It is virtually impossible to be "on the fence" with a show like The Brady Bunch--either you like it, or you can't stand it. Simple as that. While I wouldn't go so far as to say that I'm a chronic Brady watcher, I enjoy the characters enough to tune in for a few episodes every now and again. The show is not exactly subtle with the love and family morals presented, and despite loving it, just about every Brady fan out there has to have wondered at some point how it ever became such a timeless, enduring classic. Your guess is as good as mine, and I can't deny that the show is shamelessly cheesy, but you know what? Family values like the ones in this series are getting tougher and tougher to come across, and the more our society seems to fall away from it, the more many of us seem to crave it. The Bradys may be more deliriously addictive than realistic, but it doesn't really do much good when people try to spout out all the negatives they can think of. Fans of the Brady Bunch are aware of its quality and understand why it is important to them, so no amount of cynicism is going to sway them. It's all about the mindset you enter when you turn on an episode, and whenever I see "Father of the Year," I am brought back to a time and place where the writers, directors, and actors kept their focus on why a story about a seemingly "perfect" blended family would matter to contemporary audiences. The characters were so young and vibrant in this very first season, which all adds to the charm of watching it.
This episode opens with young Marcia pestering her dad to help her with her math homework, but he has a business meeting to attend. As you can imagine, all it takes is the classic puppy dog face from Marcia for this man to close the front door and put his important work duties on hold, just to make his daughter happy. In the next scene, Marcia thanks her mom for marrying such a wonderful man who would put his children ahead of his busy work schedule. "Just think, all those important business people, and he kept them waiting for me!" she says as she gives her mother a big hug, and they smile and think about how lucky they both are. (Remember, cynics, it's a TV show, and on top of that, it's the Brady Bunch, so there's no use trying to argue the plausibility of any of this.)
I could continue with a lengthy description of everything leading up to Marcia submitting a winning essay about why her daddy is the most deserving "Father of the Year," but if you are reading this in the first place, chances are pretty good that you've already seen the episode. All I can say is that the final scene between Marcia and her dad is incredibly touching, with an emotional quality that helps you forgive it for being a bit on the sappy side. It's no secret to anybody who follows this series that actor Robert Reed minced no words when he publicly stated his embarrassment in playing this character, which is really a shame, given the fact that Mike Brady is known as one of the most beloved TV dads in history. You'd think that such disclosures about an actor's true negative feelings would make you look at the character differently, but Reed played the part so well that whenever I watch him on the screen, the only thing I see is the gentle, loving Mike Brady. Nothing else. I can't say that for many actors who exhibit questionable behavior in real life, so it is a true testimony to how he became locked into this character, no matter how much he claims to have hated it. Wherever he is now, I hope he realizes that it was one of the most noble and memorable roles that he could have possibly accepted in his career, regardless of anything that may have made that difficult to see.
This episode also boasts a solid performance from Maureen McCormick, who seemed very effortless in front of the camera, even at such a young age. With her sweet facial expressions, her impeccable pigtails with the adorable purple bows, and her impressive ability to well up on demand, it's hard to believe that so much emotional trauma was going on behind that little smile, as McCormick alluded to in her 2008 autobiography. Despite it all, she was a talented young actress, and as another reviewer here mentioned, it was nice to see the relationship between father and daughter expressed so beautifully here. Even though most pre-adolescent girls probably wouldn't warm up to a new stepfather the way Marcia did here, it's obvious that this is all part of that unprecedented formula that has helped The Brady Bunch stick around for several decades. So what if it's not popular with everyone? This episode is among my favorites in the entire series, with a sweet storyline that is supported by the youthful innocence of its actors. If another show with similar charm and value never makes it to the silver screen again, at least we'll always have reruns to remind us of what television used to be!