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 Hour comes to a close and with it, I gain my freedom from having to watch any more pitch perfect but incredibly boring performances from Florence Henderson.
(Directed by Jack Regas, originally aired on May 25th, 1977)
Two things happened on May 25th, 1977.
First of all, a film called Star Wars opened in theaters across the country.
Secondly, on ABC, The Brady Bunch Hour aired for the final time.
The final episode begins in the same way as all of the previous episodes. The Kroftettes do a kickline before driving into the pool and the audience applauds while the announcer reads off the names of the Bradys and announces that tonight’s special guest stars include Paul Williams, Rip Taylor, Lynn Anderson (who was a country-western singer), and Ann B. Davis.
Dressed in blue, The Bradys come out and perform a song called I’ve Got Love, which was written for a Broadway musical called Purlie. Purlie was a show about a black preacher living in the South during the Jim Crow era so you have to wonder how exactly the song relates to anything having to do with The Brady Bunch. As led by Florence Henderson, the Bunch turns the song into an “up with people”-style anthem. The Kroftettes meanwhile swim around with a punch of plastic hearts.
The song ends and, as the rest of their family struggles to catch their breath, Carol welcomes everyone to the show.
“I love love!” Carol announces.
The banter starts and the joke this time is that Carol enjoyed the song so much that she just won’t stop singing even while the rest of the family is trying to talk. This gets annoying pretty quickly because we’ve all had a relative like Carol, that person who can carry a tune and who goes out of their way to make sure that no one ever forgets it. Reportedly, one of the main reasons that Florence Henderson agreed to do The Brady Bunch Hour was because she wanted to transform herself into a Barbra Streisand-style singer and the producers agreed to allow her to do a solo in every episode. Henderson did not have a bad voice but she still had a tendency to oversell every song that she sang, performing in an over-rehearsed manner that revealed little real personality. During the last few episodes, a desperation creeped into Henderson’s performances, as if she felt that she alone could save the show by singing the Heck out of every song that she got.
After a minimum amount of banter (in which not a word is said about this being the final episode of the series), we cut to Carol and the kids performing a song called We’ve Got Us in front of a cardboard city skyline. For some reason, everyone’s dressed for golf.
At one point, the Brady daughters carry Carol across the stage while Carol sings. The audience applauds but Cindy looks like she’s struggling not to lose her grip on Carol’s ankles.
Peter and Bobby then carry Greg out on their shoulders while Greg sings. At one point, they nearly drop Greg and Greg’s reaction (his singing voice goes up several octaves) would seem to indicate that this was not at all planned.
After the rest of the Bunch marches off stage, Peter sneaks back and discovers that Mr. Merrill (played, of course, by Rip Taylor) is sleeping on a park bench. Mr. Merrill gets upset when Peter tries to move a trashcan because that is apparently where Mr. Merill keeps all of his stuff. Peter finds a slinky in the trashcan and Mr. Merrill announces, “Haven’t you ever seen Palm Springs?” Peter also finds a bottle of liquor in the the trashcan. Mr. Merrill explains that it’s “Beethoven’s fifth.” Peter and Jackie proceed to perform Me and My Shadow and it’s just as painful as it sounds.
The show goes to commercial. When it comes back, Fake Jan announces that the next guest is “my favorite female recording star, Lynn Anderson.” Fake Jan spends so much time praising Lynn that Greg comes out and tells Fake Jan that giving Lynn too much of a big build-up will make Lynn nervous. “Ladies and gentleman,” Fake Jan says, “a singer who’s not too bad, Lynn Anderson!” (To give credit where credit is due, I laughed.) Lynn Anderson comes out and sings a song called Right Time Of The Night and Fake Jan was right. She’s not too bad.
As Lynn finishes up the song, Fake Jan announces that Lynn is the best. “You just can’t say stuff like that on TV,” Greg says, sounding a bit like a jerk, if we’re going to be honest. Fake Jan demands that Greg tell her one person who sings as well as Lynn Anderson, who looks as good as Lynn Anderson, who has more hit records than Lynn Anderson, and who has beautiful blonde hair like Lynn Anderson.
