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!
This week, the Brady Bunch celebrates disco! This, by the way, was the very first episode of The Brady Bunch Hour that I ever came across on YouTube. It was such a bizarre 70s time capsule that I knew that, someday, I would have to watch and review every episode of the series.
So, let’s get to it!
(Dir by Jack Regas, originally aired on April 25th, 1977)
As always, things begin with the Kroftettes doing a kickline before diving into the pool. The announcer introduces the members of the Brady Bunch and tells us that tonight’s guest stars include Rip Taylor, Ann B. Davis, The What’s Happening Kids, and Rick Dees.
The Bradys come out and sing Get Ready, a song that was only 11 years old when it showed up on this show. (That’s definitely an improvement on the songs from the 1920s that the Bradys were originally singing on the show.) It must be said that the Bradys actually perform the song with some energy. None of them appear to be able to carry a consistent tune but at least they’re trying to come across as if they’re excited to be there. That said, it’s also hard not to notice that both Robert Reed and Florence Henderson have a distracting habit of looking straight at the camera while performing and the Brady kids all tend to look down at their feet whenever they have to dance.
Greg gets a solo in the song while Carol gets to chant, “That’s right.” From what I’ve read about the series, Florence Henderson apparently signed onto the show specifically because she thought it would lead to her becoming a Barbra Streisand-style star and it must be said that she delivers “That’s right,” with so much intensity that she sometimes seems as if she’s about to attack the cameraman. Indeed, all of the Bradys have so much energy that the performance comes across as almost desperate. It’s like when you’re appearing in a play and the first act doesn’t go well so, at the start of the second act, everyone starts enunciating a little more harshly and barking out their lines in attempt to get the energy flowing again. It’s not necessarily a bad thing but you still get the feeling that someone backstage told the Bradys to step it up or face cancellation.
Following some Kroftette water ballet, we get the usual bit of Brady banter. Carol enthusiastically welcomes “America” and tells us to “get ready because here we come!”
Mike adds, “Welcome back to another Brady Bunch Hour!” but it’s hard not to notice that Mike is so out-of-breath following that performance that it appears he might faint at any moment.
“60 minutes of songs and swimming with America’s wettest family,” Greg says with a big smile that suggests he knows exactly what he’s saying.
The family explains that the Kroftettes both sing and swim. Mike says that he didn’t realize that the swimmers and the dancers were the same people. The Kroftettes are in the pool so we don’t get to see how they react to all of this. I’d like to think that they all held up their middle fingers in solidarity. Power to the dancers!
“I never met a music cue I didn’t like!” Carol announces and the family starts dancing again as Mike struggles to catch his breath.
We then cut to an absolutely terrifying image. Carol is wearing baggy pats, carrying a cane, and there’s a jaunty hat on her head. She sings Walk Right In and is eventually joined by the other Bradys, who are all dressed in the same style. They do an elaborate, vaudeville-style dance to Walk Right In, a song that was originally recorded in 1929.
After the performance finally wraps up, Carol tells Mike that she found her old high school yearbook. Mike, who is once again visibly out-of-breath, tries to feign interest. (Carol shows him a picture of her as a cheerleader. “I recognize those pom poms!” Mike replies, in a tone that suggests that the joke may have gone straight over Robert Reed’s head.) Carol wonders if their kids enjoy school as much as they did. Mike mentions that Peter, Jan, Bobby, and Cindy have it tough because they have to go to school on the set.
We then cut to Peter, Jan, Bobby, and Cindy, all sitting in a classroom and looking bored. Jan says she’s sick of school and considering that Rip Taylor is their substitute teacher, who can blame her? (Actually, considering that Rip says he’s going to teach them movie trivia, it seems like he might be the coolest teacher ever!) Suddenly, the kids from What’s Happening!!! come into the classroom and explain that they’re now in the class. Then, Patty Maloney, an actress with dwarfism, comes into the classroom, pursued by a police officer who assumes that Patty is a student despite the fact that Patty was nearly 40 when she appeared on this show. Cindy explains to the officer that Patty is an actress and not a Brady.
We then cut to Greg, who happily explains that he’s not singing this week. The audience applauds. Greg jokes that he’s not going to get mad because he’s excited about introducing one of his favorite people. The audience applauds. “Will you shut up!?” Greg snaps and, to his credit, Barry Williams actually wrings some laughs out of Greg’s growing frustration. Finally, Greg introduces Alice the Maid, who proceeds to sing Thank God I’m A Country Girl while dancing with someone wearing a gigantic cowboy outfit.
After the song, a visibly out-of-breath Alice thanks everyone and says that she figured it was just her turn to take a try at singing. Alice catches her breath long enough to tell us that something big happened at the Brady Compound.
What happened is that Peter, Jan, Cindy, and Bobby invited the What’s Happening!!! Kids to the come home with them after school and they promised their friends a guest role on the show. They discuss doing a skit about a magic potion. Fred “ReRun” Berry pretends to drink a magic potion and starts to dramatically twitch, while Fake Jan watches with a nervous look on her face. ReRun the announces that he …. WANTS TO BE O.J. SIMPSON! ReRun starts running around the living room and jumping over the furniture. Fake Jan drinks her fake potion and starts to sing The Sound of Music. Peter suggests that he would drink his potion and become a waterfall. This all goes on for so long that it’s hard not to wonder just what exactly is in those imaginary potions.
