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The Brady Bunch aired from September 1969 until August 1974 on ABC.
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," "naive" 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 ( Robert Reed) had three sons: Greg, Peter, and Bobby (Barry Williams, Christopher Knight, Mike Lookinland). Widowed mom Carol ( Florence Henderson) brought three daughters into the mix: Marcia, Jan and Cindy ( Maureen McCormick, Eve Plumb, Susan Olsen). They were also blessed with a wise and super-efficient housekeeper, Alice ( Ann B. Davis). Sam the Butcher ( Allan Melvin), 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 ( Robbie Rist). 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.
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.
" 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!
An Interview with Barry Williams
We all watched Barry Williams grow up Brady. From the clean-cut kid with the conservative haircut to the long-haired young man who converted his parent's attic into a groovy bachelor pad, Barry Williams, for many people, has quite literally become their phantom older brother. Since emerging from the Brady shadow, Williams has been busy - recently releasing a pop album titled The Return of Johnny Bravo and creating his own website, barrywilliams.com. YL was fortunate enough to sit down with one of television's most famous sons and hear about the side of Barry Williams that wasn't on camera.
What cartoons do you remember watching as a kid?
BARRY WILLIAMS: I wasn't a cartoon watcher, so that's not real fertile ground for me, but I did watch a lot of television. The family [would] watch Run for Your Life, Dragnet, FBI and Mod Squad. Those were the shows that we were all about. There was a time when I could virtually recite the entire TV Guide schedule Monday through Sunday from 7:30 until 10:00 PM on all three networks.
What was your all-time favorite show?
BW: Mission Impossible was my favorite show. I know that because that's the one that I really took charge on. When [Mission Impossible] started on Sunday night, if anybody made a sound I'd hit them. We had to get that first couple of minutes when the IMF force got their instructions. We couldn't miss that. We didn't want to hear about dessert or ice cream or any distraction or anything about homework. No one could talk or the whole show would be ruined.
What movies do you remember from that time?
BW: I loved all the James Bond films. I thought those were great fun. I liked the whole drama of it. It looked like a great life cars and European settings and exotic adventures and beautiful women. I didn't miss any of the James Bond films.
Did you like the Disney films?
BW: Yes. Pinocchio was good. I liked Pinocchio because they showed it in school. That meant no school work for the time that it was showing. My favorite Disney film was The Absent-Minded Professor, with Fred MacMurray. I wanted to be that kid, the one who got the flubber on his tennis shoes and then play that game. It really felt like that you'd have a great advantage with that stuff. Another one was The Shaggy Dog.
I was always curious how they made him into that dog because to me, at that time, it was just magic. I didn't know what make-up was. So I thought, 'Wow! How do they get him to turn into a dog and then back again?'
What is your earliest TV memory?
BW: I'm not sure if this is exactly the first, but the most powerful television memory I have and I remember this like it happened yesterday I was in my living room and Neil Armstrong had just landed on the moon. It was being reported by Walter Cronkite. Then all of a sudden President Nixon came on the screen and they were showing Neil Armstrong on the moon with Apollo behind him and Richard Nixon on the right side from the White House. And he was talking to Neil Armstrong. I was sitting next to my Grandmother and I thought 'Wow, this television thing is pretty amazing.' Pretty amazing. Then I wanted to be Neil Armstrong. That didn't work out. I went the Greg Brady route.
What kind of toys did you play with back then?
BW: I liked guns as a kid. I used to take the miniature solider guys and my friend and I would set them up in the back yard in strategic places. And then we would try and forget where they were and hunt them down. We would have a BB gun and knock them down. That graduated to these little cork guns. You could fill them up with about 60 shots. They didn't really hurt, of course, unless you put them in somebody's eye or something. Fortunately that didn't happen. We would chase each other around- sort of the predecessor to paint ball I guess. I don't know if I had any non-violent toys.
Did you have any favorite board games?
BW: Monopoly. Used to play Chutes and Ladders. Monopoly was the best one because that required a little more thought I guess. That was probably it. Didn't play them a lot, [except for] Monopoly.
Were you reading a lot of kids' books at the time?
BW: I read Tom Swift and all those. I think the first book that got me into reading was Charlotte's Web. I didn't like spiders, and of course that whole book is taken from a spider's point of view. Which was hard for me, but then I realized, reading this book, that a sort of magic had transformed me and I was transferred into Charlotte's world. Then the pig was going to die and Charlotte made that beautiful web and Charlotte had to die. It was like 'Oh man, this is good. I'm into books now.'
