this, its final season, the kids of The Brady Bunch are trying their
darndest to keep it perky, but are as weary as the tired plots that sputter
out as the series crawls to a close. However, don’t stick a fork in it yet –
the show never even charted in the Top 10 during its five years in prime
time, but once it became an afternoon rerun staple…well, you know the story
of a lovely lady.
Here, the actors are phoning in their performances, and doing so on a rotary
dial land phone.
Don’t blame cousin Oliver – the real jinx of this final season is that the
TV world of the 1970s has moved on, without inviting the Bunch along. The
kids truly want to get with it – you can see it in their faces and in their
far-out clothes – but producer Sherwood Schwartz is keeping them trapped in
a Pleasantville of the fifties (but with earth tones and plaid trousers).
While the rest of their generation is getting stoned and running wild in the
streets, the Bradys are going on double-dates to the pizza parlor. While
their peers are attending arena-sized rock concerts, the Bradys are
synch-dancing on a local TV talent show in what seem like pajamas (but
they’re just seventies clothes).
attempt to keep the goods from spoiling is about as effective as Sam the
butcher’s meat locker (incidentally, we find out this season that Sam’s last
name is Franklin, not The Butcher).
Still, to keep it real, we get mildly intolerant references to the high cost
of meat, and even Peter gets all angsty on us by musing, “wallpaper is so
meaningless in the scheme of things.”
However, by 1974, the era of the charming-kid sitcom is over, and the Bradys
are the last ones out, turning off the fading, flickering light due to the
Schwartz did make an attempt to appeal to the new television tastes, which
we see here. The Kelly Kids, a spin-off involving two boring honkies
adopting three orphans of a rainbow of colors, failed to move onto the next
season’s TV schedule. And thanks to the success of Archie Bunker, we even
get to hear a toilet flush in the shared Brady bathroom. Even though we
don’t raise an eyebrow now, this was quite shocking in its day.
most topical subject that is thrown at us is the earth-shattering
controversy of women drivers, to which Marcia comments to Greg, “that’s a
typical male chauvinist reaction. You’re prejudiced against female drivers!”
sex, which by the early seventies was finally allowed to spread through
television like an unchecked STD, was seeping its way into the double-bagged
Brady home: when having to learn Spanish for a client, Mike asks Carol, in
the series’ most obvious double entendre, “Shall we habla espanol
together?” To which Carol purrs, “I’ll habla with you anytime,
señor.” Send the kids out of the room, fast.
Bobby – the best Brady – gives us a peek into his deepest sexual
complexities when he tells his brothers, “I’d rather kiss a basketball or a
catcher’s mitt than any dumb old girl.” And this wasn’t even elected by
TV Guide to be “a very special episode.”
little cousin Oliver, however, who blows the entire series out of the water
by asking a nervous Carol about the birds and the bees. After she promises
to delve into it after dinner, Oliver confides, “You know, Cindy, I think
your mother has a hard time discussing sex.”
flapjack-eating, UFO-spotting, chores-swapping, mascot-swiping,
Charleston-dancing, Joe-Namath-worshipping, rabbit-breeding,
model-airplane-building gang gives us a sentimental goodbye to a world that
will be gone forever once cancellation sets in, and we only have our modern,
snobby, superior selves to blame. Except for reruns and DVDs, a world this
side of Huck Finn is not coming back. Ever. Are you happy now?
Examine it from two angles: the series can be either charmingly tranquil
(try it in place of Percocet), or disturbingly antiquated (are TV kids that
much more natural today?). But let’s face it: even at this late stage, maybe
just a few of these final episodes are funny.
Brother Peter posing as Phil Packer, a “swinging guy from another high
school,” is a riot as he tries to get through the night with a fake mustache
and a girl clearly out of his league. And no, you’re not dreaming: those are
the Bradys running through an amusement park outside of Cincinnati, playing
tag team racing to get Dad’s architectural plans into the hands of a client
(as always, Mike always wins the bid).
that same episode, your assignment is to listen for Maureen McCormick to
pronounce the word lunch as leeeeunnnnch, and add this to her
vocabulary list (school as skeeeuwl, mature as
matchur, werewolf as wore-wolf).
Contrary to how it must look, Peter is not stoned when he can’t remember his
sister’s name and that he’s allergic to pie but he eats it anyway; the
simple explanation is that it’s not even Peter! He has an exact twin at
school whom he’s only just met, and nobody, not even his own parents, can
tell the difference between them. This is called “running out of ideas for
plots,” and yet somehow, it’s still kind of funny. It just is.
have to love them, though. A family who works so hard to get Davy Jones and
Joe Namath to come to their house, and who still has a huge problem with the
American Revolutionary traitor Benedict Arnold, can’t be all bummer. And if
you think you’re so above it all, ask yourself this: could you clean your
own house as cheerfully and as intensely as Alice? Watch her at work and do
the same: we can make the world a whole lot brighter.
Ultimately, all of you must turn yourselves around and face it, even in this
fifth and final season: it’s classic. And as Carol says at the resolution of
yet another mishap, “Well, as long as everybody’s happy, I guess that’s all
that counts.” Damn straight. And as superior as you think you are to the
Bradys, you will never get them out of your head. Ever. They win.
©2006 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: December 12, 2006.