Friday, January 25, 2013

What Was So Great About the Brady Bunch

The first sit-com I remember being totally drawn into, maybe even mesmerised by, was the Brady Bunch. I was born in 76, so they were airing re-runs around the time I was four or five. I remember them briefly taking it off the air in our local area, and I was sad. It came back on a few years later and was on, on some channel, quite often from the 80s into the 90s, as re-runs. Why can I always sit through this show, and not get bored, and still laugh at the same dumb shit? Eight or nine times over. What did it have? Why is it great? Special?

The Aesthetics
The show started in the late 60s through the 70s, providing for some intense visual stimulation. I think the first thing you're in awe of is that sweet house. Mike Brady took a modern approach to the design of home, and it just seems like a lovely spacious, yet warm, place to be. The colors in the kitchen are fantastic and the staircase is just "sick." Don't even get me started on Michael Brady's den. Every child fantasized about having a workspace like that when they become professionals. Well done Mr. Brady.

I could go on and speak volumes on the other obvious, the clothing. What we thought was silly in the 80s, as we viewed the reruns, was actually pretty sharp. They pushed the envelope, okay, maybe not for the time period, but it's still an element that drew us in and worked well with the backdrop of the house. Seriously speaking, Greg Brady has some pretty cool sweaters and shirts that I would have no problem wearing today.

How about the beginning? The song, with all the blocks with their heads in it. We've seen it so often it means nothing, but think back and remember how happy you were when that intro started and Mike and Carol's mugs appeared in the in the box with the light blue background, and everything built up, simply and clearly explaining the whole premise of the show, in under a minute, in a fun, catchy and possibly an original way. (I'm smiling as I type this, just thinking about my own joy at the intro song).

Music was kind of a large part of this brilliant program. We just stated the catchy intro theme, but there were three whole episodes devoted or featuring the Brady's performing music, and another episode with Davey Jones. Those were always my favorites. I own a Brady Bunch CD and it's pretty damn solid, with a great, fun studio band with great grooves, percussion, horns, and happiness. The Brady band was good and need not be laughed at or mocked. Of course they were produced, but their producers had taste and a sense of silliness that shows through on the Album or on the various episodes. Nice work. And Greg Brady has a good voice. He need not be mocked either.

So, yes, we've established the Brady Bunch band was outstanding, but there was other music on the show, on every show, and in many or most situations. We call this the background music. This program had the best ambient music ever, perfectly appropriate for every scene. I specifically remember the noise for when Bobby kisses his first girl and the fireworks go off. We tried to imitate that sound in grade school. I can't put it into words, maybe awkward. I believe the credit goes to Mr. Frank DeVol for scoring the background sounds. Thank you sir. Exceptional work.

The Characters
I was always able to feel connected to each and every character on that show to the extent I really thought I knew them and even wanted to hang with them in real life. What I would also do is relate my own family members to characters on the show. I saw a bit of my father, in Mr. Brady, I saw both Alice and Carol in my mother, my older brother was named Greg and there were similarities there too. I could see a bit of Marcia in my older sister. We used to refer to my younger brother as Cindy Brady cause he told on somebody once, and there was an episode where Cindy was a tattle tale. Great choices for the Brady kids. While they weren't superstar actors and actresses, I can't imagine anyone else taking their place.

The Plots
Some of the story lines were just ridiculous. As stated previously, the music episodes were my favorite, particularly the Johnny Bravo episode, but there were other awesome shows and scenarios. Marcia getting hit with football and breaking her nose, the football playbook being stolen, the haunted house, Buddy Hinton, the Grand Canyon and Hawaii special episodes and it goes on. There was always a lesson to be learned; an ethics or morality of sorts that we can all respect and try to live by. Mr. Brady was probably the perfect TV father, instilling a work ethic/self discipline/kindness on his children, while being loose enough to understand the changing times and styles. The guy got a perm for god sakes. Another fascinating layer to the show was, that you can see them having early issues when the families first get together (first season), but, as the show progresses, they come together as one family. If you haven't seen this, compare some of the first shows, with other ones from seasons three or four. They grow together, and we grow with them.

So I think the unity of the aesthetics, sound, characters and plot all work together to provide this distinct and unique television show that was on for eight seasons and never won an award. Sometimes the experts are wrong and sometimes it's all about the heart. How something makes you feel inside. And for television shows, I can't think of anything that both makes me laugh, and feel warm all over.

It wasn't a perfect show. Nobody would ever claim that. Some of the later episodes were not up to par and Robert Reid (Mr. Brady) was known to get into arguments with Sherwood Schwartz (creator) over the integrity of the show in the later or last season. I'll give them a pass on that, as they've given me a sense of morality, warmth, smiles and giggles, and maybe love too.

The Brady's will always be timeless to me. In my heart, I will always consider myself, half Brady. Can anyone else say this much about any other commercial 30-minute television program?

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