The metaphysics of the Brady Bunch
Updated: Jun 8, 2020
The Way We All Became The Brady Bunch: How the Canceled Sitcom Became the Beloved Pop Culture Icon We Are Still Talking About Today
by Kimberly Potts 2019
Four stars ****
Here's the story Of a lovely lady Who was bringing up three very lovely girls All of them had hair of gold Like their mother The youngest one in curls
It's the story Of a man named Brady Who was busy with three boys of his own They were four men Living all together Yet they were all alone
'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 Brady bunch, the Brady bunch That's the way we became the Brady bunch.
If you were singing along with these lyrics, you know how iconic the Brady Bunch television show was and how it shaped millions of childhoods. But why? There are dozens and dozens of shows about families that have run on television, some for much longer than the 5 seasons of the Brady Bunch, and few of them have come close to approaching the Brady's dominance in the fifty years since the show premiered.
In 2018, generations after the Bradys left the air, the house at 11222 Dilling Street that was used for exterior shots of the Brady house sold for a cool $3 Million to HGTV so that they could run a reality show with the grown-up children rehabbing the iconic house. That house is the second most photographed house in America, after the White House. It was never used for the show except as an exterior shot, but it's mere appearance brings thoughts of happy times to those who see it.
This book, written by Bradyphile Kimberly Potts, is a reverential recap of the past fifty years in Brady history, from the original show's premiere to the many sequels, adaptations, and tributes by other shows. There are many books in print written by and about the Brady's, and this is the latest attempt to tell the story of why the show resonated with so many.
While not seen as a ratings success during its original five year run, The Brady Bunch caught on in syndication, running after school during the 70's, 80's and 90's. Ms. Potts, as a member of generation X, credits her generation with turning the show into the pop culture icon that it became. Children of generation X were hungry for depictions of happy families according to this book, and the loving wisdom of mom and pop Brady (plus Alice!) was just what they needed.
While not seen as a ratings success during its original five year run, The Brady Bunch caught on in syndication, running after school during the 70's, 80's and 90's. Ms. Potts, as a member of generation X, credits her generation with turning the show into the pop culture icon that it became. Children of generation X were hungry for depictions of happy families according to this book, and the loving advice of mom and pop Brady (plus Alice!) was just what they needed to hear.
In a metaphysical sense, Mike and Carol Brady were the ideal parents that generation X, plus the millennials and generation Y, wanted to look up to. The children- Greg, Marcia, Jan, Peter, Cindy and Bobby would delve into relatable problems every episode and figure them out in the magic 22 minutes with the help of their families. In an age of increasing divorce and more and more blended families and single mothers, the Bradys were the stability that so many sought.
Now for the juicy revelations that I learned from this book, some of which I had heard of before.
- The family cat, Fluffy, mysteriously disappeared after the pilot and the family dog, Tiger, was hit by a car and died on the Paramount lot, and also mysteriously was cut from the show.
- Sherwood Schwartz, the show's creator (along with Gilligan's Island), wanted to become a doctor and almost got into medical school until a quota system locked him out because he was Jewish. So he then turned to show business.
- The Brady Bunch owes its syndication new life to Lucille Ball and Desilu Studios, who pioneered new filming techniques that made syndication possible. Only Star Trek has ridden the waves of syndication further than The Brady Bunch.
- Mrs. Brady was nearly portrayed by Joyce Bulifant, who was thought too funny and young looking after Ann B. Davis was hired as Alice. Gene Hackman was considered to play Mike Brady.
- Thousands of children were auditioned for the Brady kids, and it finally came down to hair color. The 6 finalists whose hair matched their on-screen parents got to be in the show. (With the exception of Mike Lookinland who played Bobby- he was a blonde who colored his hair).
- Robert Reed, who played Mike Brady, was a constant thorn in the side of the writers and producers, complaining about scripts and inconsistencies. A closeted gay man, Reed fancied himself a serious actor and didn't want to do the show until his contractual obligations basically forced him into it. He caused so much strife that he was written out of the final episode and his character would have been killed off had there been a sixth season.
- After the show had concluded, some of the Brady actors went on the Donny and Marie variety show and had such a good time they inspired the bizarre Brady Bunch Variety Hour, a short-lived song and dance show that ran for eight episodes. (available on You Tube)
- There were several made-for-tv movies, (The Brady Brides, A Very Brady Christmas) and series, (The Bradys) that followed in the 1990's, most of which were low rated and deemed too serious now that the kids all had grown-up problems.
- Since the sequels ended, there have been many tributes by other shows like the X-Files, Simpsons, and Family Guy that reference the Bradys in one way or another. There also was a stage show that recreated entire episodes. It's only a matter of time that a reboot may be coming, especially with the continued diversity of family life in the USA.
On a visit to Branson a few years ago, I stumbled upon a 70's tribute music show that featured Barry Williams, one of the original Brady children. Barry was one of the more musically inclined of the actors and has formed his own band that tours from time to time. The show was full of 70's hits and great dancing, and Williams devoted a long segment to his memories of the show while plugging his book "Growing Up Brady." The show is no more, but it brought back great memories of a time long gone.
The 1960's brought a huge swing to the left for the nation, while the 1980's brought a huge swing to the right. The 1970's sat right in the middle as a groovy disco balance, and the Brady's showed us how kids and parents, brothers and sisters, could all get along.