By 1970, television shows were starting to move away from the family comedies like Leave it to Beaver, My Three Sons and The Donna Reed Show to name a few. The “rural comedies” like Petticoat Junction, Green Acres (my personal favorite) and The Beverly Hillbillies had been canceled. The fantasy shows like Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie had been canceled or would be ending soon. Even the “Queen of Television,” Lucille Ball’s brand of slapstick comedy was beginning to wane in popularity. Her last sitcom, Here’s Lucy, debuted a year before The Brady Bunch. It also ended, along with The Brady Bunch, in 1974. Lucille Ball was old fashioned by the time the 1970s rolled around. The new “hot” shows were issue driven and were challenging societal norms. The most popular shows during this era were The Mary Tyler Moore Show, All in the Family, Maude, The Jeffersons and Sanford and Son to name a few. Compared to these shows, The Brady Bunch was in its own little fantasy world.
The Brady Bunch debuted on September 26, 1969 and aired Friday nights on ABC until its cancellation on March 8, 1974. During its five-year run, the beloved family sitcom never ranked high in the ratings (never even reaching near the Top 30). It faced much critical snark, ranging from criticizing the simple (and sometimes saccharine) storylines, the unrealistic situations and resolutions, corny dialogue, just to name a few examples. After the show ended, it was sold into syndication. It was in syndication where The Brady Bunch achieved its iconic status and became firmly entrenched in pop culture. While critics disliked the show, children loved it because creator Sherwood Schwartz specifically geared the show to portray situations from the children’s point of view. Just like during its original run, opinions on The Brady Bunch fall into two camps: love it or loathe it. I happen to fall into the former. I love The Brady Bunch. Some people like to refer to this show as a “guilty pleasure.” I don’t. I don’t believe in guilty pleasures as I don’t experience any guilt while indulging in things I love. I unapologetically love The Brady Bunch. I can watch this show non-stop all day and never tire of it.
The plot of The Brady Bunch is very simple:
Here’s the story, of a lovely lady
Who was bringing up three very lovely girls
All of them had hair of gold, like their mother
The youngest one in curls.
Here’s the story of a man named Brady
Who was busy with three boys of his own.
They were four men living all together.
Yet, they were all alone.
Till the one day when the lady met this fellow
And they knew that it was much more than a hunch
That this group, must somehow form a family
That’s the way we all became ‘The Brady Bunch’ …
Yes, the show is saccharine at times. Yes, many of the plots are simplistic. Yes, it can be unrealistic in how polite the children are to each other and their parents. But, I say, what’s wrong with that? There are some other saccharine shows that are too sticky sweet for me, Full House for example (which believe me, I watched EVERY episode back in the day. But the show doesn’t hold up as well as Brady Bunch. I place the blame solely on the irritating Olsen Twins). 7th Heaven was unwatchable because it seemed fake and preachy. With The Brady Bunch however, the show is just so charming, that I cannot get enough. It’s corniness is part of its charm. And what’s wrong with characters being nice to one another? There is so much hate in this world these days, watching The Brady Bunch is a nice way to go back to a time where people respected one another. The Brady Bunch is also a nice way to escape all the awful things that happen these days and visit a world where the biggest thing that happens that day is that Cindy needs help deciding which parent to invite to watch her perform as “The Fairy Princess” in the school play. I don’t need to be confronted with issues like racism and domestic violence all the time.
Now, to get to the point of this blogathon entry: to discuss a favorite episode of a TV Show. For this entry, I selected an episode of The Brady Bunch, “Adios, Johnny Bravo.” This episode opens the fifth and final season and is a pop culture icon in its own right. Many avid viewers of The Brady Bunch, will remember this episode as the time when Greg is told “you fit the suit” when he challenges the image a hotshot record company agent creates for him.
Many of my favorite ‘Brady Bunch’ episodes involve the episodes with “The Brady Six,” the singing group that the kids form. I believe they only sing in maybe three episodes, but I love their songs. They’re so cheerful and upbeat, it’s hard to feel miserable watching the kids belt out “It’s a Sunshine Day.” “Adios, Johnny Bravo” opens with The Brady Six auditioning for “Hal Barton’s TV Talent Review,” a local television show. Oldest kid Greg is crooning “You’ve Got to Be in Love (To Love a Love Song).” The other kids, ranked from next oldest to youngest: Marcia, Peter, Jan, Bobby, and Cindy serve as the back-up singers and dancers. They of course win the television audition, but Greg also catches the eye of Tami Cutler, portrayed by 1970 Playboy Playmate, Claudia Jennings.
