The Brand: The Brady Bunch

The Extension: Love to Love You Bradys: The Bizarre Story of "The Brady Bunch Variety Hour", by Ted Nichelson, Susan Olsen (yes, that one), and Lisa Sutton

Is This A Brand Worth Extending? Sure. People remain fascinated by the Bunch, forty years after the original show went off the air. More to the point, the book is technically an extension of an extension, which itself is worth little except as a cautionary tale about cocaine and the Kroffts' powers of artistic persuasion.

The BBVH itself lasted nine episodes if you count the backdoor pilot via Donny and Marie, and now I can officially stop keeping the "phrases I never thought I'd type" list because WTF. The show is notoriously terrible, but that in and of itself is fascinating, because a variety hour starring a beloved sitcom family, as their original characters…except one of them, who had to be recast; relying on these characters to make up somehow for the fact that the majority of the cast couldn't sing or dance, and that Ann B. Davis had become an irascible born-again who was commuting from the Mountain time zone to collect a paycheck and visibly despise Rip Taylor; four years after the sitcom, which never exactly killed in the ratings, itself got cancelled. How does this happen?

The Brady brand's Rasputinesque powers of survival are awe-inspiring. Shot by the laugh-free Brady Brides, drowned in the freezing waters of a holiday special, poisoned by cut-rate The Bradys dramedy, and America still loves them. It's not so much that the brand is worth extending; it's that you can bend it into a pretzel and it just will not break.

Is This An Extension Worth The Branding? Totally. You don't even have to know anything about the Bunch (although you've absorbed more than you think about both the original TBB and the Variety Hour just via osmosis and YouTube forwards). It isn't great writing, or copy-editing. Susan Olsen's sidebars should add more than they do, given that she's a firsthand witness, and she tries awfully hard to be funny and edgy, still -- like, nobody still confuses you with Cindy Brady, girl, so go to a behaviorist and get over it. (It doesn't help that the layouts of Olsen's portions use a glittery-linoleum-looking background that, while period-appropriate, make them physically hard to read.)

But you can't beat the photos and graphics, although if you're sensitive to moose-knuckle, this is not the book for you. Or…the decade. You'll get some good dirt on Maureen McCormick's issues with drugs; how they built that giant pool; why Eve Plumb bailed on the project (it's actually not that obvious, and you will feel kind of sorry for her for being all "well I'm doing all these movies now." O. Rly.). And could someone please write a biography or oral history about Robert Reed? This is one of the most fascinatingly conflicted dudes in show-biz history. The last episode of TBB is too stupid for him to participate in, but he'll go along with the fiction that Mike Brady quit architecting to start a variety theater with the whole fam -- and then take ten hours of dance lessons a day?

Anyway. Like My Year of Flops-style explorations of legendary artistic fiascoes? You'll like this, whatever you may have thought of the Bradys.

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