Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past! On Sundays, I will be reviewing the made-for-television movies that used to be a primetime mainstay. Today’s film is 1988’s A Very Brady Christmas!
In A Very Brady Christmas, America’s creepiest family reunites for the holidays.
Mike and Carol Brady (played by Robert Reed and Florence Henderson, of course) have finally got their house to themselves! The children have all moved out. A few have even gotten married and started families of their own. Mike is still an architect, though he now has a mustache that, along with his gray hair, makes him look more like a retired porn actor.
With Christmas approaching, Mike and Carol have each been secretly saving up their money to give the other a trip. Carol knows that Mike loves Greece. Mike suspects that Carol would love to go to Japan. In the end, though, they realize that they would much rather have the entire family come together for Christmas! They buy tickets for everyone. Of course, what they don’t know is that each of the Brady kids has an issue of their own.
For instance, consider the youngest of the Brady kids. Cindy isn’t even herself anymore, mostly because Susan Olsen declined to return for the reunion and Jennifer Runyon was cast in her place. Cindy is away at college and she’s upset that she has to cancel her plans to go skiing just so she can spend the holidays with her family. Meanwhile, Bobby (Mike Lookinland) has dropped out of college so that he can race cars on the NASCAR circuit but he hasn’t told his parents yet! Of course, if Bobby never tells them, he can just keep pocketing that sweet, sweet tuition money.
Meanwhile, Peter Brady (Christopher Knight) is upset because his girlfriend is his boss and she makes considerably more money than he does. Jan (Eve Plumb) is secretly separated from her husband but, because it’s the holidays, they agree to pretend to still be together so that Mike and Carol don’t get upset. Greg (Barry Williams) has grown up to be a smarmy doctor but he is upset that his wife will not be joining him for Christmas with his parents. And Marcia (Maureen McCormick) is trying to keep everyone from discovering that her loser husband has lost his job.
And let’s not forget Alice (Anne B. Davis)! Alice finally married Sam The Butcher but their marriage is on the rocks….
Could the Bradys be more cursed?
Luckily, Mike and Carol are pretty good at uncovering problems and fixing things. (Except, of course, for that time that Mike never figured out that Marcia was acting strange because she wanted to surprise him with his father of the year prize….) Unfortunately, Mike is a bit distracted because his latest building was constructed with cheap material. When an earthquake causes the building collapse, Mike takes it upon himself to rescue two trapped workers. (Most of this takes place off-screen, of course.) When an aftershock hits, it seems like Mike might never emerge from the tomb that he helped to design.
Much like the show that inspired it, A Very Brady Christmas is painfully earnest and …. well, it’s a little dumb. Of course, the main appeal of The Brady Bunch was always the unapologetic mix of earnestness and stupidity but it’s a bit different when all the Brady kids are grown up and they’re still acting just as dumb as they did when they were younger. Robert Reed looks annoyed. Florence Henderson is trouper and gives it her all. With the notable exception of Maureen McCormick, none of the kids grew up to be particularly good actors. (In all fairness, Barry Williams is likable when he makes fun of himself but, in this film, he’s somewhat stiff as the most successful of the Brady kids.) That said, the family singing a Christmas carol while waiting to discover whether or not Mike is dead is one of those moments that is somehow both silly and effective at the same time. It’s pure Brady Bunch. To quote Tony Montana, it’s the yayo of nostalgia.
A Very Brady Christmas aired in 1988 and was enough of a rating success that it actually led to the Brady Bunch being (briefly) revived. Today, it’s impossible to watch the movie without imagining Gary Cole and Shelley Long as Mike and Carol Brady. Even the collapse of the building is no longer an effective dramatic moment due to it being referenced in The Brady Bunch Movie. When Mike does emerge from that collapsed building, you half expect him to say, “Wherever you go, there you are.”
In the end, the Bradys have a merry Christmas. I hope you have one too!