Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a new feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past! On Fridays, I will be reviewing The Brady Bunch Hour, which ran on ABC from 1976 to 1977. All nine episodes can be found on YouTube!
Following the rating success of the pilot for the Brady Bunch Variety Hour, ABC decided to bite the bullet and the Bradys returned to the airwaves!
Okay, let’s do this….
(Originally aired on January 23, 1977, Dir by Jack Regas)
I’ve discovered that the dancers who performed on each episode of The Brady Bunch Hour were known as the Kroftettes. (The show as produced by Sid and Marty Kroft and there is definitely nothing creepy about naming your performers after yourself.) The second episode of the Brady Bunch Hour opened with the Kroftettes dressed in red, white, and blue and carrying small drums. It would be a perfect look for the 4th of July but this episode aired in January.
The dancers eventually move off stage and the audience goes crazy as the announcer informs them that tonight’s episode not only stars the Bradys but also Lee Majors, Farrah Fawcett-Majors, Rip Taylor, Ann B. Davis, and …. Kaptian Kool and the Kong! Well, who wouldn’t be excited by the Kong? The Kong was apparently a musical group. With a name like that, you would hope they would at least have the decency to dress up like gorillas but instead, they appear to have just been a typical 70s prog rock outfit.
The Bradys come out on stage and start awkwardly singing a rock version of Yankee Doodle Dandy. The YouTube screenshot below isn’t the best but I think it gives you some idea of what this performance is like:
“Yankee Doodle …. Keep it up!” the family chants as the Kroftettes splash about in the pool. The audience loves it.
With the song completed, the Brady Bunch introduce themselves. Greg spends too long talking about himself and is sharply reprimanded by Carol. Cindy explains that it is now 1977. Thanks, Cindy! Fake Jan smiles and tries not to cry as she jokes around with her new family. Mike Brady explains that the Bunch has a new house. “We have a terrific new show!” Mike says. Sure you do, Mike. Carol explains that the show will only be airing once a month. “We’re only a few minutes in and we’ve already been canceled!?” Mike says.
After a reprise of Yankee Doodle Dandy, the show mercifully breaks for commercial. When the show returns, the Bradys are stepping into their new home and discovering that they have no furniture! The movers ran off with it! Luckily, Alice the Maid randomly shows up with a bunch of sleeping bags.
“Well, Mike,” Carol says, “what do we do now?”
“The only thing we can do,” Mike replies, “is hit the sack.”
Every member of the Bunch hits their sleeping bag. 9 minutes in and this show is already giving me a migraine.
Fortunately, the moving man shows up. Unfortunately, the moving man is played by a very 70s comedian named Rip Taylor.
Rip Taylor is playing Mr, Merrill. Merrill refuses to take any blame for being late with the furniture. Carol suggests that Mr. Merrill come back tomorrow. Do they want their furniture or not? Well, it really doesn’t matter because it turns out that Mr. Merrill has some other family’s furniture in his truck and the Brady furniture is still missing. Mr. Merrill promises to have their furniture tomorrow. “Let’s hit the sack,” Mike says and everyone hits their sleep bag and ….. ARRRRRRRGHHHHH!
Where was I?
Anyway, the Bradys then sing Razzle Dazzle from Chicago, with all the skill of a small town community theater chorus.
Back at the Brady House, Alice scolds Marcia for hoarding all of her dolls. Alice tells her that everyone is having to give things up. Uhmmm …. they’re just dolls, Alice. And really, why is Alice giving Marcia orders? Marcia imagines Alice as the Wicked Witch of the West and then imagines herself as Dorothy and performing Car Wash with her brothers and Rip Taylor …. wait, what? Just watch for yourself.
Hey, who doesn’t love cocaine?
Fake Jan and Peter appear and explain that the Bradys eventually got their furniture. “Look at what happened!” Peter says. We cut to the family watching Mike hang an ugly painting over the fireplace. Mike orders everyone to go to bed at 8 pm. Greg objects and Mike threatens to kill him.
Alice explains that Mike wants the kids to go to bed so that he and Carol can make love in the living room. No sooner have the children (and the maid) left than Rip Taylor shows up again and explains that he’s also the Bunch’s landlord. He says that a lovely couple is going to be staying with the Bradys over the weekend. Enter Lee Majors and Farrah Fawcett! Lee is not amused to discover that Rip Taylor has double-booked the house. “Don’t hit me, you bionic bully!” Rip Taylor shouts. When Lee explains that his other house is being fumigated, Carol says that Lee and Farrah are “welcome to stay here with us.” RUN, LEE AND FARRAH! RUN!
After a commercial break, Carol welcomes the audience back to the second half of the show. Oh my God, there’s another 30 minutes of this? “I like that we can show you the way we really are at home,” Carol says.
Back at home, the Brady kids are getting their breakfast and are stunned to discover Lee Majors and Farrah Fawcett asleep on the living room couches. (Yes, they have separate couches.) When Farrah and Lee wake up, Greg awkwardly asks for an autograph. “I don’t carry a pen in my pajamas,” Lee explains. Alice comes in and is struck speechless.
Cut to Marcia, explaining that “one of the great things about having our own show is that we get to showcase the individual talents of our family.” Marcia introduced Fake Jan, who performs Your Song. It’s the highlight of the episode because Geri Reischl, not being an original Brady, can actually sing.
Fake Jan is followed by Carol who sings Send In The Clowns, which is the type of song that is perfectly designed to bring out the worst tendencies in even the most talented of singers. That certainly happens to Florence Henderson, who has a great voice but who also totally overdoes the bathos in her performance.
Greg catches Peter flirting with a Kroftette. Greg shoves Peter in the pool. Kaptain Kool and the Kong come out and perform a song called Names. It’s not a bad song but I have to admit that I’m more worried about the possibility of Peter breaking his neck the next time his older brother throws him in the pool without warning.
It’s time for the finale and Mike asks Carol why the stage is decorated with hearts. “It’s not Valentine’s Day,” Mike says, as if he and his family didn’t open this show by celebrating Independence Day in January. Carol explains that the theme of the finale is “Young and Old.” “Young and Old hearts?” Mike asks. DAMMIT, MIKE, JUST SHUT UP AND SING!
Anyway, much as with the Wizard of Oz/Car Wash thing, this is one of those things that can’t really be described. But it can be watched:
And then, thank God, it ends!
A huge flaw with this show is that the Bradys keep telling us how much they love being a family but we know they’re not a family. We know this because they brought in a substitute Jan. As such, the sentimental moments fall flat. “We’re so proud of our sister,” the kids say before Jan comes out to sing but seriously, we know that’s not Jan. I would much rather listen to Geri Reischl sing than any other member of the Bunch but it doesn’t change the fact that we know that’s not their sister.
Another flaw is that there’s not really any point to the show, other than the Bradys have somehow managed to get their own variety show. The whole thing with Lee Majors and Farrah Fawcett is perfect example of this show’s approach to storytelling. Lee and Farrah show up at the house unannounced but it’s fine because the Bradys live in a world with zero conflict. Lee and Farrah show up. The kids are shocked. Alice is shocked. And …. well, that’s it! So much for that plotline.
Oh well. Only 7 episodes left!