I'm an avid watcher of MeTV, especially the westerns on Saturday and the science fiction shows later that night. More often than not, the cable box remains on that channel into Sunday morning. Earlier this year after I watched my church's broadcast on YouTube, I reverted back to broadcast TV and caught the opening of what the channel calls The Brady Brunch: a two-hour block on Sunday mornings of episodes of the Brady Bunch. Back in the spring, MeTV was running the series in order and it was the episode when the family flew out to Cincinnati and had an adventure at the King's Island theme park.
I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed this episode and I watched that group of four. Then I did it again the next Sunday. And the next. After reaching the end of the run, MeTV started doing themes: all Marcia, all Bobby, etc.
My interest in the show piqued, it was serendipity when podcaster Ken Mills interviewed Kimberly Potts on his POP podcast. Turned out Potts was there to talk about her new book: The Way We All Became the Brady Bunch: How the Canceled Sitcom Became the Beloved Pop Culture Icon We Are Still Talking About Today. (Yes, it's a long title.)
Perfect! I got the book on my Kindle and, in between two digital covers, had nearly all my Brady Bunch questions answered.
Of all places to start, Potts began the book with The X-Files. The penultimate episode recreated the famous interior of the Brady house. That a science fiction show in 2002 would choose to craft a story around a cancelled family sitcom is one proof of how endearing the Brady Bunch remains.
The book is chronological, starting with the seed of an idea in the mind of creator Sherwood Schwartz and going all the way up to 2019 when the Brady kids--now, middle aged--participated in the HGTV renovation of the actual Brady house and literally everything in between. A few facts that fascinated me.
Schwartz conceived of the idea in 1966, but the network wasn't ready for a show with a mixed family. It wasn't until the 1968 film Yours, Mine and Ours starring Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda premiered that ABC gave the show a shot.
I didn't really know how bad Robert Reed was on set about the scripts and how Schwartz was running the show. While the actor never feuded in front of the child actors, he was a pain, so much so that he boycotted the fifth season finale...which turned out to be the series finale. That the episode dealt with Greg's high school graduation is a pretty crappy hill on which to die. Still, Reed returned for every single reunion show for the rest of his life. Yet, through it all, he loved his six TV kids, even taking them on a vacation and giving them all small home movie cameras, the footage of which became a TV special.
Speaking of specials, Potts discusses all the various spin-offs and specials along the way, including a forgotten-by-me thing called The Brady Bunch Variety Hour. Yes, it really happened, and there's proof on YouTube. I kept a list and I plan on seeking out as many as I can. Did you know Reed and Florence Henderson guest-starred on the Love Boat in character? I have got to find that one.
I enjoyed Potts's description of the sheer volume of tributes throughout the years, from sitcom to dramatic show, that paid tribute to The Brady Bunch. Much like Star Trek, The Brady Bunch never truly went away. It just morphing and changing with the times.
And it’s the simple love for this show, the loving parents, the six kids, and Alice (!) that had propelled this show into the 21st Century. Kimberly Potts’s book is essential reading if you want to learn all there is to know about this sitcom.
Why has it endured? It all comes down to Sherwood Schwartz’s vision for the show, a lesson we all can learn:
The Brady Bunch was going to be another example of what he believed was one of the most important ideas in life: that any group of people, no matter how different, no matter how little they might seem to have in common, could learn to live together. He wanted the show to be groundbreaking and modern, to reflect this new and significant sociological change with he prevalence of blended families, and it did. He couldn’t have planned for the decades-long impact his slice of Americana would have on television and every other avenue of pop culture, but it did indeed achieve that, too.
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