Tragically, The Brady Bunch is one of the most frequently-maligned sitcoms of all time. Critics hated it from the get-go, and tossed out all the mean adjectives their thesauruses had to offer: zingers like “juvenile,” “shallow,” “na’ve” and “unrealistic.” But critics rarely cop to a campy guilty pleasure, and their lives are probably the worse for it, too. Who doesn’t want to take part in the ‘favorite Brady episode’ discussion? Who doesn’t want to ruminate about the trials and tribulations those Brady kids endured…their joys, their triumphs, their pigtails, their bellbottoms and their lisps? Whether you can freely admit your appreciation of the show, or you claim higher art as your calling (but then secretly watch the reruns late at night), The Brady Bunch is somehow ingrained in your television consciousness.
The show focused on a family constructed from the remnants of two previous families. Widower father Mike had three sons: Greg, Peter, and Bobby. Widowed mom Carol brought three daughters into the mix: Marcia, Jan and Cindy. They were also blessed with a wise and super-efficient housekeeper, Alice. Sam the Butcher, the eventual beau for Alice, popped up on occasion. The reconfigured family settled down in a four-bedroom, two-bathroom house in the San Fernando Valley for five seasons’ worth of comedic misadventures and heartwarming morals.
The show’s plotlines were always simple, which was a big gripe with the critics. Typical episodes included ‘Kitty Carry-All is Missing,’ in which Cindy accuses Bobby of stealing her favorite doll after it goes missing, and “Sorry Right Number,” in which Mike installs a pay phone to cut down on the kid’s phone bills.
Despite the simplicity of the episodes’ stories, they often had a surprisingly strong emotional undercurrent. In particular, Jan’s inner turmoil over being a middle-child made for some memorable moments. Two unforgettable examples were ‘The Not-So-Ugly Duckling,’ in which Jan created an imaginary boyfriend to save face when Marcia won the affections of the real boy she wanted, and ‘Will The Real Jan Brady Please Stand Up?,’ in which Jan buys an outrageous wig for a party because she doesn’t feel glamorous enough.
The other kids had their moments of emotional and social crisis, as well. The always pretty and popular Marcia suffered a memorable blow to her ego in ‘The Subject Was Noses’ when she was accidentally given a broken nose by a wayward football pass right before a big date. A memorable episode involving life-lessons for all the Brady kids was ‘Vote For Brady,’ in which the male and female Brady kids took sides against each other when Marcia and Greg both decided to run for student body president. However, the show never tackled a problem so big that it couldn’t be solved by Mike, Carol or Alice by the end of the half-hour.
As the ratings began to lag, the show introduced a new kid: Cousin Oliver. He came to visit while his parents were on a trip and proceeded to reveal himself as a unintentionally-mischievous ‘jinx.’ His episodes had some of the daffiest plotting in the series’ history, especially ‘Top Secret,’ in which Bobby and Oliver become convinced that Mike and Sam are involved in a spy plot. Oliver’s addition did turn out to be a genuine jinx, because five episodes and one enormous pie fight later, The Brady Bunch was cancelled.
Despite spending five successful seasons perched consistently in the Top 25, The Brady Bunch was never the biggest show on television during its initial run. After its cancellation, the show immediately ascended to re-run heaven and has played continuously ever since. After maintaining a hallowed presence on daytime television for over a quarter century, the show has become downright mythic in stature. Although some non-believers still marvel at the Bradys’ continued popularity, they are clearly in the minority. Like Lucy and Star Trek before them, the The Brady Bunch are here to stay.
During its original run, the show’s innocence and simplicity were endearing to many during an otherwise turbulent time. The Brady Bunch also provided an idealized vision of family that is and has always been comforting to viewers of all ages. This is key to its continued longevity: as long as people have to deal with the issues of being in a family, there will always be a place for The Brady Bunch on the airwaves.
The Brady Bunch inspired a number of spin-offs over the years. The first was The Brady Kids, an animated series that ran on Saturday mornings from 1972 to 1974. Another prime-time series arrived in the form of The Brady Bunch Hour, a surreal mixture of domestic comedy and variety show that was produced by Sid and Marty Krofft.
There were two additional prime-time series: The first was The Brady Brides, a sitcom from 1981 that was an outgrowth of a special called The Brady Girls Get Married. The second was The Bradys, a short-lived 1990 stab at transforming the show into a serious drama. A stand-alone television film called A Very Brady Christmas was made in 1988. The original series was also successfully transformed into a feature-film series with a new cast. The Brady Bunch Movie was released in 1995 and followed the next year by A Very Brady Sequel. These were set in the 90’s but had the Brady’s acting as if it was still the 1970’s.
