This piece was originally published February 15th, 2010.
Here at Mystery Box H.Q. we spent a couple of months watching the entire run— all five seasons, 117 episodes— of The Brady Bunch.
As I have mentioned before, there is no other more enjoyable way for me to watch a television series and appreciate all the continuity, or lack of continuity, the scripting, progression of an actor’s character development and seeing just how a show is brought to a final ending, or if it just hangs there forever in limbo without any closure.
The box set that we have for The Brady Bunch is appropriately, a nice fuzzy green shag carpet covered one which contains all five seasons as well as a bonus disc with the two later movies (more on these later) and a few episodes of the 1972 Filmation Brady Kids animated series.
Funny how watching this series for the millionth time, yet the first time on back to back dvds, did all my old obsessions about the show come right back to me from my childhood.
Here then in all their embarrassing glory, are my Top 13 obsessions about this classic show. Some are still grinding away at me now, creating the same frustration I’ve always had about them, and some are those clearly and fondly recalled from my adolescence, when I first viewed the show…
#13) THE ATTIC
The Brady house, located at good old 4222 Clinton Way (or in some cases Avenue) was quite the stunner as far as groovy houses go. The house’s attic was no exception. First referenced in an earlier episode when Greg Brady asks about living up there and Mike Brady says “The attic? That’d be great were Greg 2 1/2 feet tall”?
Later on we get to see the attic (with quite a bit of standing room?!) used for a never ending variety of purposes and storylines: the boys rigging up some “ghosts” to scare the girls; for finding all sorts of vintage stored items from the Bradys’ past such as Jan’s doppelganger “Aunt Jenny” photo; props for a roaring ’20s party and best of all, when it is turned into Greg’s swinging bachelor pad bedroom. While it is pretty clear that Mike’s first pronouncement of a small, low ceiling styled attic was a case of poor continuity, I still enjoyed being baffled by the small mysteries that the Brady Attic always seemed to contain.
#12) MIKE AND CAROL’S EXES
Never talked about at all, past the original series pilot entitled The Honeymoon, when it is suggested that Mike was a widower and Carol a d-i-v-o-r-c-e-e, although this is never actually mentioned, but is implied in several scenes. Creator Sherwood Schwartz deliberately liked to keep some storyline elements as vague as possible so as to keep my young mind spinning around while I was lying in bed at night. Thanks Sher!
#11) ALICE’S WORLD
The always likable, ever lovable, Alice Nelson a.k.a. The Bradys’ live in housekeeper and cook, was usually enlisted to add comic relief to any situation that she was a part of. Excepting a few episodes where some drama and sadness entered in regarding Alice, she was almost always the one that had the witty well-placed line or the clumsy pratfall. While some information was revealed about Alice and her background: For instance, she went to Westdale High School, the same one that Greg and Marcia were attending; she’s girlfriend to the non-marrying/local butcher/bowling league team member Sam Franklin (played by the legendary Allan Melvin); she has an ex Army drill sergeant lookalike cousin named Emma, and a best friend named Kay who filled in for Alice when she quit the Bradys to work at a diner named The Golden Spoon. Yet, we never really learn how Alice came to begin working for Mike, presumably before Greg was born and decided to stay on as a member of the family for so long. Alice is such a compelling character, I always wanted to know more about her, and say, why she never learned to drive?
#10) GENE HACKMAN AS MICHAEL PAUL BRADY
Sherwood Schwartz originally wanted to cast the legendary actor Gene Hackman in the role of the Brady dad. However, in a strange twist, Sherwood thought Hackman was not a well enough known actor, so he decided to go with Robert Reed. Of course, we wouldn’t want any other actor to play the wonderful and loquacious Mike, but one can only wonder how the series may have been with Buck Barrow and Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle at the helm of the Brady clan.
#9) THE DITTMEYERS
Living next door to The Brady Bunch, The Dittmeyers, while it seemed they were never invited over for coffee or sack races, seemed to put up with the noise and shenanigans of the large and no doubt, loud neighbors. The Bradys always seemed to be putting on some sort of extravaganza in the back yard whether it be a stage production, a dunking tank or a trampoline. Mr. Dittmeyer only made one appearance on the show, peeking over the side fence, but The Dittmeyers were often referenced in many episodes. I always wanted to know what was up with them and how they felt about being peripheral characters. Brilliantly handled in The Brady Bunch Movie(1995) when Michael McKean was cast as Mr. Larry Dittmeyer. His scenes with Cindy “Bad Seed” Brady are hilarious.
#8) JAN’S STYLE
Or should I say, Jan’s lack of style. Jan Brady had a knack for appearing in some of the worst period get-ups seen during the run of the show. As well as also sporting some magnificently odd hair styles (who can forget her curly brunette wig choice or side curls) Jan was always something of a conniving, ungrateful and neurotic mess of a kid. She always made me kind of frustrated and brought out some of the more tense moments within the family. I never had a “middle kid” brother or sister, but still, she was a pip.
The Brady Bunch pilot episode entitled The Honeymoon revolved around the complexities surrounding Mike and Carol’s marriage, bringing together such a large brood, and having it all collapse into a comedic mess of pratfalls. This reaches a crescendo of guffaws when the boys’ dog, Tiger, chases the girls’ cat, Fluffy. All is well in the end and everyone has a good laugh, although never again is Fluffy mentioned or seen, much to my dismay. Tiger was more or less written out of the show when thought dead and his replacement was not as good an actor, so Tiger became merely a doghouse prop in the backyard (covering up a burn hole in the astroturf) used for future non-stop laff plot devices. Tiger also had a starring role in the great cult classic, A Boy and His Dog (1974). Yet, I still can’t imagine the girls so easily giving up their beloved Fluffy and settling instead to go with the mangy pain in the behind that was that mixed mutt. Cats always seem to get the short shrift when it comes to dogs or cats.
