“If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s a perfect kid. And six of ’em, yecch!”
— Ann B. Davis as housekeeper Alice Nelson
No, seriously, speaking as someone just slightly older than Bobby and Cindy, I did genuinely look forward to the Friday night antics of the youngsters on “The Brady Bunch.” Granted, I relied on reruns once the wholesome show faced head-to-head competition from the earthier “Sanford and Son.”
I’ve done a lot of living since those carefree days, but it’s still hard to believe that Sept. 26 marks the 50th anniversary of the classic sitcom.
You were probably already aware of the milestone because of publicity surrounding the current HGTV reality series “A Very Brady Renovation,” in which some of the original cast members try to re-do the home they pretended to live in five decades ago. At least that’s better than the Einsteins who try to construct a viable resume from the pretend college courses they took. (“But my ‘incomplete’ in Underwater Sock Monkey Gender Studies will have customers beating the doors down if you hire me!”)
Series creator Sherwood Schwartz said he drew inspiration for “The Brady Bunch” from a 1966 Los Angeles Times article about mixed families, but some of the show’s elements have a longer history. The National Archives recently released notes taken by one of the delegates at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. (“Well, all day long at Independence Hall, I hear how great James Madison is at this or how wonderful Madison did that! Madison, Madison, Madison!”)
It’s a wonder the family stayed harmonious for five seasons of the original series. Robert Reed was famously dissatisfied with his role as family patriarch Mike Brady, claiming that Schwartz promised him an edgier, more envelope-pushing show. Yes, that’s what Reed expected from Schwartz, who had previously created “Gilligan’s Island.” Reed also reportedly tried bumming candy cigarettes from Cheech & Chong.
Although TV mother Carol Brady was allowed to broaden her horizons with volunteer work, Schwartz was adamant that she not be a career woman. So, when the Brady moppets were singing “It’s A Sunshine Day,” she was probably thinking, “I know, I know — I can see the glass ceiling.”
Millions of kids who were too young to stay up for the late-late show were introduced to Humphrey Bogart by Peter Brady’s Bogart impersonation. (“Pork chops and applesauce. Ain’t that swell!”) That 1971 episode is being redubbed to showcase the updated line “Plant-based meat substitute and non-GMO applesauce! Sweet!”
To its credit, the show stuck to family themes (crushes, rivalries, etc.) and steered away from hot-button issues, including the Vietnam War. I’m sure the “can do” Brady attitude could have worked wonders with that conflict, though. (“If we can just get those commies in Hanoi a date with Davy Jones of the Monkees, we’ll split a Nobel Peace Prize!”)
New generations are learning lessons about cooperation, self-confidence and honesty from the reruns. But some people draw the wrong lessons. For instance, Joe Biden.
“I am totally fit to be the whatchamacallit of the ... uh, United States of America. And it’s not a sign of desperation that I’m already announcing my youthful running mate: Cousin Oliver!”