The Brady Bunch
The Complete Final Season 1973-1974 (Paramount Home Video-2006)
In this, its final season, the kids of The Brady Bunch are trying their darndest to keep it perky, but are as weary as the tired plots that sputter out as the series crawls to a close. However, don’t stick a fork in it yet – the show never even charted in the Top 10 during its five years in prime time, but once it became an afternoon rerun staple…well, you know the story of a lovely lady.
Here, the actors are phoning in their performances, and doing so on a rotary dial land phone.
Don’t blame cousin Oliver – the real jinx of this final season is that the TV world of the 1970s has moved on, without inviting the Bunch along. The kids truly want to get with it – you can see it in their faces and in their far-out clothes – but producer Sherwood Schwartz is keeping them trapped in a Pleasantville of the fifties (but with earth tones and plaid trousers).
While the rest of their generation is getting stoned and running wild in the streets, the Bradys are going on double-dates to the pizza parlor. While their peers are attending arena-sized rock concerts, the Bradys are synch-dancing on a local TV talent show in what seem like pajamas (but they’re just seventies clothes).
The attempt to keep the goods from spoiling is about as effective as Sam the butcher’s meat locker (incidentally, we find out this season that Sam’s last name is Franklin, not The Butcher).
Still, to keep it real, we get mildly intolerant references to the high cost of meat, and even Peter gets all angsty on us by musing, “wallpaper is so meaningless in the scheme of things.”
However, by 1974, the era of the charming-kid sitcom is over, and the Bradys are the last ones out, turning off the fading, flickering light due to the energy crisis.
Schwartz did make an attempt to appeal to the new television tastes, which we see here. The Kelly Kids, a spin-off involving two boring honkies adopting three orphans of a rainbow of colors, failed to move onto the next season’s TV schedule. And thanks to the success of Archie Bunker, we even get to hear a toilet flush in the shared Brady bathroom. Even though we don’t raise an eyebrow now, this was quite shocking in its day.
The most topical subject that is thrown at us is the earth-shattering controversy of women drivers, to which Marcia comments to Greg, “that’s a typical male chauvinist reaction. You’re prejudiced against female drivers!” Whoa.
Even sex, which by the early seventies was finally allowed to spread through television like an unchecked STD, was seeping its way into the double-bagged Brady home: when having to learn Spanish for a client, Mike asks Carol, in the series’ most obvious double entendre, “Shall we habla espanol together?” To which Carol purrs, “I’ll hablawith you anytime, señor.” Send the kids out of the room, fast.
Even Bobby – the best Brady – gives us a peek into his deepest sexual complexities when he tells his brothers, “I’d rather kiss a basketball or a catcher’s mitt than any dumb old girl.” And this wasn’t even elected by TV Guide to be “a very special episode.”
It’s little cousin Oliver, however, who blows the entire series out of the water by asking a nervous Carol about the birds and the bees. After she promises to delve into it after dinner, Oliver confides, “You know, Cindy, I think your mother has a hard time discussing sex.”
The flapjack-eating, UFO-spotting, chores-swapping, mascot-swiping, Charleston-dancing, Joe-Namath-worshipping, rabbit-breeding, model-airplane-building gang gives us a sentimental goodbye to a world that will be gone forever once cancellation sets in, and we only have our modern, snobby, superior selves to blame. Except for reruns and DVDs, a world this side of Huck Finn is not coming back. Ever. Are you happy now?
Examine it from two angles: the series can be either charmingly tranquil (try it in place of Percocet), or disturbingly antiquated (are TV kids that much more natural today?). But let’s face it: even at this late stage, maybe just a few of these final episodes are funny.
Brother Peter posing as Phil Packer, a “swinging guy from another high school,” is a riot as he tries to get through the night with a fake mustache and a girl clearly out of his league. And no, you’re not dreaming: those are the Bradys running through an amusement park outside of Cincinnati, playing tag team racing to get Dad’s architectural plans into the hands of a client (as always, Mike always wins the bid).
In that same episode, your assignment is to listen for Maureen McCormick to pronounce the word lunch as leeeeunnnnch, and add this to her vocabulary list (school as skeeeuwl, mature as matchur, werewolf aswore-wolf).
Contrary to how it must look, Peter is not stoned when he can’t remember his sister’s name and that he’s allergic to pie but he eats it anyway; the simple explanation is that it’s not even Peter! He has an exact twin at school whom he’s only just met, and nobody, not even his own parents, can tell the difference between them. This is called “running out of ideas for plots,” and yet somehow, it’s still kind of funny. It just is.
You have to love them, though. A family who works so hard to get Davy Jones and Joe Namath to come to their house, and who still has a huge problem with the American Revolutionary traitor Benedict Arnold, can’t be all bummer. And if you think you’re so above it all, ask yourself this: could you clean your own house as cheerfully and as intensely as Alice? Watch her at work and do the same: we can make the world a whole lot brighter.
Ultimately, all of you must turn yourselves around and face it, even in this fifth and final season: it’s classic. And as Carol says at the resolution of yet another mishap, “Well, as long as everybody’s happy, I guess that’s all that counts.” Damn straight. And as superior as you think you are to the Bradys, you will never get them out of your head. Ever. They win.
Copyright ©2006 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: December 12, 2006.