“Paul Williams,” Greg says. “Great musician, but he’s a troublemaker …. remember when he came by the house?”
“Oh yeah,” Fake Jan says, “that was trouble.”
It’s flashback time!
We cut to the Brady Compound, where Alice is attempting to break up with Rip Taylor’s Jackie Merrill. Carol interrupts their fight to tell Alice to go clean another part of the house. Alice agrees to go on a date with Jackie, mostly to get him to go away. After Merrill leaves, Carol announces that Paul Williams is coming over. Marcia enters the living room, dressed in overalls because Paul Williams is into simple things, “like how people feel inside.”
Carol says…. I am not making this up …. Carol says, “Oh. Well, maybe you should swallow him, then.”
Greg enters the living room and starts leaving copies of his songs all over the living room. Marcia makes fun of his lyrics. Greg tells her, “Watch your mouth.”
Anyway, Marcia runs off crying. Mike enters the living room, looking confused. Carol explains that Paul Williams is only coming over to discuss what he’s going to do on the show. He doesn’t want to see Greg’s music or hang out with Marcia. A disgruntled Greg collects all of his lyrics. Finally, after Greg leaves the living room, Paul Williams rings the doorbell.
Paul tells Mike that he’s a “big fan of yours.” The audience laughs because Paul Williams is short. However, it turns out that Paul Williams is an even bigger fan of Carol’s. As Paul flirts shamelessly with Carol, Mike leaves to get the kids. Mike and the kids re-enter the living room just in time to hear Paul announce that he’s in love with Carol. The show cuts to commercial.
When the show returns, Mike is standing on stage, by himself. He’s wearing another one of his turtlenecks. “Welcome back to the second half of my family’s favorite show,” Mike tells us. Mike makes fun of Paul for being short and then shows us what happened at the Brady compound.
What happened?, you may ask. Well, Mike tells Paul that he doesn’t appreciate Paul loving his wife. Bobby asks if Mike is going to punch out Paul but Carol says that Mike doesn’t punch people out. “Good,” Paul says, “anyone over 5’5 punching me is assault with a deadly weapon.” (Because Paul Williams is short, get it?) Cindy asks Paul why he’s in love with Carol, as if even she can’t believe it. Paul says that Carol is “one foxy lady.” Mike promptly sends the children out of the living room and then starts yelling at Paul (or, at the very least, his voice goes up an octave or two as he expresses his annoyance).
Paul apologizes and then says that he has a compulsive personality “because I’m short,” and that occasionally, he does something compulsive like declare his love for Carol Brady. Paul then suggest that he and Carol could get married on the show. After Carol turns him down, Paul explains that he only came on the show so he could meet Carol. He then Carol a broach that once belonged to his grandmother. “She was a very foxy lady too,” Paul says, “Short but foxy.” Paul leaves.
“What a sweet man,” Carol says, looking at the brooch.
“He’s a loon!” Mike declares.
Before Mike can say anything else insensitive about the man who just opened up his mental health on national television, Fake Jan comes running in with Lynn Anderson. Lynn mentions that Paul Williams is in love with her and then holds up a brooch that Paul gave her. “It was his grandmother’s!”
We cut to the pool, where Peter has decided to outsmart Greg by getting in the pool himself. Greg swears that he wasn’t planning on pushing Peter in the pool this week. Peter climbs out of the pool and announces that Paul Williams is the next musical guest. “He’s so short,” Peter says, “he needs a ladder to get into a good mood.” Paul comes out and shoves both Greg and Peter in the pool.
Paul then sings The Hell Of It, a song that he wrote for Brian DePalma’s Phantom of Paradise. While he sings, thunder rumbles on the soundtrack, the Kroftettes perform in the pool, and the lights in the studio flash on and off. It’s actually surprisingly good for The Brady Bunch Hour but you have to wonder how the show’s target audience felt about a song that was sung from the point of view of someone who had just sold his soul to the Devil.
