A Little Background on The Brady Hour
“The Brady Bunch Hour” began as a 60 minute special titled “The Brady Bunch Variety Hour” produced by Sid and Marty Krofft which aired on ABC on November 28, 1976. The success of this special led to a semi-regular series of which eight additional 60 minute episodes were produced and aired from January to May 1977. None of the installments, known herein as “The Brady Bunch Hour” were ever repeated on network television. It was not until twenty years later in 1997 that all nine episodes were rerun (in their entirety and commercial-free) on the Australian cable network “TV1, Television’s Greatest Hits”. The American based cable networks Nick-at-Nite and TV Land also aired a handful of episodes during the 1990’s, but with large portions edited out. Overall, “The Brady Bunch Hour” is by far the most rarely seen Brady series.
The premise of “The Brady Bunch Hour” is hard to understand. The Brady family was chosen to star in a variety show on ABC. They left their familiar two story home somewhere in southern California for a place on the beach. (The first installment had a completely different livingroom set from both the rest of the installments and the original series.) The series includes not only “the variety show on ABC,” but also the behind-the-scenes doings of the Bradys as they go about making their variety series. There were also some sketches which were more or less a continuation of the original “Brady Bunch” episodes and which had nothing to do with the “ABC variety series.” Unfortunately, the seams between the two modes are not clear, and this results in continuity errors such as Rip Taylor playing a character named Jack Merrill on the variety show, but the Bradys also know him as Mr. Merrill when they’re not on TV, and the Bradys announce him as “our own Rip Taylor” in the opening and closing. It is not always clear what the Bradys are doing or what audience they are playing to.
The writing of this series was not in sync with the character development of the original series. The most glaring example of this is that Bobby seems to have been transformed into an ultra-capitalist, super-precocious, insensitive jerk. Fans of the original show will instantly recognize this error. The other Brady children, noteworthy in television history for being three-dimensional, have largely become one-dimensional parodies of themselves as well. Marcia’s lines relate solely to being an overbearing, bossy twit. Greg’s thoughts usually revolve around music, Peter’s around girls. Cindy says little except to fight with Bobby. Ironically, the character who is most one-dimensional in the original series, Jan, takes on a completely new life here, perhaps inspired by the new actor who plays her in this series. Specifically, Jan is featured as a singer here more than any of the other Brady children except Greg. Her interest in music here is a notable change. In the original series, as well as most of the sequel shows produced by the Schwartzes, and especially the theatrical features, Jan is stereotyped as the “emotional middle daughter,” whose main activity is being jealous of Marcia.
The adult characters are also off-balance. Mike, who is usually very sober, even somber, but always professional, in the original Bunch, has become a complete wimp and loser here. Carol has become the true head of the family, as opposed to her “we’ll have to wait to see what Mike thinks” demeanor in the original Bunch. (Strangely, both Robert Reed and Florence Henderson said that this series was their favorite Brady experience. The actors who played the Brady kids generally hated “The Brady Bunch Hour.”)
The main feature of the set of the variety show is a swimming pool, populated by the Kroffette Dancers and Water Follies (the same women fulfilled both roles), who did synchronized swimming routines while the Bradys sang and danced on stage.
The evolution of the show’s creation is an interesting story. On October 8, 1976, Florence Henderson, Maureen McCormick, Mike Lookinland, and Susan Olsen appeared on an episode of “The Donny and Marie Show” which included a skit parodying the soap-opera “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.” Carol and the kids are seeking a replacement for Greg who moved to Milwaukee while trying to get a date with Laverne & Shirley (Donny is suggested for the role by Marie). The episode scored blockbuster Nielsen ratings and then-president of ABC Television Fred Silverman decided to showcase the Bradys in their very own variety show. Without the knowledge or consent of Paramount Pictures or Sherwood Schwartz, who owned the rights to the”The Brady Bunch”, Silverman contacted “Donny and Marie” producers Sid and Marty Krofft who agreed to create a pilot for the new show.
“The Brady Bunch Hour” was reluctantly authorized by Paramount at the last minute and in part as a means to maintain/create audience interest in syndicated reruns of the original show. (Ostensibly, Brady creator and principal copyright holder Sherwood Schwartz did not want to deprive the Brady cast of their new jobs and so went along with the Kroffts.) As a result, nothing that happened in these episodes is considered canonical. That is, none of the events that transpired here affect the continuity of the original cast of “The Brady Bunch” in their further revivals, namely “The Brady Girls Get Married,” “The Brady Brides,” “A Very Brady Christmas,” and “The Bradys.” (Or for that matter, any dramatizations of the original cast that are to come.) At no point in any of those productions did anyone say, “Remember the time we starred in that variety TV show and moved to the beach?”
The books written about “The Brady Bunch” provide only minuscule information about this series. The most complete guide, contained in “The Brady Bunch Book” by Edelstein & Lovece, omits three of the nine installments entirely. The newest book, Love to Love You Bradys (2009), by cast member Susan Olsen and co-author Ted Nichelson is the most complete reference ever produced about this series.
The cast of “The Brady Bunch” returned intact for “The Brady Bunch Hour” with the exception of Eve Plumb, who was replaced as Jan by Geri Reischl. The only new character in the series was that of Mr. Jack Merrill, a jack-of-all-trades played by Rip Taylor. Ann B. Davis reprised her role as Alice in each installment as a “special guest star.”
The book Bad TV, by Craig Nelson, named “The Brady Bunch Hour” the worst variety show in the history of television, and in 2002 TV Guide declared it the 4th Worst Show of All-time.
This Document Copyright (C) 1997, 1998, 1999 by Tony L. Hill Revised for this Website (2000) All Rights Reserved