What breakfast cereal did you eat?
BW: Well, I loved the Alpha-Bits thing. That was cool because food you could play with was just too much fun. I have brothers and sometimes we would get into spelling bees and things like that, and you had to borrow letters from their bowls in order to complete a word. But my mom was not crazy about this idea because we'd start arranging out words and spreading them out on the dining room table. Of course, there's milk and things all over the table. That didn't work out, but we had a ball with it. The other one (this is how I knew that I was subject to advertising) was Honey Comb. I used to eat Honey Comb cereal because I liked that theme song. 'Got to have that mom, got to have that.'
Here is Robert Reed's Obituary from The New York Times
Robert Reed, Actor, Dead at 59; The Father of 'The Brady Bunch'
By JACQUES STEINBERG
Published: May 14, 1992
Robert Reed, who became a surrogate father to a generation as the head of an exceptionally large household on television's "Brady Bunch," died on Tuesday night at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, Calif. He was 59 years old and lived in Pasadena.
He died of bowel cancer, said Ann Haney, a family friend.
"He'd been fighting this thing very privately since last Thanksgiving," Ms. Haney said.
On "The Brady Bunch," a Friday night fixture on ABC from September 1969 until August 1974, Mr. Reed played Mike Brady, a successful architect who held together a family of three sons and three stepdaughters. Coupling firmness with love, Mike Brady helped guide his children through a minefield of minor crises -- including a broken vase, a daughter's failed driving test and a son's squeaking pubescent voice -- that would temporarily turn the family upside down for much of each half-hour episode. Still in Syndication
The show, which also starred Florence Henderson as Mike's wife, Carol, continues to win fans through reruns in syndication. It has inspired a satirical Off Broadway show, "The Real Live Brady Bunch," and a new behind-the-scenes book written by Barry Williams, who played the eldest son, Greg.
"I'm very sad," Ms. Henderson said in a telephone interview yesterday. "I feel like I lost a husband, a father to my kids and a good friend all in one day."
Mr. Reed first gained a television following in "The Defenders," a 1960's dramatic series on which he played a progressive-minded young lawyer whose father was portrayed by E. G. Marshall. He also had roles in the television series "The Lawman" and "Mannix." In January, he filmed an episode of "Jake and the Fatman."
Mr. Reed, who was born John Robert Rietz Jr. in Highland Park, Ill., was reared in Muskogee, Okla. He studied drama at Northwestern University and then attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and the University of London.
Returning to the United States, Mr. Reed joined a young group of Off Broadway players, "The Shakespeare-wrights," with whom he performed in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Romeo and Juliet." He made his Broadway debut in 1964, succeeding Robert Redford as the star of the Neil Simon play "Barefoot in the Park."
A sometime player on the regional stage, Mr. Reed last starred in a touring production of the play "Love Letters" in February.
"Every television actor says the same thing when you ask him why he's doing theater: to work up the juices," Mr. Reed once said. "But the basic reason is the script. In television, the scripts aren't very good."
Mr. Reed is survived by his mother, Helen Rietz, of Sallisaw, Okla.; a daughter, Karen Baldwin of Chicago, and a grandson.
* Note-originally reports were that Mr. Reed died of cancer. Within weeks the truth came out that he had in fact died from AIDS.
To read some articles about The Brady Bunch go to http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=J8paAAAAIBAJ&sjid=u3sDAAAAIBAJ&dq=the%20brady%20bunch&pg=3531%2C4595734 and http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=2UUgAAAAIBAJ&sjid=EpwEAAAAIBAJ&dq=the%20brady%20bunch&pg=6830%2C3879738 and http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=NZBaAAAAIBAJ&sjid=WEoDAAAAIBAJ&dq=the%20brady%20bunch&pg=4482%2C5437296
To watch some clips from The Brady Bunch go to http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=brady+bunch&aq=f
For Tim's TV Showcase go to https://web.archive.org/web/20130406165912/http://www.timstvshowcase.com/brady.html
For a Page dedicated to The Brady Bunch go to https://web.archive.org/web/20080229071635/http://tvland.classictvhits.com/BradyBunch/
For some Brady Bunch-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to https://interviews.televisionacademy.com/shows/brady-bunch-the
For 2 Reviews of The Brady Bunch go to https://web.archive.org/web/20130211073705/http://www.museum.tv/eotvsection.php?entrycode=bradybunch and https://web.archive.org/web/20080215232259/http://www.televisionheaven.co.uk/bradybunch.htm
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Keywords: The Brady Bunch (Links Updated 7/7/18)