The remarkably durable “Brady Bunch” skein finally arrived on disc last week in a lightweight set crying out for more commentary and extras. Generations grew up on the family-friendly skein, which debuted in 1969 and ran for five years on the Alphabet, then lived on in syndication for countless more. “The Brady Bunch” inspired a stage show, kitschy movies in the 1990s and countless TV reunions. Yet Paramount played it cheap for the DVD debut with skimpy extras and transfers that can be quite muddy.
Two refreshingly candid — and slightly wicked — commentaries by three of the Brady kids tantalize viewers with what might have been, had Par dug deeper and given the same treatment that “Frasier” and “Seinfeld,” to name two more recent syndie faves, received for their DVD debuts.
Barry Williams, Christopher Knight and Susan Olsen affectionately joke about on-set romances, life as child actors and TV dad Robert Reed’s prickly nature. “You know what’s scary? We’re all older than he was when he did this,” Williams says. A few minutes later he exclaims, “God, she was hot,” about Florence Henderson, before muttering, “oh, sorry.” Through banter with his co-stars we learn the thesp didn’t hit the town with his TV mom for another year — when he was all of 15 — in a famous bit of Brady lore.
Minutes later, Williams hints at his lust for TV sis Marcia, who was much closer to his own age.
The thesps also dish about Henderson’s wig, discuss the angst over Maureen McCormick’s decision to remove moles on her face andexplain why the toilet was removed from the Brady’s bathroom set (too racy for the FCC).
Sherwood Schwartz’s commentary on the pilot proves far less insightful — he’s given to comments about how wonderful it was working with everyone save Reed. We do learn the networks wanted him to change the ending, objecting to TV parents bringing their children on their honeymoon as unrealistic, and that slapstick averse Reed so objected to a scene with teetering wedding cake he sniped, “Why don’t you save that for ‘Gilligan’s Island?'”
Schwartz is more illuminating on the set’s featurette, revealing that a simple stat about the number of marriages with children from a previous marriage inspired the show. “There were a myriad of stories that never could possibly be done before,” he explains.
Other tidbits: He also cast three blond boys and three brunette girls before the parents were cast. His first choice as father: Gene Hackman.
Mostly, the set’s all about the shows. For a skein that’s practically synonymous with square, “The Brady Bunch” shows tell-tale signs of the ’60s. Besides the blended-family premise, fairly cutting-edge for its day, and tell-tale groovy slang, there are a few casual references to pill-popping. During the pilot, jittery bride-to-be Carol advises equally jittery groom-to-be Mike to take a tranquilizer, only to have him matter-of-factly reply, “I already did.”
“The Valley of the Dolls” had, after all, been released two years earlier.