We then cut to a country road, where Carol sings a country song called Born To Say Goodbye. She’s no Lynn Anderson, that’s for sure. Still, listening to the lyrics, you have to wonder if she sang this knowing that the show was about to end. Despite the fact that no one on the show has mentioned anything about this being the final episode, one would have to think that the Bunch had some sort of knowledge that things weren’t looking good for the show’s future.
We then cut to a comedy skit, in which Paul Williams tells us that the member of the Brady Bunch will be recreating the voyage of Columbus. At one point, Williams flubs his lines but keeps going. According to Wikipedia, several members of the cast and crew have said that Paul Williams was drunk while filming The Brady Bunch Hour and that is definitely the vibe that comes through. Anyway, the skit is actually about what was going on with Columbus’s family while Christopher was out exploring and it’s called The Columbus Bunch. The members of the Bunch all speak with exagerrated Italian accents. It’s annoying as Heckfire. The skit goes on forever and as I watched it, I actually found myself thinking of the terrible fantasy sequences that used to appear on Saved By The Bell. It’s painful and the fact that everyone involved seems to be trying so hard makes it even more painful.
It’s time for the final finale of The Brady Bunch Hour! This week, there’s no banter before the finale. Instead, the Bunch appears on stage, wearing white suits. Mike says “The finale this week is….” and I honestly can’t understand what it is that he says next. It sounds like he says, “The finale this week is done,” but that wouldn’t make any sense. All I know is that the members of the Bunch desperately run off stage, as they do at the start of every finale. Again, I’m not sure why anyone thought it was a good idea to show the Bunch as being totally scatter-brained and incapable of the least bit of professionalism but whatever. The show’s almost over.
As for the finale, it’s all about music.
The Krofetettes dance while Bobby, looking like Satan’s stepchild, plays a ragtime tune on the piano.
Mike and Carol sing a few bars from the hottest song of 1950, Music! Music! Music!
Marcia sings Look What They’ve Done To My Song, Ma, which was a song by Melanie, the folk singer who appeared on an earlier episode.
Carol, who is literally sitting in front of a poster that reads Easy Listening, performs 1962’s The Sweetest Sounds, a song that was previously covered by Barbra Streisand.
Greg sings a song called Music Is My Life. Greg’s voice isn’t terrible but it’s awfully generic. He might need to get a different life, especially considering that this is the final episode.
Geri Reischl, who is so talented that she deserves to be referred to by her real name (and not Fake Jan) for this performance, comes out and sings Hey Mister Melody and once again shows that she was way too musically talented for this show. She and Florence Henderson had the best voices of the cast but, unlike the overly rehearsed Henderson, Geri actually brought some spontaneity to her performances.
Rip Taylor and a miserable-looking Ann B. Davis perform The Music Goes Round and Round.
Paul Williams and Lynn Anderson perform an Old Fashioned Love Song. One can almost sense Florence Henderson fuming off-stage over Lynn getting to be the one who performed with Paul Williams.
The Brady kids come out and sing Piano Man with the all the good-natured cheer of a church youth group.
The finale ends with the entire cast doing an unenthusiastic version of I Believe In Music. Paul Williams dances with Florence Henderson while a manic Rip Taylor throws confetti all over the stage.
After a commercial break, the Bunch comes out to say goodnight.
“Remember last week when I said, ‘I guess this bring us to the end of tonight’s show?” Carol says.
Yes, we do. Carol, is there something you need to share with the audience about the show’s future?
“Well, I’m saying it again this week,” Carol says, “I guess this brings us to the end of tonight’s show.”
Mike tell Carol that she should come up with something new to close the show and Carol does a stuttering impersonation of Porky the Pig and that’s when I nearly threw a shoe at the screen. Fortunately, I was distracted by Cindy saying, “And don’t worry about Paul Williams, he’s not really crazy.” Everyone says goodnight and the show ends….
….and never returns!
So, The Brady Bunch Hour has come to an end and what have we learned from these reviews? Cocaine was very popular in the 70s.
Next week, we start a new show! Here’s a preview: