The Brady Bunch: Season 1
While it is not unheard of for a television show to become part of the popular culture of our time few have achieved the pop status of the Brady Bunch. Thanks to almost constant reruns I seriously doubt that there is a single generation that has come alone since the late sixties that does not know all the lyrics to the theme song. Even the tic tac toe opening is famous, a constant source of homage and instantly recognizable by every television viewer. Like many cultural icons the plot is simplicity incarnate. Mike Brady (Robert Reed) is a widower left with his three young sons, Greg (Barry Williams), Peter (Christopher Knight) and Bobby (Mike Lookinland). Mike falls in love and marries single mother Carol (Florence Henderson) who is ‘bring up three very lovely girls, Marcia (Maureen McCormick), Jan (Eve Plumb) and Cindy (Susan Olsen). With the assistance of the family housekeeper (Ann B. Davis) the first season goes into an important social issue at the time in an extremely light hearted fashion, the blended family.
Back in 1969 when the first season hit the airwaves, the blended family was a novel concept; television usually took a more conservative approach of the traditional mother, father and children. The Brady Bunch’s first season based much of its humor on the difficulties inherent in two sets of children suddenly being forced to cope with a new family structure and sibling order. Each boy had a counter part girl, nicely set at one year younger. This provided for not only interactions of the boys versus the girls but the same aged new siblings to interact within their section of the new hierarchy. Actually, the interactions between the children came across as extremely natural. The two oldest, Greg and Marcia, where both on the verge of their teen years, facing the typical social problems such as beginning to notice the opposite gender, fitting in at school and indulgence in their appearance. The next younger pair, Peter and Jan, where almost prototypical middle children, not the youngest they felt forced to pull attention from the older siblings and usually just stuck in the center of the family dynamic. Bobby and Cindy as the youngest pair seemed to have the easiest time in adjusting to the new family situation. At their age there was little difference between boys and girls, they just wanted to play and emulate their older siblings.
Now back in 1969 this was somewhat ground breaking television. The same premise could have easily been taken more seriously as a family drama but the ever creative comedy mind of Sherwood Schwartz was geared towards the lighthearted comedy. Between this and his previous sitcom, Gilligan’s Island most of us have grown up on the half hour comedies of Schwartz. While his shows rarely made it into the coveted top places of the ratings, there was innocence to them, especially the Brady Bunch. The younger viewers now should remember that 1969 was the height of the Viet Nam war. Horrible images of death where constantly on the news. Protesters where out in the streets demonstrating the war. The so called hippies where out in for fighting for peace and love. Schwartz wanted nothing to do with the dramatic events unfolding on the world stage, he wanted to create a light hearted comedy that the family could watch and forget the world for a half and hour. For this he succeeded better than anyone back then could have imagined. The Brady Bunch has lasted so long because it is so silly and in many aspects unrealistic. The need to escape from the woes of the world has not gone away over the last three decades; in fact a strong case is present that such a need is greater than ever.
While war and social changes where occurring in the real world for the Brady Bunch the issues of the day involved a lost doll or the possibility that one of the kids was allergic to the family dog. The heaviest conflict where over issues such as when Greg and Marcia both ran for class president. No, this was not a reflection of the turbulent times; it was pure escape from them. The closest the first season ever got to a real social issue was when all six kids came down with measles, Mike calls in a male doctor while Carol wants the children to see a female physician. When a trading stamp company is about to go out of business the children settle who will decide what the prize will be by a ‘house of cards’ building contest. Of course the girls win and they get something for the whole family, a new color television. Remember that back then color TV was new and in less than half the households so this was a big deal.
Sure the outside of the house did not match the inside, there where no visible bathrooms, considering there where nine people living in the house this would be problematic. All this made even stranger by the fact that Mike Brady was an architect. Perhaps this is part of the enduring charm of the series. This is not the story of a real family but the family we all would love to be part of. It was idealized and because of that there is little doubt that in reruns and on DVD future generations will all be able to sing the Brady Bunch song with a smile on their faces.
Paramount has brought the first season this perennial favorite to DVD. The technical specifications are nothing special, you will not be hard pressed to use this set to show off you’re the wonderful sound and video of your new home theater system. What you do get is the first twenty five episodes of this piece of Americana. Sure this series is in constant reruns, a staple of cable networks such as Nickelodeon and TV Land but with the DVD you can watch as many episodes as you want back to back. Sit with your family and start up the disc, you will be surprised that your children will get into this show just as you did so long ago.