had started to outgrow their dolls, as illustrated in the most heart-shattering manner possible by Jessie in Toy Story 2 (curse you, Sarah McLachlan!).

But it never seemed odd for Buffy to still care about her constant companion, though one might wonder how Anissa Jones felt about playing some of those scenes when she was 13 years old. 

This is one of those situations where I wonder whether series creator Don Fedderson had a purpose in selecting the type of doll that was right for Buffy, or if it just seems like a wonderfully perceptive choice in retrospect.

Most little girls prefer baby dolls, so they can play the mother; or they’ll be drawn to the wish-fulfillment appeal of Barbie, with her Malibu dream house and square-jawed boyfriend and endless closet full of perfect outfits.

Mrs. Beasley, with her old-fashioned blue polka-dot dress and spectacles, looked like a kindly grandmother. That seems strange at first, but it makes perfect sense that a little girl who lost her parents would be more comforted by the presence of a mature image than by an infant. Here was an older person who cared about her, who was never going to leave her behind. 

The doll’s most memorable appearance came in the first season episode “Mrs. Beasley, Where Are You?” in which Mr. French accidentally knocks her off the terrace ledge of Uncle Bill’s deluxe apartment in the sky. Buffy’s crippling separation anxiety,  a recurring theme throughout season one, is brought back to the fore as Buffy tries to cope with another loss: “People you love always go away. I know.” 

Family Affair. Not for the faint of heart.

Mrs. Beasley also plays a pivotal role in the climax of “The Toy Box” from season two, which starts with Uncle Bill doing his best Rob Petrie impression after tripping over Jody’s skateboard. That mishap inspires a new Davis home rule: any toys not put away properly will be locked up and donated to charity.

You probably see where this is going. One inadvertent jostle as Buffy runs off to wash for dinner lands Mrs. Beasley on the floor, and when Mr. French sees the doll lying there he is devastated at the thought of what happens next (Sebastian Cabot is amazing in this very brief scene). 

Thankfully, Uncle Bill believes the experiment has served its purpose, and not only commutes Mrs. Beasley’s sentence, but also liberates all the other confiscated toys. Whew!

Mattel introduced a 21-inch talking version of Mrs. Beasley to the toy market in 1967, one year after Family Affair debuted. This created another classic TV connection for the doll, as the voice in the Mattel version was provided by Maureen McCormick.  

This was a natural marketing opportunity, but I was surprised at how many other Mrs. Beasley items were also produced, including coloring books and paper dolls and a jigsaw puzzle and even a “Where’s Mrs. Beasley?” board game.

Remco tried to replicate the success of Mrs. Beasley with Kitty Karry-All, the doll Cindy dragged around a few early Brady Bunch episodes. It didn’t work.

If you want a Mattel Mrs. Beasley now, it will cost you more than $200. A lot of the dolls are still in circulation, but very few still talk or have the original black plastic glasses, which broke easily. Of course, the one on display in our Comfort TV museum is safely under glass where it can be enjoyed by future generations.


  1. Hi David, I have never understood Mrs. Beasley. Such a strange doll for a little girl. Your explanation really makes sense, and makes me appreciate another nuance of this program that I love so much.

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