September 26, 1969 saw the debut on network television of one of America’s favorite families, The Brady Bunch. Forty years to the day later, fans gathered at the Santa Monica Main Library to see and meet two once-and-always Bradys, Susan Olson (Cindy) and Christopher Knight
(Peter) in honor of the new book Love To Love You Bradys, co-authored by Olson and pop culture historians Ted Nichelson and Lisa Sutton.
The copiously illustrated volume tells the story of The Brady Bunch Hour, a short-lived comedy-variety show that aired for only nine episodes in 1976-77 and was described by TV Guide as “one of the 50 worst TV shows ever.”
The show and book were discussed by a panel that included Olson, Knight, and some Brady hour alumni – Dee Kaye, one of the synchronized swimming team from the show, choreographer Casey Cole, choreographer-dancer Chris Wallace, and writers Steve Bluestein and Bruce Vilanch. They watched, along with the audience, a clip of excerpts from the Brady Hour.
Holy pork chops and applesauce! The whole Brady family dressed in
white, with the guys in white Saturday Night Fever style disco suits! The whole clan singing and dancing! Synchronized swimmers dancing underwater! Carol Brady catching one of her sons flirting with singer Charo! Why?
“People did a lot of weird things in the ‘70s,” explained Olson. “Back then the variety show was kind of like reality shows today-everybody did them.”
After four of the Brady stars appeared on the Sid and Marty Kroft-produced Donny and Marie show (which received through-the-roof ratings), the Krofts sought the Brady Bunch as the stars of their own variety series. The premise had the cast members playing their original roles-only in a variety show format, which had them singing, dancing, and acting in comedy skits with guest stars.
One original cast member, Eve Plumb (Jan), was absent, having moved on to success in TV movies. Her replacement, after a casting search, was Geri Reischl, whose real musical talent ironically brought a new dimension to the perpetually whiny Jan.
“Being paired with Geri was fun,” Knight recalled. He added that he was “so panicked during the whole thing anyway” because he believed he had no musical talent himself.
Choreographer Cole noted that the whole cast was “very willing” to learn to dance, even Robert Reed (Mike Brady), who had refrained from doing slapstick bits on the Brady sitcom because it wasn’t “dignified.” Of course, Florence Henderson (Carol Brady) was in her element, as a veteran of Broadway musicals.
But despite the elaborate water ballets and dance routines by the eight chorines known as “The Kroftettes,” and guest stars like Milton Berle, Vincent Price, Farrah Fawcett, and Tina Turner, the show tanked in the ratings and was cancelled. Its resurfacing can be credited to an airing on an Australian cable network in the 1990s, some excerpts shown on American cable, and of course, the Internet, where as Vilanch noted, everything ends up sooner or later.
“It’s colossally bad,” Vilanch chucked. “But it was always out of control.”
His co-writer Bluestein, after the airing of a second clip from the show, cried out “I’m sorry!”
But if The Brady Hour was a bomb, the book Love To Love You Bradys definitely won’t be. The library ran out of copies during the signing that followed.
To get your copy go to http://www.lovetoloveyoubradys.com/book.html.