Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Brady Bunch: The Happiest Family on Television

The Brady Bunch truly were exceptionally happy. In fact, their extreme happiness may have been their downfall--after awhile, the viewing audience started to see the show as a bit sappy. Nevertheless, the man named Brady and his perfectly matched family of boys and girls continued to entertain us from September of 1969 to March of 1974. According to Wikipedia, an episode of The Brady Bunch was broadcast somewhere in the US or abroad every day of every year from 1975 to 2008. 

The cast from the Brady Bunch, from left to right, top row: Peter Brady (Christopher Knight), Greg Brady (Barry Williams), Alice the live-in housekeeper (Ann B. Davis). Second Row: Jan Brady (Eve Plumb), Mom, Carol Brady (Florence Henderson), Dad, Mike Brady (Robert Reed), and of course, the oldest sister, Marcia, Marcia, Marcia Brady (Maureen McCormick). Front Row: Cindy Brady (Susan Olsen), Bobby Brady (Mike Lookinland.) 

The funny thing is, as much as we loved to laugh at the Bradys in the 1970s, when we were children in the 60s we adored them. I clearly remember my favorite episodes, such as the Season 4 Episode 18 "The Subject was Noses," (such a great title!), which aired on February 9, 1973. Doug Simpson (Nicholas Hammond), who is, of course, the most handsome boy in school, asks the oldest daughter, Marcia Brady (Maureen McCormick) on a date. Marcia accepts, but accidentally makes a date for the same night with another boy, Charlie (Stuart Goetz). Marcia decides to break her date with Charlie because Doug is more popular than Charlie. I, of course, was angry at Marcia. Charlie was the nice boy! 

Marcia tells Charlie that "Something suddenly came up." Marcia returns home to find her brothers playing football. One of them tosses the ball and it hits her nose, which swells up like a clown nose. Doug cancels their date and she cries herself to sleep. Charlie, however, agrees to date Marcia, clown nose and all. While they are on the date they run into Doug and the two boys start to fight. Charlie punches Doug in the nose and Doug  leaves, literally looking like a clown. Marcia has learned her lesson, and this is an important aspect of the show--the children always learn a lesson. 

Singer/Actor Davy Jones from The Monkees and Maureen McCormick from The Brady Bunch
in the 1971 episode "Getting Davy Jones."

My second favorite episode once again involved he self-absorbed Marcia (even though I felt more emotionally connected to the middle child, Jan, played by Eve Plumb.) In "Getting Davy Jones." Marcia brags to her friends at school that she can convince the popular singer Davy Jones to make an appearance at the school dance. Marcia goes to ridiculous extremes to contact Davy Jones and convince him to appear, and she thinks she fails, but he suddenly shows up at her house. 

This episode was rated #37 in TV Guide's 100 Greatest Television Episodes of all Time. I'm not really sure why, it is rather silly, but the reason I like the show is because the children eventually work together to try and help Marcia achieve her dream, and this seems to be a running theme through the show--the gradual bonding of these six children whose parents are trying to create one family from two--a blended family.

Theme Song and Introduction

The focus on the blended family is obvious in the show's theme song, as well. "Here's a story of a man named Brady..." it was a catchy tune that we all sang at school. The song was written by Schwartz and Frank De Vol and performed by the Peppermint Trolley Company. This was actually one of my favorite parts of the show--the introduction. A tic tac toe board appeared on the screen and one by one the family members appeared in the boxes. As the music played, they looked around in different directions as if they could see each other in their separate boxes. Corny, but fun. 

Who Were the Bradys? 

The Brady family was what was called a "blended family" in the 1960s. Mike Brady (Robert Reed), a widowed architect, meets Carol Ann Martin (Florence Henderson) and they fall in love. The problem? Brady has three sons and Martin has three daughters, and to complicate matters even further, each of the three Brady boys is approximately the same age of one of the three Martin girls. It seems like a complicated situation, but they decide to make it work and join their families. They hire a housekeeper, Alice Nelson (Ann B. Davis) who has a boyfriend, Sam Franklin (Allan Melvin), the owner of the local butcher shop. The family also has a dog, Tiger, who features prominently in many episodes until he was killed in an accident with a florist truck. Tiger's disappearance was never explained and his dog house remained on the set of the show. 

Marcia (Maureen McCormick) and Jan (Eve Plumb) in a rare moment 
when Jan is not ranting about the attention paid to "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!" 

