Since moving out of my parents’ house and no longer having cable, most of my TV viewing comes in the form of over-the-air digital channels. I love watching reruns, so these channels are great for me. Some of them, like MeTV and Antenna TV, show reruns of classic shows, so I can watch stuff like Doogie Howser and Small Wonder. Then there’s the specialty channels like Grit (subsists mostly on Walker, Texas Ranger reruns but shows action movies too), Escape (mostly reruns of crime shows like Unsolved Mysteries), and Comet (sci-fi themed, most notably airs MST3K reruns and horrible schlocky shit like Jonny Sokko).
I have discovered/rediscovered a bunch of old shows that I like (ironically or not). Weekends are a hard time to find anything good to watch on these channels–they’re mostly overtaken by Mass for shut-ins, infomercials, “educational” shows, and football. But I can usually count on the Sunday morning combination of Saved by the Bell (most of which I have on DVD but still enjoy seeing on TV), The Brady Bunch, and Small Wonder. They’re all entertaining yet terrible in their own special ways.
I never got into The Brady Bunch as a kid. My understanding is that it never really caught on much when it first aired. It found its biggest audience with kids my age when it reran on TBS in the late 80s/early 90s. This nostalgia is what I would imagine what led to the production of those two Brady Bunch revival/parody movies that appeared in the 90s, but I never watched much of the show back then, and I certainly never watched the movies. I thought the show was stupid and hokey.
The show is stupid and hokey, gloriously so. The hair, clothing, cheesy lingo the writers put into the kids’ mouths, and that bright orange/green kitchen are all atrocious. The astro-turf lawn. The lame jokes. The neat, pat, happy endings. Cousin Oliver. I never watched the show much, but so much of it has entered into our pop culture canon that when I did start watching it quite a bit, it was somehow like watching something you’d seen a hundred times for the first time all over again. Total TV comfort food. The Bradys become kind of like your second family…well, not your second family. Maybe more like a weird, warped mutant version of your family, from an alternate universe where everyone gets along and six kids can share one bathroom and nobody gets murdered.
We finally rented the movies over the summer and while the second one is ok, the first one is fantastic…the right combination of reverence to the source material while mercilessly ragging on how impossibly perfect and idealized the family is. Transplanting them into the LA of the 90s makes them seem even more incongruous.
Anyway, Florence Henderson’s recent death and MeTV airing A Very Brady Christmas has me finding the Bradys on the brain. Now that I can watch YouTube on my TV, I am watching the horrible, short-lived spinoff The Bradys from the early 90s. It’s not hard to see why it failed…the show tries to be super dramatic and dark with the individual kids’ storylines, but it incorporates a lot of the lame humor of the original show. Plus there are constant clips and references to the first show. Tonally,it’s all over the place. It doesn’t help that the plots are not that terribly interesting.
So between the Christmas movie and the Bradys pilot, I have glimpsed into the Bradys’ future, and here is what I’ve seen:
Mike is still an architect. In the Christmas movie, Mike, Carol, and Alice all have the same fuzzy gray perm. Mike has a pornstache and really enjoys working out on the elliptical while wearing pastel-colored tracksuits. At the end of the movie, he climbs out of the ruins of a collapsed building while the rest of the family sings “O Come All Ye Faithful” outside. In the series, Mike wears clothing other than tracksuits, and according to Wikipedia, he runs for public office.
In the Christmas movie, Carol has been allowed to leave the house on her own and even has a job as a real estate agent, but this does not seem to be mentioned in the show. Alice comes back to live with Carol and Mike in the movie when Sam dumps her for another woman. Sam comes back at the end of the movie, but in the series, Alice is still living with the Bradys and is more of a background character than anything. This is lame because Alice was the best character in the original series by far.
Maureen McCormick came back to play Marcia in the movie, but was smart enough not to partake in the series. Perfect Marcia is married with children and seems to have the perfect family, except for the fact that her husband is a loser who can’t hold down a job. Like Carol and Alice, Marcia is just sort of…there. It’s like the writers didn’t know what to do with a woman who was once Little Miss Golden Child but has a crappy marriage, two fucking annoying kids, and has to move back in with Mom and Dad. Seems like a missed opportunity to me. She should have had a nervous breakdown. According to Wikipedia, Marcia briefly flirts with alcoholism (maybe this is why Maureen Mccormick didn’t come back, LOL) but of course this is easily solved because, after all, Marcia is a Brady.
Jan is the career woman. She’s an architect like Mike. She also somehow looks and sounds about ten years older than her character should. In the movie, she and her snotty professor husband are separated but pretend nothing is wrong for the sake of the family, only to have Carol bring them back together so they can have make-up sex while bunking in Mike’s office while visiting for Christmas. In the series, Jan and her husband are trying to have a baby, but Jan can’t get pregnant. A fate worse than death. They end up adopting a child (a little girl from Korea; the stereotypical Shy Asian), but it’s just not the saaaaaame.
The writers should have created some sort of tension/jealousy between Marcia and Jan (one has a family but kind of a crappy life, the other has a great career but can’t have children of her own), but of course they didn’t do this.
Cindy is in college in the movie, and is pissed because she feels obligated to visit home for Christmas and misses out on a ski trip with her friends. In the series, Cindy has lost her lisp and is a deejay. She enters into a relationship with her much older (Jewish) boss. Ho hum.
Greg is an obstetrician, and LBR, we all know why he became an obstetrician, right? His wife is his nurse. They have one annoying kid (played to perfection by a very young ~*JTT*~). When Bobby is in an accident, Greg decides to throw all his unrestricted access to female genitalia away to change specialties to become an orthopedist.
Peter is a businessman and a total manwhore. In the Christmas movie he’s fucking his boss and wants to propose to her, but he feels emasculated by the fact that she makes more money than he does. The two of them end up proposing to one another. In the first episode of the series, Peter dumps her and finds himself awash in pussy, which I can safely say I never saw coming.
We had a lot of fun ripping on Bobby’s portion of the Christmas movie…it turns out that Bobby secretly dropped out of college over a year ago and has been pursing a career as a racecar driver. He spends much of the movie doing very unBradylike things, like being all scuzzy and dirty after a race and eating Chinese takeout right out of the carton.
When it comes time for The Bradys series, the powers that be somehow found it necessary to give the lamest Brady kid the most dramatic storyline of them all: as the whole family watches stock footage of car races, Bobby is involved in an accident that leaves him paralyzed! But soon his ex-girlfriend shows up and teaches him that being crippled is no big deal if you’re in love. They get engaged fifteen minutes after seeing each other for the first time in years, and they are married by the end of the week, as the girlfriend’s extremely pregnant sister gives birth upstairs for some reason. Greg and wife deliver the baby, of course, and don’t even get their fancy wedding clothes dirty.
When I watch the original show, I totally get Peter and Bobby mixed up because neither one of them are very interesting and they kind of resemble one another. In this new incarnation of the Bradys, the writers make super sure you don’t make this mistake. It helps that Adult Bobby has sandy blond hair now, but he’s mostly identifiable as the one in the wheelchair.
Right now I am watching episode 3. So far all that’s happened is that the Bradys have to vacate their home so it can be knocked down to build a freeway. They present their case to a scummy city councilman as played by
Stanley Zbornak Herb Edelman, who is apparently very good at playing scummy guys. I assume Mike takes over his seat on city council.
Thanks for bearing with me as I ramble about the the stupid Bradys. It’s amusing watching them try to cram as much storyline into an hour as possible, as if they knew they were going to be quickly canceled. They were right.