The Boob Tube #9: The Brady Bunch Variety Hour

Remember The Brady Bunch Variety Hour? I just watched it for the millionth time and can't get enough of its campy goodness. It's somehow wonderfully delightful and horrifyingly strange at the same time. Nothing on TV has ever exhibited this level of badness and still been good, if you get my meaning.

I'll spare you the history (that's what Wikipedia is for), and cut right to the weirdness...

I've always heard that Robert Reed was constantly battling with Sherwood Schwartz in order to bring realism and intelligence to The Brady Bunch. Obviously, Reed lost most of those battles, but with the Variety Show he apparently just said "screw it, let's boogie".

In the picture above, Mr. and Mrs. Brady are actually singing "Love to Love You Baby"! This is one of the most sexual songs to ever hit the radio (recall that Donna Summer moans and groans orgasmically in the song)... the show is just getting started and already I'm in The Twilight Zone.

Mike Brady tells a joke that falls flat, so Jan says,"Why can't I be dead?" out of embarrassment. To which Marcia smiles maniacally and says, "Yeah! Why can't Jan be dead!?!" To which I said "WTF?!" Marcia was always Miss Popularity, but wishing diabolically for Jan's death seems over-the-top even for the Variety Hour.

(Ahem. Greg, I think you missed a button.) Apparently, flannel was the rage in 1977 and Bobby seems to have grown up to be a Monchichi.

Can you count the 70s pop culture images and icons in this next scene? Let's see: (1) Donnie & Marie Osmond ride into a (2) roller rink on an (3) Evil Knievel motorcycle and meet up with (4) the Brady Bunch; Donnie's jacket says (5) "Fonzie" on the back, and... well, you get the point.

Holy shit! That's actually the Bradys dressed up like clowns for no reason and swimming and splashing around like idiots. I remember when I first saw this on a friend's bootleg VHS back in '92 - it was kind of grainy, the sound was warped a little, and this scene seemed horrifically surreal. There was something kind of haunting about it. Now that I watch it on DVD, the grainy snuff film quality is gone, but it's still pretty friggin' strange.

Good Lord! As if Aquatic Brady Clowns wasn't weird enough, we get Tony Randall as a psychotic leprechaun! This may be the strangest moment in TV history - it simply has to be seen to be believed. I triple dare you to make this image your desktop wallpaper.

Then for the finale we have Greg kickin' it Tom Jones style, and then the whole family (including Alice) dance to "The Hustle" and "(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty"!

I don't mean to sound like I'm criticizing the show; I relish every lovin' second of it. You can just tell that everyone on the show was having a good time, and the carefree vibe is contagious - you'll find yourself enjoying it in spite of your modern day cynical attitude.

The show's deep and abiding strangeness obviously stems from it being produced by Sid & Marty Kroft. But perhaps the oddest thing about The Brady Bunch Variety Hour isn't the Aquatic Brady Clowns or the Tony Randall Leprechaun or even Ann B. Davis doing The Hustle. No, it is something far more subtle... Egad! What's happened to Jan!?!


  1. Wow! That is so awesome and strange. Never had a chance to see it, but I would love to. I've heard of it though. I love all the weird things that were done back in the 70's, etc.

  2. I find it fun that the recent(ish) Brady Bunch movies try to spoof the show, but are not a weird as the actual thing :-)

  3. That is just bizarre. It's like there was no sense or taste in the 1970s sometimes.

  4. I remember watching that and thinking "WTF?" I never could get past the fact they replaced Jan... and no one seemed to notice? Poor Jan, she was so unmemorable that no one missed her when she was gone.

    Apparently, Robert Reed really needed the paycheck.

    The Simpsons did a fantastic spoof of this (even replacing Lisa with a tall, skinny blonde).

    Remember The Brady Brides? Yeesh...

  5. This was a witty account of this classic show. It was one of my favorites as a kid. I actually just finished reading Maureen McCormick's autobiography, and apparently she was quite coked up in these episodes. I have them all on VHS (probably the same grainy versions you watched) so I will never see them in the same light. On a side note, I met Barry Williams at one of his book signings about ten years ago. He was totally the opposite of what I expected; he seemed insulted to be there and actually answered his cell phone to take a private call in the middle of his Q&A session. He joked that he couldn't ignore calls because it could be a work opportunity (that was actually funny). But when I met him afterwards, he gave off an extremely cocky vibe; I was disappointed. Did you ever hear his spoof of "The Real Slim Shady" called "The Real Greg Brady"? It's worth a listen for some of the same reasons that the BB Variety Hour is worth watching.

  6. Kristin, don't be too hard on ol' Barry -he's entitled to a bad day like the rest of us. I saw him peform in front of a small crowd at a college, and he was dynamite! I mean he was Johnny Bravo once again, and brought the house down. He was funny and friendly as hell afterward.

    I gotta think you caught him on a bad day (maybe he was quitting smoking or a check bounced).

  7. omfg. I forgot just what it was the Simpsons parodied on that 'behind the laughter' spoof.

  8. As hideous as The Brady Bunch Variety Hour was (and it was), it wasn't the worst show ever (or even the worst show by the Kroft assembly line...

    That would have to be Pink Lady and Jeff.

    Here's my "review" of the worst television shows ever:

    Signs of a Misspent Youth

    Samsara Samizdat

  9. Sorry--Here's the link for Pink Lady and Jeff on Wikipedia, for those of you who don't believe there was an American television program featuring women who did not speak english....

  10. I think another reason Robert Reed loved this series was that his nemeses Sherwood and Lloyd Schwartz had absolutely nothing to do with it -- they charged the Kroffts a fortune for using the Brady characters, but thought a Brady variety show was stupid and headed for the hills immediately.

  11. Florence Henderson said that Robert Reed was anxious to do the Brady Bunch Variety Hour . She said that he wanted to sing and dance, but couldn't . So , he was happy to be on the show . Also , I have the Brady Bunch Variety Show book . It goes into the so - called " Fake Jan " Geri Reichel's casting for the show , and her life story . The book is chock full of information about the show !!