The children had typical personalities according to child psychology. The two oldest children, Greg (Barry Williams) and Marcia (Maureen McCormick) performed well in school and were attractive and popular. The middle children, Peter (Christopher Knight) and Jan (Eve Plumb) were less popular and occasionally struggled with jealousy issues. In fact, one of my favorite lines from the movie was Jan's frustrated, "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!" Something she often repeated when she grew tired of the constant attention paid to her older sister. The two youngest children, Bobby (Mike Lookinland) and Cindy (Susan Olsen) were sweet youngsters who rarely caused trouble. The children were the focus of the show, which highlighted their instant bond and protective nature toward each other. 

The Musical Bradys

As part of their cult status the Bradys also became pop musical performers. They recorded four albums for Paramount Records, including: Merry Christmas from The Brady Bunch; Meet the Brady Bunch; The Kids from The Brady Bunch; and The Brady Bunch Phonographic Album. At one point, Christopher Knight, Maureen McCormick and Barry Williams worked on a solo album, recording six tracks, but the project was cancelled.

The Brady Bunch Satire

In 1995, a completely new cast starred in a satire of the Brady family. The film is set in the 90s, but the Bradys believe they are still living in the 1970s. Mike Brady (Gary Cole) and Carol Brady (Shelly Long) are living in the same home with Alice (Henriette Mantel) as their housekeeper. Jan (Jennifer Elise Cox) is still trying desperately to cope with her self-esteem issues and her jealousy of the ever-popular Marcia, played by Christine Taylor, who looks remarkably like Maureen McCormick. Cindy's character (Olivia Hack) is now exaggerated so that she is the tattle tale of the family, Greg (Christopher Daniel Barnes) dreams of becoming a 70s rock star, Peter (Paul Sutera) is struggling with the fact that he is maturing and Bobby (Jesse Lee) is the hall monitor at school, a role he played in one of the original episodes. The satire succeeds in this film, in my opinion. While it appears to mock this iconic American family, it does so in a light-hearted, comfortable manner and is very amusing. 

The Cult of the Bradys

The Brady Bunch became a cult show with fan clubs, documentaries, movies, and spin-offs. One of the spin-off shows was a TV reunion called The Brady Girls Get Married, which aired in 1981 in three episodes. This was followed by The Brady Brides. I liked the way the producers brought the show to an end all those years later by allowing fans to reunite with the family in a "this is what they're doing now" fashion. In the spin-offs, Mike Brady is still an architect, but Carol is now working as a real estate agent. Marcia has become a fashion designer (of course). Jan followed in her father's footsteps to become an architect. Greg Brady is a doctor, and Peter joined the US Air Force. Bobby and Cindy are both in college. Alice has finally married Sam. The family reunites to witness the double wedding of Marcia and Jan. I felt sorry for Jan, in a way. A woman's wedding day is supposed to be the one day of her life when she is the most important person in the family, and once again, Marcia moves in on Jan's glory. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!

  • "The Brady Bunch." Documentary. The Biography Channel. Aired on June 16, 2008.
  • "The Brady Bunch." The Museum of Broadcast Communications. Retrieved April 2, 2008.
  • Winship, Michael. Television. Random House. New York: 1988.


JoJo said...

I. Love. This. Show. One of my fave episodes was when the girls and boys were pranking each other and the girls scared the boys by having that ghost thing come out of the trunk in the attic. And that UFO one that Greg was making from his groovy bachelor pad. Of course the Hawaii & Grand Canyon trips will always be my top faves. Davy Jones - so awesome. I remember back then I was ages 4-9 when that show aired, so every Friday night was pizza & Brady Bunch/Partridge Family.

Craig Edwards said...

I watched a lot of Bradys over the years - also checked out the variety show, The Brady Brides, and The Bradys. Not to mention both movies. Yowza! Dropping by from the A-Z Challenge! Cheers!

Donna Sexton said...

The first couple of seasons, this show was such an important part of my life. They were on Friday nights and were the high point of sleepovers. We used to act out episodes in the back yard. We wanted to be Marcia. By the time the series ended, I had long stopped watching. (my husband, born years after me, obsessively watched all the episodes in reruns after school.)
Donna at Donna's New Day

Darla Sue Dollman said...

Hi JoJo! I remember those episodes, too, especially the vacation trips. Our family did the same thing--pizza and The Brady Bunch! (I still love pizza!)
Hi Craig! Yes, there were a few spin-offs from The Brady Bunch. They were more popular with the viewers than they were with the sponsors, but I've found that to be true with many shows, which is rather sad.
Hello Donna! Your story is so funny--my three sisters and I did the same thing with the show The Monkees! In fact, I wrote about our games in an earlier post before I moved this blog, but I think I moved The Monkees post, too. It should be on here down toward the beginning. It was one of my first posts.