In the 1970’s, it seems like everyone had a variety show of his or her own, from Don Knotts to The Starland Vocal Band. This glut led to fierce prime time competition, as each program tried to outdo the next in the search for a perfect combination of laughs, catchy tunes and glitz. Some succeeded, some flopped, but few had the fascination value of TV’s The Brady Bunch Hour. This amazing program brought a beloved sitcom back to life as a jaw-droppingly gonzo variety extravaganza, and the result was a show that is still talked about today.
The Brady Bunch Hour was the brainchild of Sid and Marty Krofft, the Saturday morning titans behind such beloved fave-raves as H.R. Pufnstuf and The Bugaloos. The Kroffts made a successful jump to prime time during the mid-1970’s with Donny and Marie, and this inspired them to do another variety show. They found the subject they needed when a guest appearance by the former cast members of The Brady Bunch drew big attention and ratings on Donny and Marie. The Krofft brothers quickly signed up The Brady Bunch crew for a variety special of their own. When it did well, the decision was made to give the Bradys their own full-time variety hour.
The Brady Bunch Hour made its debut in January of 1977, featuring every member of the original cast except Eve Plumb (Jan), who was replaced by Geri Reischl. The basic premise of the show was this: the Bradys were chosen to star in their own variety program, and the groovy fam moved to a beach house in sunny California to make this happen. Domestic scenes and backstage moments of the Bradys were intercut with the actual show itself, which consisted of elaborate skits and musical numbers performed either solo or as a family. The Brady Bunch Hour never made it clear where the variety show ended and the domestic comedy began, letting it all run together into one surreal, stream of consciousness blast of music and comedy.
Each week, The Brady Bunch Hour would feature special guest stars, including everyone from Farrah Fawcett to Vincent Price. Rip Taylor also showed up as nosy neighbor Mr. Merrill, the only non-Brady regular (we count Alice as an honorary Brady). These guests added plenty of showbiz spice to the mix, but The Brady Bunch Hour’s highlight was its endless succession of outrageous musical production numbers. These elaborate song-and-dance epics often featured the entire cast performing. As a bonus, the main set of the show featured a swimming pool occupied by the Kroffette Dancers and Water Follies, a team of lovely ladies who would bolster the Brady’s performances with elaborate synchronized swimming routines.
The Brady Bunch Hour was the victim of frequent timeslot changes, so it never got the opportunity to connect with its audience, ending after only eight episodes. The show has never been syndicated, but episodes occasionally pop up on cable channels and in DVD compilations. Just the same, this show remains firmly entrenched in the memory of Bradyphiles for its over-the-top outpouring of variety show antics.
USA / ABC – Sid and Marty Krofft Prods. / x50 minute episodes / Broadcast 23 January – 25 May 1977
Florence Henderson as Carol Brady
Robert Reed as Mike Brady
Ann B. Davis as Alice
Maureen McCormick as Marcia Brady
Barry Williams as Greg Brady
Geri Reischl as Jan Brady
Christopher Knight as Peter Brady
Susan Olsen as Cindy Brady
Mike Lookinland as Bobby Brady
Rip Taylor as Mr. Merrill