Friday, July 15, 2016

Top TV Moments: Brooke Bundy

In Gods Like Us, film critic Ty Burr examines the history of media stardom, and why some actors become stars while others, for all their talent, remain merely actors. The phenomenon dates back before 1910, a time when performers in movies were un-credited but audiences noticed some of them anyway. Burr writes: “You discovered that you wanted to see this person again, not because of the part he or she played but because of who he or she was.” 

That is how I have always felt about Brooke Bundy.

Why? I don’t know. Why are any of us drawn to certain actors or singers or comedians more than others? There is a quality in her that resonates with me, and I have no desire to subject that condition to deeper analysis. What would be the point? I just like Brooke Bundy.

I hope to see all of her television performances one day, though that’s likely impossible given her guest appearances on obscure 1960s series like Firehouse and My Friend Tony. The ones listed here I’ve seen many times. In fact I could have written this tribute from memory, but I went back and watched them all again because I can never spend enough time in her company.

The Donna Reed Show (1962)
In “To Be a Boy,” Jeff swears off girls just before Mary tries to introduce him to high-IQ introvert Joanne, played by Bundy as her first professional acting credit. The highlight is an extended scene where Joanne hides under Jeff’s bed. It’s played mostly in silence but Bundy’s expressions are captivating.

Mr. Novak (1963)
This is one of my favorite forgotten shows of the 1960s. James Franciscus plays an idealistic high school English teacher in a forerunner to Room 222, albeit without the ethnic diversity. Bundy makes the first of three series appearances in “X is the Unknown Factor” as Patrice, girlfriend to a brilliant but amoral student. With Franciscus, Dean Jagger as the principal, and guest stars like Ed Asner, Kim Darby, Kevin McCarthy and silent screen legend Lillian Gish, the acting bar was set very high throughout this series. Bundy more than holds her own in a scene where she confesses to cheating on a test to save her boyfriend from risking his scholarship. 

Gidget (1965)
If you took my suggestion in last week’s blog about a summer Gidget marathon, you already encountered Brooke Bundy as Inge, a demure Swedish student engaged to a domineering young executive (played by a pre-Star Trek Walter Koenig). In “Gidget’s Foreign Policy,” Gidget vows to liberate her repressed houseguest before her husband-to-be returns in one week. Inge learns her lesson so well that she steals Gidget’s boyfriend and calls off her wedding. 

Dragnet (1967)
It’s a tough segue from a lighthearted sitcom like Gidget to “The Little Victim,” a grim story about child abuse. Brooke Bundy plays the insecure, damaged young wife of an abusive husband. Her frightened, intense outbursts punctuate several powerful scenes, and the conclusion is almost too difficult to watch. 

Daniel Boone (1968)
I can’t say I’m a huge fan of this series, but Bundy’s appearance in “Be Thankful for the Fickleness of Women” is one of my favorites of her performances. She plays Sarah, an indentured servant that Josh (Jimmy Dean) purchases so he can protect her from an abusive lout. But once he owns Sarah, he has no idea what to do with her.  

Mission: Impossible (1969)
“The Controllers” is a two-part M:I episode, something I’ve already asserted the series does not do well. The team must put a stop to experiments with a dangerous mind control drug being conducted behind the Iron Curtain. Bundy plays Katherine, a prisoner subjected to the treatment. She doesn’t do much more than suffer through these two episodes, but like Garbo she does it memorably.

My Three Sons (1971)
Brooke Bundy made four appearances on this long-running sitcom, ranging from 1963’s “Robbie Wins His Letter” to “Debbie” in 1971. The last one is my favorite because she rarely ventures into Tuesday Weld territory – a flirty blonde using her wiles to get out of trouble. In “Debbie” she turns the heads of all the Douglas men, though Ernie is particularly smitten. 

The Partridge Family (1973)
Keith Partridge shares my Brooke Bundy infatuation. In “Heartbreak Keith” he falls hard for college classmate Dory, an “older woman” of 23. He mistakenly believes she loves him too – and then finds out she’s married. 

The episode is worth watching not just for Bundy’s performance as Dory but for the unique set design of her character’s home – it’s like the entire ‘70s exploded in one room. The episode also features one of the best fourth season Partridge tunes, “I Heard You Singing Your Song.” 

