Sunday, March 29, 2015

Nostalgia Theater: The Bradys -- A Bunch of Crap

Earlier this week NBC announced plans to bring the beloved (?) '80s-'90s sitcom Coach, starring Craig T. Nelson, back to TV for a new sequel series picking up with the same characters several decades removed. Naturally that got me thinking about previous attempts to sequelize beloved shows years after their initial success (*ahem* Hunter). This in turn landed me on The Bradys, a bizarre attempt at corporate synergy that saw network programmers attempting to wed the wacky family hijinks of The Brady Bunch with the pressing family drama of the then-popular Thirtysomething. A match made in heaven, am I right?

Not so much.

Now, in the interests of full disclosure, I'm not a fan of The Brady Bunch. With a sugar quotient that threatened to leave me with juvenile diabetes, I just never glommed on. That said, the perpetually syndicated reruns of the show's 1969-1974 run lodged it in the cerebellums of two generations, and that meant a whole lot of people came of age with Greg, Marcia, et al. by the late '80s. As such, the timing was right in 1988 for A Very Brady Christmas, a CBS TV movie that caught us up with everyone's favorite blended family (picking up from The Brady Brides, a short-lived '81 sitcom that saw daughters Marcia & Jan getting married and living under one roof with their respective wacky husbands). Here's how the movie started:


As you can see, they brought back the majority of the Brady Bunch cast, anchored by Robert Reed and Florence Henderson as parents Mike and Carol, and while it was pretty standard issue reunion stuff, nostalgic viewers helped make it the top rated TV movie of the season. With those ratings, CBS quickly approached creator Sherwood Schwartz for more. The result was an hourlong drama/comedy mishmash that uncomfortably uprooted the Brady family from their feel-good milieu, leading to all sorts of fun storylines like Mike running for office, Cindy sleeping with a married man, Marcia dealing with alcoholism, etc. Oh, those wacky Bradys! Here's a collection of the show's three (!!) intros:


Seriously, is that bizarre or what? They should've called it Cognitive Dissonance: The Series. Bear in mind, that's three themes over six episodes, which should tell you how quickly audiences rejected it and triage started. While The Bradys did bring back most of the original cast (with the notable absence of Maureen McCormick being replaced by Leah Ayres as Marcia), The Bradys just felt like a forced fit, neither as carefree and fanciful as the original, nor as hard-hitting as the present times demanded. Thus, it premiered on February 9 of 1990 and was gone one month later, robbing us all from seeing drug-addict militant wacko Cousin Oliver.

While this would prove to be the last Brady production to actually follow on from the original show featuring the original cast (Robert Reed passed away two years later from AIDS), the brand would continue to assert its place in pop culture. Three movies starring Gary Cole and Shelley Long were produced between 1995 and 2002 taking a more ironic, postmodern approach to the phenomenon by playing the Brady family as permanently stuck in the era of jheri curls and bell bottoms even as the rest of the world marched on. And if the ill-fated reception accorded The Bradys is any indication, the '70s is where they should probably stay.

One Year Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Earth: Final Conflict -- Clearing Gene Roddenbery's Table Scraps

Two Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Kenner's Jurassic Park -- Merchandise 65 Million Years in the Making

Three Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Captain Planet -- Ted Turner's Treehugger Hero With A Mullet

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