The Brady Bunch
The Complete Third Season 1971-1972 (Paramount Home Video-2005)
There is so much more to Season Three than Greg’s tremendously awkward growth spurt. This is easily the best year of the series, encompassing everything from the clan’s wild escapade in Grand Canyon to Jan reaching out to us with the immortal phrase, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.”
Here, we also learn that apparently there aren’t enough days in the year to accommodate the schools that want to book Davy Jones for their prom. And – who knew? – Mike’s nickname in high school was “Hot Lips.” Fair enough: this DVD – even without any commentary or extras – is more lip-smackin’ than pork chops and applesauce. That’s swell.
This is the season that allows the kids to get hip to the fact that family pop groups are in (“Just look at the Five Monroes!”). With this notion, The Brady Six rocks out to “Time To Change,” but the most impactful change of all is that the Bradys – at last – show us what we crave: their far-out seventies wardrobe. The seventies – at long last – kick in (with an ass-kickin’ platform shoe).
Being that it’s 1972 (the year that the sixties became the seventies), you will be blinded by the purples and the patterns (all except for Alice, of course, who remains uniformed and uninformed). Mom’s hair finally does its thing and Dad’s shirts explode all over him with seriously suburban psychedelia.
The Bradys connect with fashion, but they have yet to learn that only bad things happen to them when they connect with the outside world. Their Grand Canyon adventure is unlike any vacation taken by any family in the history of family vacations. The excitement involves Jim Backus as a paranoid/psychotic gold prospector who locks the bunch in a rusty jail cell because he thinks they’re going to steal his claim. He makes a quick exit-stage-right with their generic station wagon.
The Bradys seem disturbingly unflappable when faced with the fact that they will starve, thirst, die and rot in this dungeon. And, once they are on the road again and because there seems to be no need to come down emotionally from this hostage crisis, mom is perkily out-performing everyone with “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and “The Gang’s All Here.” The Bradys may know that family singing groups are in, but there is still no need for a car radio.
Their vacation also allows the Bradys to indulge themselves in the hottest token cause of the early ‘70s – the plight of the American Indian – as Bobby and Cindy get their asses lost and are then rescued by an Indian boy who longs to be – in what we’re asked to believe is an ironic twist – an astronaut. The trauma ends on a happy note as the Bradys get re-baptized by fire (Mike is renamed “Big Eagle With Large Nest;” Greg: “Stalking Wolf;” Alice: “Squaw in Waiting.”).
Alas, for Alice, this turns out to be working vacation (she’s frantically cooking up fried chicken and fetching water). However, later in the season, she does get to spend some quality “me” time, although we are never told where she is going. With Alice temporarily emancipated, mom has to go it alone for one whole week. Because this scenerio seems horribly unimaginable (it will seriously cut into the time she spends rearranging flowers and drinking coffee), Carol is provided with an overly competent replacement: Alice’s butch cousin Emma (20 years in the WACs as Master Sergeant).
Like Jim Backus, who sadistically locked the Bradys in a jail cell, cousin Emma also shares a sadistic jones for Brady torture by making the clan do early morning calisthenics (“you got a nice little figure there,” she tells mom).
Because Ann B. Davis plays both Alice and Emma, we are cheated out of a warm reunion embrace between the cousins on a split screen – all we get is a cold dysfunctional nod from one another. Also, when we hear a horn honk, Alice is sure to say, “that will be Sam to drive me to the airport.” This is to reassure us that Alice is truly going it alone and not indulging in any hanky-panky before marriage.
More odd family pairings feature Imogene Coca as the eccentric (translation: irritating) Aunt Jenny, who, according to the rules of genetics and biology, is who Jan will tragically resemble in forty years. While this news initially strikes Jan as unfortunate (to say the least), the most fragile Brady learns that beauty is “relative”: Aunt Jenny may be a double-bagger, but she is a wealthy star-effer with attitude. In addition to Jenny’s tall tales about her being undressed by kings and seeing things that a woman ain’t supposed to see, she is also a boldfaced liar: she promises that she will be back, but we never see Aunt Jenny again. Jan learns her lesson well.
Lying continues to be an issue when the Bradys are hand-picked by a “groovy” (translation: irritating) director to star in a TV commercial for a laundry detergent they’ve never used. “How can we lie in front of millions of people?” Mike asks, even though he seems to be tempted by the money. Eventually, they learn to genuinely love the detergent, and they embark on acting lessons from the world’s most inept drama coach (translation: priceless!), Myrna Carter. Myrna (pronounced Meeer-na) teaches the eager-to-please Bradys how to “motivate.”
“Wow,” Carol motivates, clutching the box of laundry flakes, “he bought me a box of that stuff!”
Of course, all good intentions backfire, and the director laments, “what happens when you put a camera on a bunch of squares? They flip out!” Yet, isn’t this the essential premise of the series?
This season’s most evil outsider is Molly Weber, who was nominated as hostess for senior banquet night. Sounds groovy, but here’s the rub: Molly was voted in as a nasty joke played on her by the class. She is so clumsy and plain-Jane that she makes Aunt Jenny look like Catherine Zeta Jones. Marcia comes to Molly’s rescue, and gives her a powerful makeover. Molly returns the favor by snubbing her and being generally loathsome. We all know, however, that Marcia can’t ever be kept down for long, and her charmed life allows a concession to be made, in which she and Molly become co-hostesses (pronounced co-hossstesssesssss).
Perhaps the biggest revelation of all is the one neglected quality of the show that no one ever seems to want to acknowledge: the siblings are often not very nice to each other. Aside from the occasional accusation of being a “Benedict Arnold,” the kids actually go at each other more often than you would expect: Greg comments on Bobby and Cindy attempting to set a world record on a see-saw: “Put an umbrella over them when rainy season starts;” when Bobby attempts to make himself taller by stretching, Peter puts him down with, “you can always be a jockey;” and when Jan is forced to wear glasses, Bobby boasts, “I didn’t even call you four-eyes once!” Ouch!
The checkers-playing, teeter-tottering, voice-changing, gift-snooping, secret-admiring, Davy-Jones-worshipping, Fillmore-Junior-High cheering clan continues to love life and live large. We learn valuable and cheerful lessons from mom: “Find out what you do best and do your best with it;” and dad: “You are what you think you are.”
We learn lots: “caveat emptor” translates from the Latin into “let the buyer beware”; and in one semester, the Bradys received twelve A’s, 29 B’s, and seven C’s (“Boy,” dad says, “I bet I’m the only parent in the neighborhood who gets writer’s cramp signing report cards.”). We also learn that Alice sleeps with a baseball bat (for protection, we’re told). We discover that Carol once won a twist contest, and that a primate has the size and shape of a monkey, a man or any old ape.
We also marvel at the sight of Alice plucking an entire chicken, the kids staring through windows that do not contain any glass, Marcia attempting to do her homework and then abandoning that idea in order to comb her hair, and Davy Jones singing a song (“Girl”) that everybody knows, even though it never made it onto vinyl or even the radio.
However, there is also the baffling: Mike and Carol have been married for three years and have never seen each other’s high school yearbooks. Equally baffling: Mike is invited to his high-school reunion – by mail – only a few days before the event is scheduled and with no time to RSVP. And the Tori Spelling of the series – Sherwood Schwartz’s daughter, Hope “Sherwood” – appears one of four times, thanks to Daddy.
Most baffling of all, however, is that the year is 1972, and Marcia is still going on dates to the pizza parlor, and meeting boys for “a soda.” Still, the Bradys in full groovified bloom is nothing but outa-sighteous.
Copyright ©2005 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: September 13, 2005.