Mike and Carol finally get home and demand to know why the kids from What’s Happening!!! are in the living room. Fake Jan explains that the Brady kids invited the What’s Happening!!! kids to be on their show. Mike and Carol look worried and then say that it’s time for the What’s Happening!!! kids to go home. Mike leaves to drive the guests back to their studio. Carol order the Brady kids to sit on the couch and sternly tells them that there’s no room for the What’s Happening!!! kids on this week’s show but that she would have totally voted for Obama a third time if she could have. (Seriously, it’s kind of hard not to notice that Mike and Carol had no problem with Rip Taylor, Rich Little, Lee Majors, and Farrah Fawcett all dropping by the house unannounced but they freaked out as soon as they say saw the What’s Happening!!! kids in their living room.) Carol tells Peter that he’s going to have to “tell the What’s Happening!!! kids that they can’t be on the show.”
The show goes to commercial. When it comes back, Carol and a coked-up Marcia are standing on stage.
“Hi,” Marcia says, “stay tuned for the second half of the Brady Bunch Hour.”
“Excuse me, Marcia,” Carol says, “this is the second half of the Brady Bunch Hour.”
“That’s good, this is going to be much better than the first half,” Marcia says, before dismissing the first half as being sad.
“Marcia’s a part of the now generation,” Carol explains, “They’re always honest and always tacky.”
Why was so much of the humor on the Brady Bunch Hour based around the kids being condescendingly corrected their parents? Carol, for her part, seems to be taking tonight’s show extremely seriously. Maybe she’s still nervous about the What’s Happening!!! kids living in the same neighborhood as her family.
Speaking of which, Marcia says that she feels sorry for the What’s Happening!!! kids. Carol blames it all on Peter and then tells us to just watch so that we can see what happened when Peter told them they couldn’t be on the show.
It turns out that Peter summoned the What’s Happening!!! Kids to the Brady Compound so he could tell them they couldn’t be on the show. The What’s Happening!!! Kids show up and show off their impersonations of the Bradys. Cindy is shocked by how boring the imitation of her is. Peter finally tells them that they can’t be on the show. That What’s Happening!!! Kids are not amused, declaring that this is the “Same old story!” that they always have to deal with whenever they want to appear on someone else’s show. Guilt-stricken, Peter announces that he’ll find a way get the What’s Happening!!! Kids on the show.
We then cut to the main stage, where Greg is taunting Peter about how he’s going to get pushed in the pool. The What’s Happening!!! kids come out and Peter announces that Greg is going to be pushing all of them into the pool. (If Peter was smart, he would have just had the What’s Happening!!! Kids push Greg in the pool.) The What’s Happening!!! Kids respond by shoving Peter in the pool and then introduce “Mr. Disco, Rick Dees!” Rick Dees, who was best-known for a song called Disco Duck, performs a song called Disco Gorilla.
We then cut to Mr. Merill, who now wants to be called Mr. Merillo, opening up his own pizza place. Bobby apparently now works for him as a pianist but Mr. Merrillo also expects him to help serve the customers. Mike and Carol come by the restaurant and Carol yells that she came to Merillo’s to see Bobby play and not to watch him serve pizza.
Bobby starts to play the piano but Patty Maloney and a construction worker come into the restaurant and start to have a loud conversation. Carol demands that Mr. Merrillo tell them to be quiet so that she can hear Bobby. (Is it just me or is Carol kind of being the absolute worst this week?) Mr. Merillo refuses to say anything so Carol demands that Mike do something. Mike says that the construction worker is too big for him to deal with so Carol confronts them herself. It all leads to a huge food fight which …. ugh. I feel bad for whoever had to clean up the stage after this scene.
Having gotten a pizza dumped over their heads, Patty Maloney and the Construction Worker leave. Than the Brady kids shows up. Carol brags about how she and Mike put two blue collar workers in their place. (For all of her complaining about not being able to hear Bobby play, Carol hasn’t stopped talking since entering the restaurant.) A biker (played by Bruce Vilanch) also shows up. He tells Mike and Carol to shut up so he can hear the piano. Mike then picks a fight with the biker, even though the biker actually want to hear Bobby play the piano.
Anyway, this goes on for seven minutes and it’s followed by Carol oversinging a song called This Masquerade. This Masquerade was only five years old when it showed up on The Brady Bunch Hour. As always, Florence Henderson has a good voice but there’s something a bit too studied about her performance. There’s no personality to her version of the song. It’s a bit dull.
It’s time for the finale! But only Mike and Carol are on stage. Carol explains that the kids aren’t out there because they wanted to save all their energy for the disco-themed finale. Mike is shocked, wondering how the kids think that Mike and Carol are going to have enough energy for the finale.
“They think that we can have six of them, there’s just no end to our energy,” Carol says, “They think we’re bionic.”
“Maybe they’re right,” Mike says.
“Maybe they’re wrong,” Carol replies.
Uhmmm …. what? Is Carol saying that she and Mike don’t have the energy for the finale? Or is she claiming that she and Mike are bionic?
Anyway, it’s time for the disco finale and again, you have to see this for yourself:
Cocaine was very popular in 1977.
Technically, this was not a good episode but it was still oddly fascinating. It represented not only everything that didn’t work about The Brady Bunch Hour but it also represents everything that makes it impossible not to watch this very odd show. Everything about it is so wrong that it becomes undeniably entertaining to see just how much stranger things could get.
Next week, everyone will struggle to catch their breath as the Brady Bunch Hour comes to an end!