For a low-budget sitcom that never won an award or ranked in the top 10 most-watched TV shows during its five-year run, “The Brady Bunch” became a remarkable pop culture phenomenon, spawning parodies and tributes and parody-tributes that seemed to have a life of their own.
But this patchwork collection — clips from the early ’70s show plus a few Brady-related bits and pieces from other media — merely cashes in on the craze rather than carrying on the cult tradition.
Still, fanatics of the series won’t want to miss the few minutes of interviews with former cast members, not because they’re particularly interesting but just for the perverse satisfaction of seeing one more time that even former picture-perfect teen TV stars eventually lose their hair and gain a few wrinkles.
Florence Henderson — aka Mrs. Carol Brady — hosts the retrospective gracefully; her enthusiasm for the show that forever typecasts her as a happy homemaker seemingly never wanes.
She gamely intros prosaic segments of clips themed to a particular cast member or some ’70s idiosyncrasy, like fashion or lingo.
What saves the spec from complete failure is the all-too-brief segment on how the Bradys have influenced everything from politics to plays: We see George Bush alluding to America’s happiest family in a stump speech, Roseanne Arnold working the sitcom into a comedy routine, MTV using a Brady category on its gameshow, and a cleverly edited clip of scenes from the play “The Real Live Brady Bunch” interspersed with the tape of the corresponding real-life “Brady” episode.
Somewhat less successful in the execution, but twice as clever in theory, is a collage of bits from some modern-day sitcoms –“The Cosby Show,””Roseanne” and “Family Ties”– showing the way those series dealt with a few of the same kid-crisis plot lines the Bradys tackled.
Times certainly have changed: Denise Huxtable’s whining at not being allowed to spend $ 1,600 on a new car is a long way from Greg Brady’s polite plea to be able to use the $ 109 he has saved to buy some wheels.
It’s also fun seeing clips from some of those old “Brady” specials one more time; the clan doing “The Hustle” circa mid-’70s is particularly priceless.
But ultimately the spec adds nothing to the “Brady” lore.
Twenty years from now, when the 40th-anniversary tribute will undoubtedly air , the producers will be hard-pressed to find anything to include from “Bradymania.”