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Published on March 23rd, 2012 | by Hermia


Do Over: The Brady Bunch

There’s an episode of the Gilmore Girls where Lorelai and Rory try to explain the beauty of The Donna Reed Show to Dean. The conversation goes like this:

Rory: My favourite episode is when their son, Jeff, comes home from school and nothing happens.
Lorelai: Oh that’s a good one. One of my favourites is when Mary, the daughter, gets a part-time job and nothing happens.
Rory: Another classic.

That pretty much sums up The Brady Bunch.

It’s a beautifully simple show where one life lesson or general scenario is taken care of tidily in one quotable episode. The OCDer in me shrieked with delight when I first came across it about three years ago. Six siblings, two parents and a maid all living in close quarters and existing in perfect harmony. Sure there was the odd row, but nothing that couldn’t be quickly solved by some inward reflection and sage advice from the parental unit.

Strangely enough, during its five seasons it never managed to reach the dizzying heights of popularity that its reruns reached. Maybe it was just too ridiculous to be appreciated at a time when families were attempting to break out of the suffocating stereotypes of men going out to work and coming home to the loving wife who raises his children and always looks impeccable. Times were a-changing and people were less tolerant of TV and movie producers forcing old-fashioned ideas on them. Years later though, when the family unit and gender roles had been redefined, people could watch the show and see it for what it was – fuzzy entertainment.

While the show was liberal in its view of the family unit (blended families were rarely seen on TV), it often failed in being truly liberal as regards women’s rights, which is something that now is frickin’ hilarious to watch, but I’d say irked a lot of viewers back in the day. Now and again they show the girls in the family attempting to be treated the same as boys, but the characters themselves undermine these attempts. Marcia is an airhead, who is completely obsessed with her looks. During Season 1, she goes on her first date and the boy tells her “You act real crazy sometimes, Marcia, but you’re still the grooviest looking girl in the whole school”, which she is delighted by.

Middle-child Jan spends a lot of time fretting about her own appearance, because she has freckles (not a joke) and is constantly compared to her “far out” older sister.  A normal reaction would be to comfort and reassure her, but that’s just not the Brady Way and Marcia generally tends to confirm these insecurities. In another episode, Mrs Brady decides to give Jan a makeover to combat her hideous normality, but by Season 3 they’d all given up and simply introduced Jan to their ‘Ugly But Interesting’ aunt. Harsh reality should be accepted early on. Put the bag on and accept your fate, Jan!

If blatant and ignorant sexism isn’t something that tickles your funny bone (loser!), The Brady Bunch has much more to offer. First of all, there’ s the eldest boy Greg’s eyebrows. Seriously, they’re fascinating. My own favourite part of the show is the Brady’s maid, Alice. Alice is the engine that keeps The Bunch running, with her self-deprecating quips, her one-liners and the hilarious predicaments she gets herself into. There’s also her rather bizarre but endearing relationship with Sam, the local butcher. Alice is kind and caring and ever-patient and if there was no Alice, Mrs Brady’s only task (handing out lunch bags in the morning) wouldn’t be possible and the whole system would collapse.

The Brady Bunch Movie was thought by many to be an over-exaggerated parody of general ridiculousness based on the original show, but the reality is that it WAS the original show. Nearly every storyline, joke and quirk was taken from actual episodes in the original series – even that Clown song Greg performs.

I could spend hours writing about every lovable aspect of The Brady Bunch but Season 2 is currently on in the background and requires my full attention – Alice has trapped herself in a sleeping bag, Cindy’s telling tales again and Mrs Brady is shaking her head lovingly at Mr Brady over some comment he made regarding her silly womanness – so I will leave you to discover (or rediscover) the wonder that is this classic American show on your own – now, shoo!

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