The Brady Bunch (1974)
“Kelly’s Kids” is an episode most fans skip because the Bradys are hardly in it. Ken Berry and Brooke Bundy play Brady neighbors Ken and Kathy Kelly, who adopt one son from an orphanage, then go back to adopt his two best friends – one is African-American, the other is Asian. The show was a spinoff attempt written by Sherwood Schwartz, trying to recreate his Brady success with another variation of a blended family (The Benetton Brood?). Berry and Bundy are eminently likable, but I’m not sure the series would have lasted. 

Land of the Lost (1975)
In a misty marsh, Rick and Will find the remnants of a strange spacecraft out of which appears Brooke Bundy (in a most unfortunate hairstyle) as Sharon, a woman who claims to have lost her way. Rick takes a liking to her, but Will and Holly suspect there is more to Sharon’s story. “The Zarn” is typically trippy Krofft fun, with a bizarre ending that baffles as much as it impresses. 

Charlie’s Angels (1977)
In “The Vegas Connection,” one of the better first season shows, the Angels bring down a blackmailer working out of a Vegas casino showroom. Sixteen years ago, I wrote this in The Charlie’s Angels Casebook: “As Elsbeth, a tough girl with a soft heart who helps the Angels…Brooke Bundy contributes one of the most memorable single-episode guest appearances of the series’ run. Her introduction as a potential love interest for Bosley could have been explored further, perhaps in a subsequent episode.” I still wish they had gone there. 

Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)
Twenty-five years after her TV debut, and just four years before she left the business to become an acting teacher, Brooke Bundy served on the Starship Enterprise. In “The Naked Now,” the crew falls under the influence of a virus that causes everyone to act drunk and silly. A good idea but one better saved for a later show (this was just the second episode broadcast): if viewers had been given time to get to know these characters, it would have been more fun to watch how their behavior changes. Also, Wesley saves the ship, setting an unwelcome precedent for future stories. 


  1. It is worth noting that Brooke Bundy had roles on "Days of our Lives" and "General Hospital." On the latter soap, she played a registered nurse known as Diana Maynard Taylor.

    I like one-piece, solid-color swimsuits with modesty panels like the one Ms. Bundy is wearing in that one "Gidget"-related pic. It's my understanding that Brooke wore a wetsuit for an episode of the short-lived syndicated series "Primus." In said episode (entitled "Death Tide"), Brooke played a young environmental activist who stole the titular hero's submersible.

    BTW, is the hairdo Ms. Bundy is wearing in that "Land of the Lost"-related pic much worse than the one Martha Smith wore for "National Lampoon's Animal House"?

    1. At least when Martha wore it, it was a 60s-set film so it was still in fashion!

  2. "Kelly's Kids" did eventually become a series 12 years after this backdoor pilot. It was called TOGETHER WE STAND and starred Elliott Gould & Dee Wallace as a couple who adopt an Asian boy & black girl to add to their family of two children, one of them adopted. The show was retooled later, killing off Gould's character and renaming it NOTHING IS EASY.

    1. From that description and casting I think even 'Kelly's Kids' would have been better. I'd be curious to watch an episode or two, though.

  3. I remember her from Brady Bunch,one amusing line about her nosy neighbor
    'That woman makes Archie Bunker looks like a liberal'

  4. I will always know her as Diana on General Hospital, the woman who almost got maxi-dosed with LSD-spiked iced tea in a story where she unknowingly adopted Jeff Webber's (Richard Dean Anderson) baby. She also showed up on Emergency! a few times.

  5. MeTV just reran Brooke Bundy's first MY THREE SONS episode today, "Robbie Wins His Letter", where she played a somewhat air-headed girl named Betty who was paying more attention to her compact than the teacher in Chemistry class. This is the same episode where Jimmy Stewart appeared as himself in his capacity as a Brigadier General in the Air Force. Except for another girl, Mildred, who's competing with Robbie for the award, the other kids here, including Betty, look down on him for being an "egghead". Gen. Stewart, though, convinces the students that it's a great thing for a student to win a letterman's sweater for scholastic achievement.

  6. I saw Brooke in a "Dragnet" episode today. It was a hard episode to watch. Brooke Bundy played her part well. Watch it if you get a chance. Just a warning, it's about abuse.