It Seemed Like a Good Idea: The Brady Bunch Hour

See, first you have to realize that in the 1970s, nearly everyone at some point had his or her own variety show. In fact, the only reason the world never got to see the Jeff Sparkman Knock-Knock Joke and Fart Noise Jamboree on a weekly basis is because the only slot the network offered me was after my bedtime.

But after the runaway success of the Donny and Marie show--in particular, an episode guest-starring some Brady alumni, Fred Silverman--who would only a few years later unleash Supertrain--called Sid and Marty Krofft (of Lidsville fame) to talk about a variety show featuring everyone's favorite family where the dad is an architect, but six kids share two bedrooms and one adjoining bathroom.

Thus, The Brady Bunch Hour was born. The premise here is that the Brady family wanted to do a variety show, so Mike Brady quit being an architect, and he and the bunch moved to a beach house. In the pilot, which was billed as The Brady Bunch Variety Hour, the first musical number is a medley of a disco version of "Baby Face" that segues into "Love to Love You," the notorious Donna Summer hit.

If that image alone hasn't fried your synapses, the whole family is decked out in orange outfits that Liberace would have found a bit too over the top. Oh, and there's a giant pool with synchronized swimmers.

But let's not forget the guests the show had: Donny and Marie, Tony Randall, Vincent Price, Rip Taylor, H.R. Pufnstuf, Tina Turner, Farrah Fawcett, Lee Majors, Milton Berle, and of course, Charo.

Now don't get me wrong. I have a soft spot in my heart (if not my head) for all things Brady. That's why this is just the first part of a multipart series on the Brady Bunch spinoffs. But sometimes it just works out that you get the most painful thing out of the way first.

Almost the entire original cast reunited for this show, which isn't that much of a shock when you realize that only a few years had passed since the original show had been canceled. The one Brady who was replaced by a doppelganger: Jan. Eve Plumb didn't return this time around, so in her place was Geri "Fake Jan" Reischl, who fared well in the song and dance numbers--probably better than the others, in fact.

Interspersed with inane musical numbers that only the '70s could have brought us were bits of Brady high jinks that could've been plucked from the regular show. In one, Greg moves out into his own apartment, only to return by the end of the episode. But not before a more than slightly creepy duet between Greg and Mrs. Brady.

If I had to explain this as briefly as possible, it's like the Bizarro World version of the Brady Bunch. It looks pretty much the same, but it's filled with imperfect duplicates. And I'm not talking about the weird puppet talking to Peter.

And if you ever wondered what a big musical number with the Bradys, the cast of What's Happening!!, and deejay (and "Disco Duck" perpetrator) Rick Dees would look like, boy howdy, are you in luck.

On a related note, Fred Berry's appearance would be the only Rerun for the show. The episodes aired once, not to be seen again until years later. But if you don't believe this is all true, you can find it on DVD. And even better, there's a book about the show coming out this fall, providing in detail how this oddity made it to the airwaves.

Oh yeah, it's already on my wish list.

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