by Richard Hack

JUST AS WE ARE SOUNDING the death knell for variety shows, doesn’t someone come along with still another variation on the theme by Milton Berle. Actually, there are several new looks in the area, on ebbing “3 Girls 3” for NBC from Kenny Solms and Gail Parent, and the other “The Brady Bunch Special” pilot from Sid and Marty Krofft for ABC. The former mask news by taking three unknowns and starring them in musical-comedy. The “Brady” project is unique in several arenas. “The show will star the original cast from the Paramount series — Florence Henderson, Robert Reed, Ann B. Davis, and the Brady kids.” says executive producer Marty Krofft. “The unique thing here is that they will never come out of character. They won’t be Florence and Robert. They’ll be Carol and Mike Brady, plus six. And what we do is the old Jack Benny thing, a show within a show. The Bradys have moved to a new house and they are putting on a variety show. The father, of course, is an architect. He goes along with the idea, but is never overjoyed.” And small wonder. The show’s big feature is dancers-swimmer who cavort in a 400,000 gallon pool. (“The biggest thing since Ester Williams.”) And like Mike Brady says, “At $10.00 a five-gallon bottle, I should be smiling?”

TO PUT THE FAMILY in its proper perspective, lest you get confused with the current reruns of the series, the oldest Brady daughter, Maureen McCormick, is now 20, which should make us all feel the neuritis. The single hold-out from the video reunion is Eve Plumb, who you’ll recall played Jan Brady — the one in the middle. Eve, of course, was just triumphant in “Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway.” According to Marty, who insists that he should go down in the Guinness Book of World Records for reassembling the troupe, “Eve was willing to do the special, but no the entire series, because she feels her career is in films now. I feel for Eve because I know she wanted to do the show. Finally it came down to the fact that she agreed to do five of the initial 13 series episodes should it go that far, but then that would have caused contractual problems with all the rest. So, we looked at 300 kids and came up with a new Jan.” The newest Brady is Geri Reischl, a name that trips of the lip. “She’s a great little singer and dancer.” says Marty. And of course, blonde. It runs in the family.

GUESTS ON THE SPECIAL-PILOT, which has a Nov. 28 airdate on ABC, are Donny and Marie Osmond (from another Kroffts show) and Tony Randall, who knows from ABC series. Directing the show will be Art Fisher, who’s never directed a pilot that didn’t sell. The Kroffts don’t fool around with fate. Adding to the punch is head writer Carl Kleinschmitt, who knows from situation comedy, plus Ronny Graham, who’s on the writing team. Lee Miller and Jerry McPhie are coproducing. “It’s all very elaborate,” says Marty. “We open very high energy — with a big kick line. It looks like you’re at the Roxy Theatre. The dancers turn into the swimmers and then the Bradys come over the swimming pool and then the whole thing ends on a disco beat. It’s easier to watch than explain.” No doubt.

SID AND MARTY KROFFT, of course, have the “Wonder World,” which includes a multimillion-dollar exclusive deal with ABC. In addition to the Bradys, the Kroffts have two films in development for the network — on entitled “Steelheel,” a Zorroesque telefeature that has this male secretary in a police department turn into a super crimefighter at night. You know the type. The other is a two-hour survival epic about an Olympic team that crashes in the Himalayas. Both, of course, may well turn into series themselves. The Kroffts do have that knack. “Our only key to success is the idea that you’ve got to lead your audience by the hand. The only times we failed is when we got too artsy-crafty,” according to Marty. “When you come right down to it, you’re dealing with a medium that’s 3 by 2. We’re not dealing with CinemaScope.” Something about the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

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