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!
Join me as I watched episode 3 of …. *shudder* …. The Brady Bunch Hour!
(Dir by Jack Regas, originally aired on February 27th, 1977)
As always, the episode opens with pictures of the Bradys being flashed across a screen as the announcer shouts out everyone’s names. One thing I immediately notice is that Christopher Knight is now referred to as being “Chris Knight,” which sounds less like the name of the actor who played Peter Brady and more like the secret of identity of a cheesy super hero. The crowd goes crazy for each Brady but they really go nuts when the announcer reveals that tonight’s special guest star will be Milton Berle.
That’s right, Milton Berle. I honestly have to imagine that, even in the 70s, Milton Berle probably seemed like a rather quaint guest star. The Bradys were hardly on the cutting edge of …. well, anything. But, even for them, Milton Berle feels a little bit past his prime.
The Bradys come out and sing Hooray for Hollywood, which I’m sure was the song that all the kids were listening to in 1977.
Having finished singing, the Bradys banter. Everyone gets super excited when Carol says that their special guest is the “one and only Milton Berle!” And then it’s time for the family to once again sing Hooray for Hollywood. Hollywood may be a great thing but another great thing is being able to carry a tune and, unfortunately, that’s something that half of the Bradys apparently never managed to master.
(It’s okay, I can’t sing either.)
Obviously looking to punish the viewers even further, Hooray for Hollywood is followed by Mike, Carol, Greg, Marcia, and Pete singing Make ‘Em Laugh. Is tonight’s theme Broadway songs that are largely adored by people who have never actually seen a Broadway show? Alice and Rip Taylor — who I guess is still playing the Bradys landlord, Jackie Merrill — come out on stage after the performance and sing their own version of Make ‘Em Laugh. From the start of the performance, it’s pretty clear that Ann B. Davis would rather be anywhere other than sharing a stage with Rip Taylor. It’s actually painful to watch as two mismatched performers, neither one of whom appears to like the other, sing a song about making the audience laugh.
Mercifully, we then cut to Peter Brady. Because of the way the scene is lit, my first thought upon seeing Peter is that he’s going to confess to killing a bunch of co-eds.
Instead, Peter explains that it’s time for him to do a song but no one in his family wants to introduce him. Wow, Peter! Your family sucks! Fortunately, a weird little puppet shows up and duets with Peter on Sing. It’s weird, dude.
We cut to Bobby, who complains that his family doesn’t know what’s funny. “This is funny,” Bobby says, before getting hit in the face with a pie. The audience agrees. Personally, I hate the whole pie-smashing thing because I know it’s probably a mess to clean up afterwards.
We go to the Brady House, where Alice is talking on a CB radio that has been set up in the kitchen. Mr. Merrill is in the kitchen for some reason. Carol, Mike, and Bobby come into the kitchen. Bobby thinks that the show isn’t funny enough. Mike and Carol think that Bobby is being a brat. “Compared to us,” Bobby says, “Donnie and Marie are Cheech and Chong!” Mike argues that they do more than comedy but he says that he’ll consider Bobby’s suggestions. Who died and made Mike the producer of the show?
After Carol, Alice, and Mike leave, the CB radio comes to life. It’s Milton Berle looking for someone to talk to! Bobby and Mr. Merrill talk to Berle. Berle insults Bobby, saying that he sounds like he belongs on Sesame Street. Bobby tells Berle that he’s funny and asks him if he wants to be a on a TV show. “A TV show? WHERE!? WHERE!?” Berle shouts in reply and I’ll admit that I actually did kind of laugh at that.
We go to commercial and, when we return, Rip Taylor welcomes us to the second half of the show. We then cut to Bobby and the Brady kids waiting for Milton Berle to show up at the house. They wonder why he’s late. “Maybe he’s watching The Partridge Family,” says Cindy. “Maybe he saw our show!” Bobby replies. When did Bobby become the smartest member of the family?
Anyway, Milton eventually rings the doorbell and enters the house, smoking a cigar.
It quickly becomes obvious that Milton Berle doesn’t know who the Bradys are and the Brady kids aren’t sure who Milton is. Fortunately, Carol and Mike return home and Carol explains that Milton Berle is a television pioneer and “the funniest man in the world.”
“Mr. Berle,” Mike says, “why are you here?”
“Bad luck, I guess,” Berle replies and again, I will admit that I laughed because Berle obviously meant every word.
Bobby says that Milton can make the show funnier. When Mike says that they don’t need the show to be funnier, Milton gets angry and says that he’s going to write for the show just to make Mike look bad. I’m really starting to like Milton Berle. Milton agrees to take over but he says that the family has to understand that they are to do everything that he says. He’s in charge now, not Mike. It’s about time!
Milton’s first act is to try to teach Peter how to enunciate. When Peter struggles, Milton Berle SLAPS him. Then he attempts to show Greg how to walk like a television star.
We cut to commercial. When we return, the announcer tells us that we are now watching “The Milton Berle Brady Bunch Hour, created by Milton Berle, produced by Milton Berle, written by Milton Berle….” You get the idea. The Bradys, who are now all wearing silly costumes, come out and sing Hooray for Hollywood again. Mike is not happy with his outfit.
Milton comes out on stage and yells at the Bradys to “sell the comedy.” The kids tells a few old vaudeville jokes. Milton runs out on stage with a fake plant and refers to Carol as being “Mrs. Bunch.” Mike complains about having to wear makeup. “What do you do when you and your wife have a fight?” Milton asks. “We make up,” Mike says, which leads to him being attacked by a makeup artist. Realizing that things aren’t going well, Milton resigns and apologizes. Okay, I guess that’s the end of that. It’s typical of this show that the one successful skit ends on a totally random note.
We go to commercial and when we return, Greg and Peter are standing next to the pool. Greg says that Peter is nervous because this is the part of the show where he always gets shoved into the pool. Considering the fact that Peter could die if he hits the water the wrong way, he has every right to be nervous. Greg says that, this week, he’ll let Peter push him in. Peter doesn’t believe him and jumps in the pool to escape his cruel older brother.
This is followed by Tina Turner who …. wait. What? The stupid pool gag is followed by TINA TURNER!? What a weird show! Needless to say, Tina’s great but it’s still hard not to feel that the Bradys shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near her. As a general rule, if you’re a singer who can’t carry a tune and who can’t dance and who is visibly uncomfortable performing on stage, don’t put yourself in a position to be compared directly to Tina Turner.
After Tina performs, we cut to more Brady nonsense as Carol, Mike, and Bobby inform Milton Berle that he’s been fired from the show. Wait a minute? What? I thought Milton made a big deal about stepping down as producer? I guess I must have misinterpreted that previous scene but honestly, I refuse to go back and rewatch it. If the show’s writers and performers couldn’t make this stuff clear, that’s on them.
“You’re giving me the pink slip?” Milton asks.
“We’re giving you all the costumes back,” Bobby says. The audiences goes nuts.
(By the way, I’m wearing a pink slip right now.)
With Milton gone (again), Carol comes out and sings Evergreen, the theme from A Star is Born. It’s a good song for her voice and I actually enjoyed listening to her version.
It’s time for the big finale! All the songs are about stars. I can’t even begin to describe it. Just watch, if you dare.
To my surprise, this episode was not terrible. Milton Berle’s obvious disdain for the family generated some laughs and Tina Turner’s performance was a definite highlight. Even Florence Henderson’s musical performance was effective. It was hardly perfect and both the opening and the finale reminded me of how tone deaf most of the Bradys were but still, this episode was probably about as good as anyone could expect from The Brady Bunch Hour.
God knows what’s waiting for us next week.