So you might as well just go ahead and admit it: You’re susceptible to the Brady charm. With all of these incarnations, with the show’s endless, endless syndication…why fight it? Instead of battling a pop culture behemoth, take a deep breath, let that opening theme song wash over you, and start prepping for the next watercooler discussion or cocktail party debate. Because believe us, which Brady vacation adventure was the most exciting, or whether Greg truly deserved that attic bedroom…forget global warming, these are the topics that are going to be debated for years to come.
Theme song lyrics
“Here’s the story, of a lovely lady,
Who was bringing up three very lovely girls…
’til the one day when the lady met this fellow,
And they knew that it was much more than a hunch,
That this group must somehow form a family,
That’s the way we all became the Brady Bunch!’
“The fact that The Brady Bunch kids were created from two different marriages made them radically different from any other TV family” – Creator Sherwood Schwartz
USA / ABC – Paramount / 117×25 minute episodes / Broadcast 26 September 1969 – 30 August 1974
Creator/Executive Producer: Sherwood Schwartz / Producer: Howard Leeds, Lloyd J Schwartz
Robert Reed as Michael Paul ‘Mike’ Brady
Florence Henderson as Carol Ann Brady
Barry Williams as Greg Brady
Maureen McCormick as Marcia Brady
Christopher Knight as Peter Brady
Eve Plumb as Jan Brady
Mike Lookinland as Bobby Brady
Susan Olsen as Cindy Brady
Ann B. Davis as Alice Nelson
Robbie Rist as Cousin Oliver (1974)
Allan Melvin as Sam Franklin
Clairvoyant, The (BBC-2 1986, Roy Kinnear, Sandra Dickinson)
In Roy Clarke penned sitcom The Clairvoyant used car salesman Arnold Bristow is knocked down in a car accident and suddenly finds himself with psychic powers – or so he believes. There was a pilot broadcast 27 Nov 1984.
ROY KINNEAR as Arnold Bristow
SANDRA DICKINSON as Lily
HUGH LLOYD as Burma
SHAUN CURRY as Newton
GLYNIS BROOKS as Dawn
CARMEL CRYAN as Carmen
Writer: Roy Clarke
Producer and Director: Alan J.W. Bell
Network and Production Companies: BBC-2
Duration: 6×30 minute episodes
Aired From: Pilot – 27 November 1984 and Series – 15 May – 19 June 1986
Christmas Princess (UP 2017, Nicole Munoz, Zak Santiago)
Christmas Princess is the true story of Donaly Marquez who, through a childhood of neglect and abuse, achieved her dream of becoming a rose bowl princess. An inspirational story of resilience, strength and finding a family to call your own.
Nicole Muñoz as Donaly Marquez
Rosa Blasi as Sara
Zak Santiago as Ignacio Marquez
Olivia Steele Falconer as Emily Marquez
Jaedon Siewert as Abraham Marquez
Lina Renna as Young Donaly
Paloma Kwiatkowski as Chloe
Ty Wood as Trent
Pendo Muema as Monique
Kalyn Miles as Maria
Kaaren de Zilva as Roberta
Garfield Wilson as Dr. Miller
Clay St. Thomas as Judge #1
Patti Allan as Judge #2
Natalie von Rotsburg as Judge #3
Director: Allan Harmon
Writer: Tracy Andreen
Network and Production Companies: UP
Duration: 1×120 minute episode
Aired From: Sunday 10 December 2017
Christmas Reunion, A (Lifetime 2015, Catherine Hicks, Denise Richards)
In A Christmas Reunion a Madison Avenue executive, Amy, discovers an unusual Christmas surprise when she inherits her Aunt’s hometown bakery. The real surprise comes when she learns the other half of the bakery was left to her long-ago boyfriend, Jack.
Unresolved personal issues resurface between them, as the exes return home to co-manage the store, along with its traditional holiday cookie bake-off.
Denise Richards as Amy Stone
Patrick Muldoon as Jack Evans
Jake Busey as Dylan Carruthers
Catherine Hicks as Aunt Linda
Parker Stevenson as Don Dupree
Patricia De Leon as Janette Crowder
Jon Briddell as Luke Crowder
Robert R. Shafer as Frank O’Brien
Anna Barnholtz as Chloe
John Colton as Steve Evans
Sandra Evans as Shari
Brody Fitzgerald as Young Jack Evans
Michael Gaglio as Earl Pratt, Sr.
Gib Gerard as Earl Pratt, Jr.
Joyce Greenleaf as Helen
Director: Sean Olson
Writers: Margaret Base, Mary Glenn, Sam Irvin, Sean Olson, Peter Sullivan, Michael Varrat
Network and Production Companies: Lifetime – Hybrid
Duration: 1×120 minute episode
Aired From: 13 December 2015
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