A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Friday, September 04, 2009

Television Hell, or I Survived the Brady Bunch Variety Hour

I heard a radio interview recently with Susan Olsen, who rose to fame playing the youngest daughter, Cindy, on the classic family situation comedy, The Brady Bunch. The show ran for a few seasons on ABC, but, like many other television shows from that era, it did not go quietly into the night. It has been revived and resurrected almost endlessly in syndication ever since its last original broadcast. Of course, any baby boomer worth their salt can recite the words of the series theme song. No, I won’t bore you with a recitation here, mainly because I seem to be short on salt today.

I called The Brady Bunch a classic show in the previous paragraph, but, believe me, that is not my assessment. I wasn’t a big fan of the show, but I did nevertheless see enough episodes to remember that Peter broke Marcia’s nose with a misthrown football; Jan got grounded from a family ski trip because she snuck out of the house late at night to post a letter to a contest praising her stepfather, Mike; and the female side of the family couldn’t decide on which sewing machine to redeem their supermarket savings stamps. I repeat, I was not a fan.

Now Olsen has co-written a book (Love to Love You, Bradys) about another show in which she starred, The Brady Bunch Variety Hour. It was modeled after The Donny and Marie Show and The Captain and Tennille Show. These were all variety shows which featured the stars singing (and sometimes dancing), performing comedy skits by themselves and/or with a guest star of the week, who could also do a turn singing (and sometimes dancing). There is one crucial thing to remember about The Brady Bunch Variety Hour: it never rose to the quality level of the worst episode of The Brady Bunch. In a word, it stunk.

I can remember vividly some images from the one episode I saw. Nationally known radio deejay Rick Dees performed the follow-up to his musical parody, Disco Duck, entitled Disgorilla.

I am not making this up!

Many variety shows in television history featured a dancing troupe (usually all female) as part of the show. The June Taylor Dancers on The Jackie Gleason Show are probably the most famous group to come to mind. The Brady Bunch Variety Hour not only had dancers, but they also had synchronized swimmers. So the other image burned into my brain from this episode is a shot of females underwater dancing around like a gorilla would on a disco dance floor.

I repeat, I am not making this up! This performance is on YouTube if you don’t believe me.

I had psychological therapy years ago for adjustment reaction. It helped me immensely, even though the trauma of watching The Brady Bunch Variety Hour never came up in conversation. I must have repressed that memory. Anyway, my problems vanished a few months later when I met the love of my life, Anne Marie. Ever since then, my life has been nothing but sunshine and lollipops, although if you ask Anne Marie about life with me she’ll probably use terms like “darkness” and “gruel”. It’s for the best if no one ever asks Anne Marie about living with me, but I digress.

My point here is that while many of my other adolescent traumas have been dealt with sufficiently, The Brady Bunch Variety Hour remains a bleeding, oozing lesion on my psyche.

During the interview Olsen was asked why should anyone read this book. She admitted that this was one time when television did partake of “the brown acid” and it should be seen as a cautionary tale. In other words, history could repeat itself and shows like this could get produced again! Boy, it that’s not a threat, I don’t know what is!

So thank you, Susan Olsen, for showing us how bad television can be. The show is considered one of the worst ever produced, but not the worst. That honor goes to My Mother, The Car. No, I don’t know if anyone has written a book about that series, and even if I did, I’m not up to inflicting that information on my dear readers.

(Thank you for reading. Please remember the 70’s with kindness, and not for the drug-induced fog many people experienced during those years.)


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