Brady Bunch: Season 3
In 1971 America’s favorite blended family, the Brady Bunch, entered their third television season. With the release of the DVD box set by Paramount helps us to relive those episodes once again. While this season was first airing the Viet Nam was nearing a close but with the draft birthday lottery and the constant images of mayhem on our television the public needed some distraction. What was needed was a return to simpler time. The touch of having two families blended together was a little bit of a departure from the Ozzie and Harriet format must shows followed but by season three there was little in the way of contention based on family affiliation and naturally moved to the battle lines being drawn by age and gender. The children where growing up and the series did well to embrace that fact and incorporate it into the story lines.
As the third season opens the Bradys are engaging in a typical right of passage for many American families, the road trip vacation. They where headed for the Arizona to visit the natural wonder, the Grand Canyon. Their first stop was a ghost town where they collective Bradys, Alice in tow of course, found themselves locked in a jail cell by a cantankerous old prospector (wonderfully played by Jim Backus). This trip would take up the first three episodes; a multi episode arc was something very unusual for sit-coms in the early seventies. Once back to the family hearth and home things would get back to the usual wacky events. Typically an episode would showcase one or two of the kids, the adults where typically relegated to the background or a few words of sage advice at the end of the story.
Marcia (Maureen McCormick) and Greg (Barry Williams) continue their high school careers, now increasingly intersecting in their social circles. In the Episode "My Sister - Benedict Arnold" Greg is outraged when he discovers that Marcia is dating his arch rival who just beat him at basketball. He decides to get even in a way that only a teenaged boy would think of, he starts dating the girl that beat out Marcia for a place on the cheerleading squad. The eldest Brady siblings also provide the venue for one of the most memorable moments of the series, the guest star appearance of the Monkee’s Davy Jones. Of course Marcia is enamored of the teen idol while Greg, like most boys, was a bit jealous. It was also during this season that McCormick and Williams where beginning to find themselves on the ever present teen magazines as pop idols themselves. Another rite of passage is examined as Greg buys his first car for $100 and seems shocked when it turns out to be a lemon. In several other episodes the two older kids provide the target for the mishaps of the younger children. Sibling rivalry hits the older ones more since as they try to fit in with there social cliques at school the young ones are a constant source of embarrassment.
With this season more of the stories where able to focus on the younger members of the clan. Jan (Eve Plumb) and Peter (Christopher Knight) found themselves tired of living in the shadow of their older brother and sister and start to define their own personalities more. While they still served as the instigators of much of the trouble they now often complained openly about what they perceived as unfair treatment. Watching these episodes again after all these years I almost felt that they brought a lot on themselves with the constant teasing of Marcia and Greg. This is also the season that Jan would say the phrase that would live on to today; "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia". Marcia also had to deal with one more perceived defect that in her mind separated her from the perfect Marcia; Jan had to wear glasses, a major tragedy for one of her tender years. In one episode Peter uses the tape recorder their father Mike (Robert Reed) uses for work and begins to spy on his brothers and sisters. Naturally the results are major in fighting between the children. A biological milestone is also portrayed when Greg decides to cut a record using his siblings as singers just as Peter’s voice begins to change. In a moment of Brady solidarity they find a way to work the cracked voice into the mix.
Getting a lot more air time this season are Cindy (Susan Olsen) and Bobby (Mike Lookinland). With her adorable but embarrassing lisp Cindy was often used for the cute factor a series like this requires. The two youngest often feel that they are being ignored by the family in general and do whatever they can think of to get attention. When the family is of to a wedding Cindy and Bobby are considered too young to attend and left at home They decide to break the world’s record for being on a see-saw, teeter-totter for those out there not from Brooklyn. They see this as something important that they can achieve and differentiate themselves from the older kids. Bobby also becomes concerned about his lack of height and tries numerous methods to stretch his body. This defiance of Bobby’s continued in the episode where he challenges Greg to a chin-up contest. In a replay of the classic fable Greg is so sure that he will win that he sits back while Bobby trains.
The adults do get a little camera time. In a favorite ploy used by television housekeeper Alice (Ann B. Davis) goes on vacation leaving her stern cousin Emma, also played Davis in charge of the brood. In the closing episode of the season mom Carol (Florence Henderson) is in a car accident. Using another time honored device each Brady recounts the events from their own unique perspective.
The boxed set is just about the same as the previous two seasons, the only real difference is this season had only 23 episodes instead of the usual 25 for the first and 24 for the second. The technical specifications are not reference quality but do you really need the end audio and video for a seventies television show? The Dolby two channel mono is more than enough to get the job done. It is clear and gives a reasonable spectrum considering the source material. The video this season took a bit of a hit. There is noticeably more grit present than in previous seasons and some seasons lack some clarity. Overall the set is a must have for the legion of fans we all know are out there.