Saturday, April 17, 2021

This Day in TV History: Farewell to The Brady Brides!

40 years ago, a nation already reeling from the assassination attempt on President Reagan, the recessionary economy, and the recent loss of North Carolina in the NCAA basketball championship game suffered one more setback as NBC broadcast the final episode of The Brady Brides.

Our extensive coverage of The Brady Bunch in our season 8 opener didn't have much time to cover all the spinoffs, but, well, Brides of them. I can't in good faith defend the effort, which put Marcia and Jan together as newlyweds who had to move in together with their respective husbands to afford a house of their own. Ann B. Davis reprised her role as Alice, but didn't live with the gals. She just hung out and cleaned up sometimes, I think. Florence Henderson became a semi-regular, too.

The series was conceived as a TV movie at first, but NBC, perhaps desperate for content in this strike-altered season, decided to split it up into "episodes" and run it as a multi-week event. Is there where HBO Max got its first ideas for the Snyder Cut?  The 3 half-hours did well on Friday night in February, so NBC went ahead with the regular series after a week's absence, but it only lasted a couple of months.

Barrry Williams' book Growing Up Brady and other sources imply that the success of the 3 split-up episodes instigated the regular series, but it seems likelier that they changed course during the production of the movie. Lloyd Schwartz indicated they really hustled to get a series on the air, and they must have because just two weeks after the opening "arc"/movie, they had a string of new episodes ready. 

Note that, as reviewer Stuart Galbraith points out in his take on the 2019 epic Brady DVD set:

 The ninety-minute reunion film featured the entire original cast (for the only time after the original series ended). It was shot on film and goes through the usual paces. However, after Marcia (Maureen McCormick) and Jan (Eve Plumb) actually get married and the show seems to be reaching its obvious conclusion, everything shifts in the last half-hour to the siblings' anticlimactic antics as newly marrieds, on a set that, suspiciously, looks like a standard three-camera sitcom family room. (The first hour of the show is a one-camera, 35mm job, like the original series.) My guess is that the show was originally conceived as a one-hour special, but then Schwartz talked the network into letting him add another 25 minutes that would serve as a backdoor pilot. Sure enough, the series that followed, The Brady Brides, was exactly that, a typical sitcom filmed before a studio audience. It lasted only seven episodes.

Whatever the case, the series didn't last, and while those involved blamed a network regime change and Grant Tinker not caring for the show, I think it's proof that apart from the original, audiences like one occasional dose of the Bradys more than repeated weekly ones. On numerous occasions, someone brought the gang back for a movie or special, got great ratings, and was then disappointed when the ensuing ongoing project didn't  stick. As far as I know, nobody went into a pool in this version of the Bradys, which makes it inferior to the infamous variety show.

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