#6) TAMI ROGERS AND THE HIP RECORD LABEL
In the infamous episode Adios Johnny Bravo, Greg ditches his siblings and their singing group when a slick talent scout named Tami Rogers, who in cahoots with an even slicker hipster record label owner/producer Buddy Birkman, convince Greg he can be a huge solo superstar. It doesn’t turn out quite the way Greg wanted it too, but he did fit the suit. This amazing episode always made me wish I could check out some of the label’s other findings and record releases. I really want to hear a few of those demo recordings laid down by the various wearers of the “suit”. Who knows what sort of “talent” Tami Rogers, as played by the unbelievably fantastic queen of ’70s drive-in flicks, Claudia “‘Gator Bait” Jennings could discover with her charming methods?
#5) WHAT BECAME OF THE BRADY BUNCH AFTER THE FINAL SEASON?
This may be already answered for many fans, but for myself, what became of the characters after the show ended, has and will always be a mystery for me. I would love to know what occupations the kids took on, how Alice fared in her relationship with Sam, and how the family adjusted to life after sunshine pop. I know you are all saying they answered these questions and more in the made for T.V. movies, The Brady Girls Get Married/The Brady Brides, A Very Brady Christmas and The Bradys, but I say these do not exist in my Brady Bunch lexicon. They were badly scripted pieces of crap then and even more laughably worse now. If it wasn’t for the fact that I am so sad to think of how a great show was taken down into the garbage heap when it could have been elevated into sitcom nirvana, I would endlessly deride these films and write my own book detailing how everyone really turned out after Season 5 ended. Forget the alcoholic Marcia with the drippy husband, the adulterous Sam the Butcher, Bobby and his race car accident weirdness and Mike trapped in an unsafe construction site on Christmas…just forget all the lame kids, lousy wives and the fact that they completely destroyed the Brady house with a pastel makeover that looked as bad as the goofy mustaches sported by Mike and Greg. Ugh and double ugh. For these cheap, humorless and poorly thought out money grabs, Sherwood Schwartz can bite my ass. I’d even take a hundred hours of The Brady Kids and The Brady Bunch Variety Hour.
#4) THE SPACE NEXT TO THE KITCHEN STOVE
I have always wondered about that never used (at least we never see it being used) large square hole in the brick wall that is situated next to the always used and quite fantastic Brady oven. Perhaps this is an easily answered one for somebody, but I could never quite figure it out. Is it a gas fired indoor grill? A food warmer? Or simply a rack for Alice to place her just out of the oven too hot delicacies? Whatever it is, I have seen it in my dreams and it beckons me…
Like I said before, adolescence…
#2) THE SPACE BEHIND MIKE AND CAROL’S BED
This one has had me freeze-framing since the days of vhs. The master bed of none other than Mike and Carol Brady has an odd back screen/partition that seems to be a part of the bed’s headboard, yet is also built as some sort of wall coming off the side brick. We have seen it in almost every episode. I enjoy thinking about strange details and this is really one of the better for me to have pondered. Is there a two or three foot space behind the bed up to where the bathroom wall would start? If so, then what do they store there? Nothing? Have Cindy and Bobby hid there so they could overhear their parents’ intimate “conversations?” Would Tiger or Cousin Oliver nap there from time to time? I have actually always figured that this space on the set contained some lighting gear set up by the crew so we could see a nice backlit decorative screen behind Mike and Carol’s head, but in my land of need to know precisely, this can’t be the only answer since Mike is an architect who designed his own house. There is also speculation that this was Carol’s “dressing area.”
#1) THE TOILET IN THE KIDS’ BATHROOM
One of the greatest mysteries in all of my tweaked Brady Bunch lore is the thought of where the toilet is in the kids’ bathroom. I have no problem with the other bathrooms in the house however, since you never get an inside peek into them to even wonder if they do not have a toilet or not, but where exactly is that toilet in the shared bathroom that lies between the girls’ and the boys’ bedrooms? This bathroom plays a part in just about every single episode, and in one episode, you even hear the toilet flushed, so it’s in there, I am positive. Trouble is, you never see it regardless of what angle, or direction is shown. Oh, I have looked believe me. I have zoomed in and tried to make sense of each wall and each fixture. Even a small hint, like seeing the top of the toilet paper holder would help. I know this is a weird one, but that’s what The Mystery Box is all about folks.
In 2000, author/visual artist Mark Bennet had his blueprints for many classic sitcoms published. Mark’s work is pretty amazing and detailed so one would think that the inclusion of the Brady house would be a cause for celebration and an answer to a few of of the items on my list, however they are, to be honest, a bit of a brilliantly flawed piece of work. There are inconsistencies. I do love and salute Mark for his FOG!-like obsessiveness and his story is a fun one. Mark shows bathrooms, but no toilets, and the Bradys’ bed is merely pushed against their bathroom wall, which you and I know by now, is not the case at all.
Ah well, I guess it’s just back to lying awake at night thinking about where exactly I can find that door to their basement?