Happy Saturday to you all. I’m sitting here, looking at grey, wintery skies, and noticing all the melting snow that has turned everything into a sloppy mess. I don’t mind a little snow. I enjoy watching it fall, and when it’s new and clean, and I don’t have to drive in it, it’s pretty to behold. But then when it melts, it turns the backyard into a big sewer. And again, it makes me not want to go out into the world.
Yesterday, I was hanging out at home all day, because I was waiting for packages to get to us. Most of them didn’t arrive until later in the evening. Because I was bored, I decided to go on YouTube. That’s where I ran into a horrifying memory from 1990. Someone had uploaded the entire six episodes of The Bradys.
Now, I am a superfan of the Bradys. I can be counted on to buy books written by the people who were on the show. I have seen all of the spinoffs, including the godawful “variety show” that aired in the late 70s. I’ve even watched the braless Bradys go bowling, for God’s sake!
But, I think that, by far, the WORST spinoff of The Brady Bunch was The Bradys. I think that incarnation, was supposed to turn the corny 70s era sitcom into a dramatic mix of Full House and Thirtysomething, was the most cringeworthy version of the Brady family that ever was. And I was so bored this week that I actually watched the whole thing. It took me a couple of days, because I couldn’t stand to watch it all in one sitting.
The Bradys came about in 1990 after a hugely successful television movie called A Very Brady Christmas aired in 1988. The TV movie, which featured every original cast member except Susan Olsen (Cindy), who was on her honeymoon in Jamaica at the time, got huge ratings. Olsen’s character was portrayed by Jennifer Runyon, a then very beautiful young actress who had been on Charles In Charge— featuring the cringey Scott Baio. Jennifer Runyon is, at this writing, 63 years old. Man, that makes me feel ancient!
When the decision was made to pitch The Bradys, everyone except Maureen McCormick came aboard. Her character, Marcia Brady Logan, was portrayed by Leah Ayres. Maureen McCormick was very wise to avoid this turkey… Even the variety show was better, because at least it had synchronized swimmers. The Bradys was just a very strange show, and I’m not sure anyone knew what they were supposed to be doing.
I mean, there were some dramatic moments in The Bradys. Bobby Brady, played by Mike Lookinland, becomes a racecar driver. He has an accident and loses the ability to walk without assistance. He wasn’t totally paralyzed, because we see him stand up on occasion. But his being in a wheelchair lends to a theme mallet that has patriarch Mike Brady (Robert Reed)– running for public office and installing a wheelchair ramp in their house. The house, by the way, had to be moved, because of a freeway being built near where the house used to be. And then, when Mike wins the election over the incumbent, Gene Dickinson– played by Herb Edelman, who famously played Stanley Zbornak on The Golden Girls— it turns out that moving the house had put Mike in a different district, nullifying his win… for about 30 seconds.
Greg Brady has become an obstetrician. He has a sleazy looking mustache that makes him look totally yucky. At one point during the very brief series, he mentions becoming an orthopedist, so he can help his brother, Bobby. But then, when he delivers a baby at Bobby’s wedding to Tracy (played by former MTV veejay, Martha Quinn), Greg suddenly realizes he was meant to bring babies into the world.
Jan Brady (Eve Plumb) and her nerdy husband, Phillip Covington III, have patched up their marital differences. Now, they want to have a baby. Jan’s and Phillip’s junk doesn’t work, so they have to adopt. They suddenly wind up with a little Korean girl named Patty who is very shy, but knows how to cook Korean soup. The whole thing is bizarre, even for the 90s. And then, somehow, midway through this tragic series, a laugh track materializes, to tell us when we should laugh.
Peter has become a womanizer who can’t seem to settle on a girlfriend and get married. But he’s somehow brilliant at running campaigns and is super dynamic and responsible. Then, for some reason, the women decide to open a catering business, which Greg and Peter work at as waiters after throwing punches at each other.
Cindy Brady is a disc jockey, even though she had a terrible lisp for years, and she doesn’t exactly have the most exciting delivery on the radio. In 1990, Susan Olsen was still very cute, but I wouldn’t necessarily peg her as an announcer. Maybe she should have been a veterinarian or something… or perhaps a car mechanic? I dunno. Either of those jobs seems more plausible for her character than highly successful disc jockey who is being courted for a television show.
I’m surprised this crap ever made it on TV. Even by 90s standards, it was pretty horrible. I mean, yes, a lot of us were big fans of the original sitcom. And a lot of us wanted to see the Bradys again, which is why the TV movies were so popular. But the spinoffs– and there were three of them– were each badly conceived, poorly acted, and embarrassingly executed. The problems were all solved within the hour timeframe, and lacked continuity. I mean, they made Marcia a drunk, for God’s sake! That’s not a problem that just goes away!
I don’t think people wanted to see the Bradys dealing with modern problems, either. The original show was lightweight, clean, and innocent. The Bradys put tire tracks in the pure driven snow of that show… and just like my backyard, it turned into a soup sandwich shitshow in short order.
Still, even though I was cringing the whole time, and I have a new book to read, I continued to watch that monstrosity. It brought me back to the winter of 1990, when I was 17 years old, and about to graduate from high school. It wasn’t the happiest time of my life, but I do remember feeling kind of hopeful about the future, as I prepared to go to college. The show also reminded me of how ugly fashions were back then. Lots of bright colors, vests, and faux features. I mean, they were almost as ugly as the 70s…
I think the best actress on the show was Jaclyn Bernstein, who also had a guest spot on The Golden Girls. She played Marcia’s and Wally’s implausibly dark haired daughter, Jessica. Jaclyn Bernstein has good comic timing and delivers her lines convincingly. I thought she was even better than Jonathan Weiss (otherwise known as Jonathan Taylor Thomas), who went on to be a pretty successful kid actor.
Eh, well… I guess I can justify watching that dross, since it did result in today’s blog post. Otherwise, I might be writing about the recent deaths of Rosalynn Carter, Henry Kissinger, and Sandra Day O’Connor, and wishing certain other foul mouthed politicians were on that list, instead. Writing about The Bradys keeps me out of trouble. 😉
Hopefully, tomorrow will inspire a blog post with more substance. I’ll try to remember to watch The Golden Girls next time I get bored. At least that show never stops being funny for the right reasons.