Friday, August 3, 2012

Classic TV: The Brady Bunch (1969)

"Here's the story/Of a man named Brady......"

Two years had passed since Gilligan's Island had ended its run on CBS, but creator Sherwood Schwartz switched studios, from United Artists to Paramount, and networks, from CBS to ABC, for his next, and arguably, his most successful franchise, The Brady Bunch.

The series has both fans and detractors who are legion, which, honestly, I don't quite fathom. On the surface, it took the usual sitcom conventions and turned them on their ear. The basic premise, two families coming together as one, was borrowed, sort of, from a 1968 movie, "Yours, Mine, & Ours", with Henry Fonda & Lucille Ball, but proved to be far more successful than that film.

Brady Bunch lasted five seasons, the last two concurrent with the first spinoff, the animated Brady Kids, which in turn was borne as the result of the Kids' turn to pop music, beginning in season 3, and including their taking over the vocals on the seminal theme song. However, if you thought the story was over when both series ended in 1974, you'd be sadly mistaken.

In 1977, the franchise was licensed to Sid & Marty Krofft, who'd broken into primetime by producing the first two seasons of Donny & Marie. With the Osmond family taking over production of that series, which, oh by the way, was occupying the Bradys' former home on Fridays, the Kroffts unveiled The Brady Bunch Variety Hour, meant to anchor ABC's Sunday primetime package. However, they found out, as Bill Cosby did a year earlier, that going up against two other franchises in 60 Minutes & The Wonderful World of Disney was an arduous, near impossible task, and the series was cancelled after 1 season.

Four years later, the Bradys were back, but on a new network, NBC. The two oldest daughters, Marcia (Maureen McCormick) & Jan (Eve Plumb) were spun off into The Brady Brides, the result of a TV-movie that somehow ABC stupidly passed on. Schwartz had taken the Gilligan franchise to NBC as well, so a case can be made that maybe a new Brady series was part of the deal with the network. However, Brides bombed out, as NBC quickly discovered that moving the Bradys back to their old Friday night berth just wasn't the ticket, not when the competition included Dukes of Hazzard.

Seven years passed, and the Brady clan returned one more time, this time on CBS, in "A Very Brady Christmas", which led to 1990's short-lived The Bradys. During this time, Greg (Barry Williams) had gotten married, and, as outlined last time, Bobby (Mike Lookinland) tied the knot with his college sweetheart (MTV doll Martha Quinn) in the 2-hour Bradys opener. Unfortunately, this incarnation lasted just 5 weeks total.

After the franchise was resurrected in a pair of feature films starring Shelley Long (ex-Cheers) & Gary Cole (ex-Midnight Caller), you'd think it was finally over. No, it's not. As outlined on Wednesday, the franchise is reborn once more, as CBS has picked up an option on a new version of the classic series, with Vince Vaughn ("The Watch") & Peter Billingsley ("A Christmas Story") attached as producers, along with Lloyd Schwartz, and intended for a 2013 launch. We'll see if lightning can get caught again.

For now, let's turn back the clock to 1971, and the Kids performing "Sunshine Day".

Of the six Kids, only Maureen McCormick & Susan Olsen are still in the music business. Olsen, the last anyone knew, was a DJ in Los Angeles, and McCormick was last heard trying her hand as a country singer. The 2013 Bunch will almost certainly have a new cast, but they have some very large shoes to fill........

Rating: B.


magicdog said...

I've been on both sides of the love/hate spectrum with The Bradys.

I used to watch it in syndication as a kid and it was fun, but as I grew older and a bit more sophisticated, I just couldn't stand watching it anymore. I saw the big screen Brady spoofs and it seemed to nail what detractors have always said about the show - how the problems were so minor, that the kids never mentioned their biological parents (beyond Bobby mentioning his mom in the pilot), and the kids interactions with one another, among other things.

What's funny is that I did tune in to see the variety show with the rest of my family and it was OK (but I was bummed Eve Plumb chose not to participate) and even the Brady Brides (no way would Marcia have ever married a schlub like Wally!). Lightning just wouldn't strike twice.

Trouble is when you 've seen what real life is like (and seen TV programming that depicts it more frequently), you realize you can never go back to the innocence of The Brady Bunch.

hobbyfan said...

I've this feeling that the new version might be just a means of spoofing the trendy reality-TV genre that has gotten way out of control in recent years. If it works that way, fine, but why do I have this feeling that the movies, like the Scooby-Doo films, were meant to play to the internet in some form......