Geri Reischl (Jan Brady)
Geri Reischl is known fondly to millions of people around the world by the nick name “Fake Jan” for replacing Eve Plumb in nine episodes of the Brady Bunch Hour during the 1976-77 television season. She was unexpectedly thrust into this well-known television family as the new Jan Brady when Eve Plumb refused to appear in a musical revival of the original 1969-74 series. To her credit, many people cite Geri’s exceptional singing and dancing abilities for bringing some substance to a variety show cast with wide ranges of musical talent.
Geri had the longest and most extensive experience of all the actresses that replaced Brady girls, having joined the cast in October of 1976 and remaining in her role until May of 1977. She continued to make personal appearances with Brady Bunch cast members through March of 1978. Geri became especially close friends with Susan Olsen (Cindy) and Mike Lookinland (Bobby) who were the only classmates during her junior year of high school on the studio set.
As Jan Brady, Geri was often featured in many of the teen magazines of the mid-1970’s, made numerous promotional appearances as part of The Brady Bunch Kids singing group, and lived life as a Brady for almost an entire television season. Her experience, although brief, is an enviable one. Encyclopedia Brady cites the issue of two different Jans as being one of the top 10 most asked questions about The Brady Bunch.
“Fake Jan” Becomes a Pop Icon
The legend of Geri Reischl is best known from a 1997 episode of The Simpson’s, in which the family performs in their own television show- “The Simpson’s Smile-Time Variety Hour” – and Lisa refuses to appear (mocking Eve Plumb). She is replaced by a “slim adolescent” baring a striking resemblance to Reischl (see photo on left). Simpson’s composer Alf Clausen, former associate of Sid & Marty Krofft and music director of The Donny and Marie Show, seems to be partially responsible for inspiring the spoof.
Although the term “Fake Jan” has been used by Brady fans since 1976, in pop culture it originated in Sassy magazine in the late 1980’s from a column which paired famous people with a not-so-famous look-a-like and labeled them “Fake (blank).” In one installment, Eve Plumb was placed next to Geri Reischl and dubbed “Fake Jan.” The rest is history.
Additional media references to Geri Reischl include 1991 promotions for The Brady Bunch on Nick-at-Nite, which referred to “Fake Jan,” and also a 1992 episode of Tiny Toons in which Elmyra’s pet hamster, “Jan Brady”, dies and her new one is called ” a mid-season replacement.” The fanzine “Teenage Gang Debs,” published by Erin and Don Smith, also made frequent references to Fake Jan. In 2000, an episode of the Fox’s That 70’s Show included a parody of The Brady Bunch Variety Hour. A 2002 episode of Futurama featured a reunion of the original Star Trek cast. When James Doohan refused to reprise his role as Scotty, they replaced him with a character named “Welshy” who could yodel and explained: “We did some musical reunion specials in the 2200’s but the guy who played Scotty had trouble yodeling.”
There was also a short film in 2003 entitled Fake Stacy that was inspired by the Fake Jan character.
In July of 2002, In another test of pop-icon status, a musician in Illinois named his rock band Fake Jan in honor of Geri Reischl, saying “It’s my way of slapping back to all the critics and fans that called her Fake Jan.”
The Brady Bunch Hour was named by TV Guide as the 4th Worst Show of All Time and pictures of Geri and the other Bradys were featured prominently. In addition, a parody of the three Brady girls portrayed them singing while standing in a trash can.
With the ongoing obsession with everything Brady, Geri Reischl has earned a permanent (if not notorious) place in television history.