DVD Review: The Brady Bunch: 50th Anniversary TV & Movie Collection

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If you were growing up in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, ’00s or ’10s, odds are high that you grew up with The Brady Bunch. You can probably name all the Brady kids before you can remember your own siblings or children. The show became that ingrained in the lives of the TV generation. They were the first mega-family of TV before all the big family reality shows became fashionable on cable. From the day it debuted on ABC in the Fall of 1969, it hasn’t faded from pop culture or television. Unlike some shows that run their course and vanish, the Bradys would return over the decades as an updated sitcom, a holiday special and a drama. They even recast the show for hit feature films. There was even a Saturday morning cartoon. The Bradys did so much. Now all of these efforts have been boxed up for The Brady Bunch: 50th Anniversary TV & Movie Collection.

The Brady Bunch (1969-1974) starts off its run with Mike Brady (Mannix‘s Robert Reed) wanting to marry Carol Martin (Shakes the Clown‘s Florence Henderson). The only sticking point between these two widowed lovers is that each has three kids from their previous marriage. The children are fearful what having to share a life as an extended family. Mike’s boys Greg (Barry Williams), Peter (Christopher Knight), and Bobby (Mike Lookinland) and Carol’s girls Marcia (Maureen McCormick), Jan (Eve Plumb), and Cindy (Susan Olsen) weren’t going to blend without a fight. The girls were having to move into Mike’s house and accept housemaid Alice (The Bob Cummings Show‘ Ann B. Davis), and Tiger the dog. The wedding is pure chaos which upsets the grown ups. But they realize they need to do more work to get the kids to be comfortable with the new situation. Over the course of 117 episodes, viewers watch the kids grow up into groovy teenagers. They had quite a few famous stars drop by the house although mostly through evil scheming. “Getting Davy Jones” has Marcia trying to get the Monkees singer to perform at a school dance. “Mail Order Hero” has Joe Namath break Marsha’s nose. The family goes to Hawaii and bump into Don Ho, Vincent Price and a tabu tiki.

The Brady Bunch was never a Top 10 hit, but became a massive success in syndication in the after school time slot. It was like the family you only had to deal with for 30 minutes. As a kid who first experienced the series in syndication, it was strange years later to realize the show had only been off the air for a few years. The fashions and attitudes of the family felt like it was from a distant era like I Love Lucy. But the Bradys quickly proved to be more than a family stuck in time as they kept coming back.

The Brady Kids: The Complete Animated Series (1972-74) ran during the height of the show’s original run until the live action was canceled. The Saturday morning cartoon was produced by Filmation and featured the original kids’ voices in the first season episodes. The adults have been replaced by a talking bird (F Troop‘s Larry Storch), a big dog named Mop Top (Tiger wasn’t available?) and two Pandas that aren’t really speaking Chinese. The kids now live in a magical tree house. They get kidnapped by a wayward balloon, shot into space and hang with Wonder Woman. The cartoon didn’t get much rerun action after the show went off the air. This is completely bizarre and should be watched when you’re feeling goofy.

Not included in the boxset is The Brady Hour which was a variety show that ran in 1977. It featured water dancing, Rip Taylor, Charo, The Hudson Brothers, Lee Majors and Farrah Fawcett. The family sang and dance in a ’70s kitsch catastrophe that isn’t considered canon to the Brady mythos.

The boxset picks up with The Brady Brides (1981). This was supposed to be a reunion movie called The Brady Girls Get Married. NBC decided to make it a sitcom and order additional episodes. Marcia and Jan both get engaged and want to get married in the same ceremony. The first four episodes are merged back into the TV movie that covers the wedding and both couples sharing a house. The show only survived another six episodes, but they managed to get on The Newlywed Game with Bob Eubanks.

A Very Brady Christmas (1988) reunited most of the cast for the holidays in a TV movie. Susan Olsen skipped out on playing Cindy Brady because she getting married and going on a honeymoon. Jennifer Runyon (Ghostbusters) takes over the role. The Brady house gets a glossy late ’80s makeover that’s so pastel and white, you’d expect the cast of Miami Vice to bust everyone. The film is about Mike and Carol bringing the family together for the holidays which is a large thing to do in a rather small house. They’ve all gotten married and some have kids. This is a cramped living room.

