Why “The Brady Bunch” makes the world a whole lot brighter



Throughout the first half of the eighties, every weeknight from 5-6, our family TV was tuned to Channel 44.  My sister Amy and I had a standing date for reruns of “The Brady Bunch,” and almost nothing could tear us away.

It was a point of pride that we could identify each  episode within the first minute.  We knew which ones we loved (Greg hiding the goat, “Oh, my nose!”, Jan gets glasses) and which ones we didn’t (the freaky tiki episode and any show with interlopers like Cousin Oliver).

Then there was a huge space of time — a few decades — where the show fell off my radar.  It’s only lately that I’ve rediscovered it again, thanks to the beauty of a DVR that lets me stockpile  episodes like they’re a discontinued lipstick.  I’ve also started sharing “The Brady Bunch”  with my own boys, who — just like their mom and their aunt — are quickly becoming ardent fans.

I know some may dismiss the show as hokey or cheesy.  I get that.  And yes, I now notice little quirks about it that sailed over my head as a kid, like the fact that Greg was a major major player, or that it was kind of cruel to make someone as  awesome as Alice dress like a matron at a mental hospital.    But I’m going to argue that there is very little bad that can come from watching “The Brady Bunch,” and a whole lot of good.

I’ll explain.

1) It’s a show where the kids get along.  Sure, there are squabbles from time to time,  like Peter and Bobby putting tape down the middle of their bedroom and claiming sides, but for the most part the kids support each other and enjoy doing things together.  How they manage to be so harmonious while they are all crammed into two tiny bedrooms is a bit of a mystery, but the fact remains: These siblings actually like each other.  I like my kids to watch shows like that.

2) Mike and Carol are the very definition of “involved parents,” in all the right ways.  As proof, I will cite the fact that nearly every episode features some variation on this scene:  Child walks into kitchen, schoolbooks under his/her arm, looking glum. Carol greets child cheerfully; child answers with some response redolent of depression or self-loathing while continuing on through the room.  Mike and Carol  exchange concerned glances.  Scene shifts to child sitting in bedroom, head propped on hand, looking morosely off into space.  Seconds later, the door opens and Mom and Dad come in — together, mind you — to gently explore the source of their child’s angst.

Mom and Dad don’t ignore the kid because they are too busy playing games on their phone or watching reality TV.  I like that.

I also like that they don’t berate their kids for getting an A-  and don’t obsessively follow up on every detail of their school lives.  They are involved parents but not helicopter ones:  a winning combo.

3) Mr. and Mrs. Brady know when to be firm.  Not long ago, the boys and I were watching an episode where Greg drives recklessly and gets grounded from using the car for a week.  “That’s not fair!” he exclaims, whereupon Mike fires back with, “Do you want two weeks?”  When Greg continues to protest, Mike says, “How about three?”

Go, Mike, go!

I’ve known all along that parents need to parent, not be their kids’ chum.   But I’ll admit that it’s often tough to put that  into practice.  It’s easy to second-guess oneself: Am I being too mean here by revoking TV privileges because my kids were misbehaving?  I think we parents need support in this area wherever we can get it, even if it comes from a 1970s sitcom.

And there’s a bonus, too: If my kids see the Brady parents sticking to their disciplinary guns, they know their own parents aren’t the only strict ones.

‘4) On a related point: The Brady kids respect their mom and dad.   Lately, I’ve had several conversations with friends in which we bemoan the tone of so many of the sitcoms currently marketed at kids.  My own kids never see these shows unless we happen to be in a hotel with cable, but even my limited exposure has shown me that family sitcoms have changed since I was a child.  There’s so much snarkiness and rudeness in the humor, and the parents in these shows  always come across as clueless and doltish, outwitted by their more clever tween offspring.  Ick.  Give me the respectful Brady kids any day.

5) Lastly, I like “The Brady Bunch” because it teaches good life lessons.  On any given episode, you may learn that you shouldn’t snoop in your sister’s diary, you shouldn’t idolize Jesse James, you shouldn’t play ball in the house, and you shouldn’t dress your younger brother up in a moustache and pass him off as an older man.  Why wait until adulthood to learn all this?  “The Brady Bunch” teaches you this and more in a painless, groovy way.

What can I say?  When it comes to this show, I’m a forever fan, and with very good reason.

P.S.  It’s a sunshine day.

Are you a fan, too?  If so, why do you love it, and what’s your favorite episode?

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