Tami, along with her hilarious partner Buddy Berkman, work as talent scouts for a local record label. Tami is in the audience at the auditions and approaches Greg about a possible record deal. She gives Greg her card and asks him to call her at 10AM the next morning. The kids, thinking that they’ve been “discovered,” are overwhelmed with excitement. Back at the Brady house, the kids are overjoyed about the possible record deal and eagerly wait for 10AM the next morning to roll around. The next morning, Greg calls Tami as the kids anxiously wait to hear about the deal. Tami asks Greg to come down to her office, alone. Greg assumes that Tami thinks that he is “the leader” of the group.
Greg, now in Tami and Buddy’s office, plays some guitar as Tami and Buddy marvel at their new “find.” Buddy presents Greg with his new suit, an amazing glittery matador outfit complete with epaulettes. Greg will also be known as “Johnny Bravo.” This is also the point when Greg discovers that Tami and Buddy only want to sign him and not the other five kids. When Greg informs the kids of this new development, they are understandably upset and disappointed. The girls stew in their room for about five minutes until maid Alice walks in and very astutely tells the girls that they just have sour grapes. If they were in Greg’s shoes, they probably would have accepted the deal as well. Of course, in true ‘Brady Bunch’ fashion, when a few of the kids have made amends, all the kids make amends. There are never any holdouts.
Throughout the episode, mom and dad Carol and Mike playfully banter back and forth about which college Greg will attend when he graduates from high school at the end of the year. Carol wants Greg to attend her alma mater, State University, and Mike wants Greg to go to his alma mater, Norton College. It seems a given that Greg will go to college. However, with the new record deal, Greg’s collegiate future appears to be in jeopardy. Carol, Mike and Alice sit around the kitchen table, sipping hot cocoa, worried that Greg will decide against college. The next day, while Carol and Mike plant flowers, Greg informs them that he will not be attending college. They are understandably upset and disappointed. Carol reminds Greg that fame is fleeting, but college will last a lifetime.
At the studio, Greg informs Tami and Buddy of his decision. Tami and Buddy go to work transforming Greg into “Johnny Bravo.” Greg is informed of his new team of PR representatives, record label contacts and everyone else associated. He even meets the group of girls hired to be Johnny Bravo’s groupies who mob him and tear off his shirt. Greg then records his first Johnny Bravo song, “High Up on the Mountains.” After hearing the finished product, Greg is upset. It sounds nothing like him. It is so over manufactured, so sweetened up in the studio, that it doesn’t sound like anyone. Greg’s voice is barely audible under the distorted guitar track. When Buddy doesn’t seem to care and mentions the amount of “work” that went into creating “Johnny Bravo,” Greg realizes that he’s been taken in by Tami and Buddy. To Greg, Tami utters those immortal words: “You fit the suit.” Greg figures out that all Tami and Buddy really wanted was a naive guy whom they could use to pose as a singer while they created potential hit pop songs in the studio. Greg is upset about being used as a stooge and rips up his contract and walks out. (Side note: Greg already signed the contract. Does ripping it up really nullify it? I doubt it, unless Tami and Buddy didn’t make carbon paper copies or something).
The episode concludes with the kids performing “Good Time Music” on Hal Barton’s television program. The Brady Six wear these amazing outfits. The outfits aren’t as good as the ones they wear when they perform as “The Silver Platters,” but they’re pretty awesome. The outfit comes in three colors: orange, goldenrod and pale yellow. The boys and girls are paired off with their respective counterpart and are decked out in matching outfits. Greg and Marcia are in orange. Jan and Peter don the goldenrod. Bobby and Cindy rock the pale yellow. The boys’ outfits are pretty simple: white pants with a stripe of “their color” down the leg with a matching button down shirt and white patent leather shoes. The girls wear these ugly, but fantastic, long dresses with ruffled collars and sleeves. Cindy’s outfit is obviously a jumpsuit. I cannot figure out if Marcia and Jan’s outfit are dresses or jumpsuits. The best part of this whole performance is when Peter screws up the intricate Brady choreography (it happens toward the end of the performance.)
I love “Adios, Johnny Bravo.” It has two awesome songs, hilarious and legitimately great clothes and “you fit the suit.” This episode is only the tip of the iceberg as to what The Brady Bunch has to offer in terms of entertainment.
More Brady Bunch posts to come!