The Bradys (1990) came from the major success of the Christmas special. Instead of a sitcom, they turned the show into an hour long prime time soap opera like Dallas or Dynasty. Right off the bat, they try to make things a bit more intense as Bobby is a rising star as a NASCAR driver. But when he breaks his good luck charm, he ends up in a wreck that leaves him paralyzed. He’s not faking it like that time Joe Namath visited him. The highlight of the series is when Bobby marries his longtime girlfriend played by original MTV VJ Martha Quinn. Sadly the show only lasted six episodes before it was canceled. This would be the last major Brady Bunch event for the original cast since Robert Reed would pass away. Sure they could replace one of the girls in a reunion project, but a new Mike Brady wouldn’t work. Although they could have had Carol marry Cousin Oliver (Robbie Rist) to make things weird. But the boxset isn’t done with the Bradys.

The Brady Bunch Movie (1995) was a big screen comedy that recast the family with Mike being Gary Cole (Veep) and Shelley Long (Cheers) being Carol. The plot has the family being stuck in the past and Michael McKean (Good Omens) wanting to plow over their house. I once interviewed Cole and he said that when he put on the Mike Brady Dad Perm wig, nobody recognized him. But audiences recognized the fun and make it a major hit. This gave us A Very Brady Sequel (1996) with the family in crisis when Carol’s dead husband knocks on the front door. There’s a lot of gags dealing with elements of the original series. Finally there’s The Brady Bunch in the White House (2002) which has Mike and Carol running the country. Are we better off living under the iron fist of the Bradys? This was a made for TV movie that aired on Fox.

Finally the boxset includes Growing Up Brady (2000) which ought to be seen as the big bonus feature about the show. It’s based on Barry Williams’ book about what happened behind the scenes. Most people seem to want to know if he hooked up with Marsha during the shoot. Kaley Cuoco (The Big Bang Theory) is Marsha. He shows the frustrations Robert Reed had with the slapstick elements of the show since he wanted it to be something bigger. But it did become something bigger. Think of all the forgotten family shows that came and went when The Brady Bunch was on TV. Nobody’s wanting an Apple’s Way reunion.

The Brady Bunch: 50th Anniversary TV & Movie Collection allows fans to immerse themselves into the Brady universe. The fact that you can finally watch the short-run Brady Brides and The Bradys makes this the essential collection for fans who have been holding off from previous DVD releases.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame for the original Brady Bunch cast. The theatrical films are 1.78:1 anamorphic. The image quality varies on the show. Things look fine for their age. The TV shows are in Dolby Digital Mono. The theatrical films are 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround with French dubs. The shows and movies are subtitled in English.

Audio Commentaries feature Sherwood Schwartz discussing “The Honeymoon.” He lays out how the show came about and his feelings on the pilot episode. “A Camping We Go” and “The Hero” has Barry Williams, Christopher Knight and Susan Olsen hang out and chat about the episode and the show in general. They say that Florence Henderson invented the mullet.

The Brady Bunch – Coming Together Under One Roof (17:29) has Sherwood discuss how a simple news articles about marriages involving kids would lead to complications. He saw it was a whole idea for a new series. Turns out he cast the kids before Mike and Carol. Somewhere are six kids who thought they were going to be Brady kids. Barry Williams, Susan Olsen, Mike Lookinland and Christopher Knight reflect on growing up on the set. Sherwood wanted Gene Hackman for Mike Brady. There’s praise for Robert Reed who even though he thought the show was stupid was inspiration for the kids in getting them to get deeper into the roles.

Episodic Promos are featured for episodes of The Brady Kids cartoons.

Move It Sales Presentation (4:16) has Michael Lerner moving a sofa and furniture into the Brady Brides home. It seems to be a mini-pilot for the movers.

CBS DVD presents The Brady Bunch: 50th Anniversary TV & Movie Collection. Starring: Robert Reed, Florence Henderson, Ann B. Davis, Maureen McCormick, Eve Plumb, Susan Olsen, Barry Williams, Christopher Knight, Mike Lookinland & Martha Quinn. Rated: Unrated. Boxset Contents: 31 DVDs. Released: June 4, 2019.

Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.