“A Very Brady Musical”: a very bad idea

 
 

First, let me establish that
I am a Bradyphile. After a few child-specific shows (Sesame Street,

The Electric Company, The Magic Garden), The Brady Bunch was my first great TV love. And it
proved to be an enduring love.

If you weren’t around for TV
in the ’70s and early ’80s, I don’t believe you can appreciate how frequently

The Brady Bunch aired in syndication. One could watch it daily.
And I did.

Over time, I developed an encyclopedic
knowledge of the show. When my family moved to California in the ’80s,
I had a moment of truly pathetic excitement when I was watching one
of the “Grand Canyon” episodes and realized that it was a different
edit than my old station had aired — I was seeing a scene I had never seen before!
I’ve watched the show in every incarnation and have seen stage versions, and
every time I’ve gone to Hawaii, I’ve sent my brother a postcard of
Diamond Head with the message, “That’s Diamond Head, dumbhead.”

So, when my brother sent me
an article about an upcoming Brady Bunch

musical, I read
it warily. And then I quickly concluded it sounded like a very bad idea.
Here’s the ill-advised plot:

"Through a misunderstanding,
the Brady kids overhear a loud argument between their usually perfectly-in-love
parents. The kids think their parents might be heading for a divorce
and dig in to raise money to obtain marriage counseling for their woe-stricken
parents. Greg operates a car service; Marcia dates for money; Peter
and Jan put on magic shows; and Bobby and Cindy look for money in couches.
Did you ever imagine what the Bradys might look like in a holding cell
at the local police station? Somehow even Alice gets in some legal trouble
for fraud. All the while Mike and Carol are desperately trying to have
sex, something they have never done since they’ve always had six kids
in the house and have never had any alone time."

The plot sounds pretty stupid
to me, but that’s not really the problem. (I’ve waxed rhapsodic about Grease 2 a few too many times to make a compelling
case that I’m above stupid plots.) The problem is that not only is it just
tired to rehash and revisit The Brady Bunch, but there’s also just
something inherently disrespectful and cheap — base, really — in this
particular idea. And I’m a little surprised by how much it bugs me.

The obvious question to ask
is why a Brady musical now? The original show is almost 40 years old,
and the last incarnation with the original cast is going on 20 years
old. The show has run its course. The original audience is middle-aged,
and the show doesn’t air frequently enough to draw an affectionate new
audience. (And there’s already been a stage version — The Real Live
Brady Bunch
,
which was gently mocking but was created by and for Brady-lovers.) There
was a time when a musical could have made a certain amount of sense.
The Brady music phenomena was huge in the ’70s. Despite the fact that
Bobby originally didn’t have the voice to join the glee club, the Brady
kids — sometimes known as “The Brady Six” or “The Silver Platters” —
were singing up a storm.



The Brady Kids
cartoon always ended with a musical number.

The kids did their own singing
— and they were accompanied by pandas Ping and Pong, Merlin the mynah
bird, and a dog whose name I’ve forgotten. (It was not Tiger.)

And the late ’70s Brady Bunch
Hour
was full of song-and-dance moments like this one:



(If you’ve never seen an episode,
check out the opening of the pilot, followed by a Simpsons parody, here. I simply cannot explain the water
ballet.)

But the window of opportunity
for a non-mocking musical closed in the late ’70s. The ’80s and ’90s Brady
series and made-for-TV movies dropped the musical element. Rather, they
developed the original characters with a fair amount of consistency
— and with an inherent respect for the characteristic earnestness of
the franchise. They also made an effort to update the shows for the
eras in which they existed.

The Brady Girls Get Married
(which morphed into The Brady Brides) brought the show into the
’80s.

Marcia and Jan were adults
with careers, and even Carol was a real estate agent. There was more
overt sexual innuendo. (Who can forget Phillip being embarrassed to
say “breasts and thighs” when he and Jan and Marcia and Wally
were on The Newlywed Game?)

A few years later, A Very Brady Christmas
raised new personal and professional issues —
such as Peter marrying his boss and Cindy asserting her independence.

The Bradys
in the early ’90s had Bobby as a paraplegic and Marcia as a (temporary)
alcoholic. (And Jan and Phillip could have been lesbians, with their
adoption of an Asian child.)

But A Very Brady Musical
(like The Brady Bunch Movie
and A Very Brady Sequel) seems to drop the consistency and respect
that the creators used to have for the characters. The premise of the
movie was mockery. It seemed to presume that the Brady family
suffered from some collective delusion that they were living in an earlier,
more innocent TV era. Or perhaps that they had lived apart from society
in some way and were now being suddenly thrust into the world. The musical
seems like it will build on that mockery in easy, cheap ways. Marcia
is so conceited and innocent that she doesn’t realize that selling dates
is, or appears to be, prostitution. And Mike and Carol have never had
sex. It’s kind of like making a musical about an Amish family coming
to live in the city, and then making cheap jokes about the kids having
trouble in school because they don’t know how to use a computer. And
then throwing in a slapstick barn-raising for good measure.

It’s just cheap and stupid,
and, frankly, the Bradys deserve better.

 
 

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