Paramount Studios presents
The Brady Bunch: The Complete First Season (1969/1970)
Mike Brady: Next Saturday morning, instead of me, mother is going to help you with baseball practice.
Greg Brady: Dad, she's a girl, a female!
Mike Brady: You noticed that too?- Robert Reed, Barry Williams
Stars: Robert Reed, Florence Henderson, Ann B. Davis, Barry Williams, Maureen McCormick, Christopher Knight, Eve Plumb, Mike Lookinland, Susan Olsen
Other Stars: J. Pat O'Malley, Joan Tompkins, James Millhollin, Dabbs Greer, Jo de Winter, Marjorie Stapp, Tracy Reed, Brian Forster, Fred Pinkard, Pitt Herbert, Allan Melvin, Howard Culver, Michael Lerner, Larry McCormick, Martin Ashe, Stephen Liss, Casey Morgan, Hal Smith, Carl Albert, Marion Ross, Herbert Anderson, Oliver McGowan, Bill Mullikin, Lee Corrigan, Bob Golden, Herb Vigran, Abbe Lane, Joe Ross, Wes Parker, Gigi Perreau, Teresa Warder, Molly Dodd, Mike Robertson, John Daniels, Brian Nash, Jerry Levreau, Dani Nolan, David Morick, Joe Conley, Randy Lane, Iler Rasmussen, Susan Joyce, Jonathan Hole, Gordon Jump, Pat Patterson, Desi Arnaz Jr., Fran Ryan, C. Lindsay Workman, Jack Griffin
Director: John Rich, Oscar Rudolph, George Cahan, David Alexander, Herb Wallerstein, Russ Mayberry, Norman Abbott
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 10h:37m:19s
Release Date: 2005-03-01
DVD Review"Here's a story of a lovely lady, who was bringing up three very lovely girls." - theme song
The 1969 ABC Friday night lineup would host the second of producer Sherwood Schwartz' enduring sit-coms with The Brady Bunch, which, like Gilligan's Island before it, would become a staple of syndication, and a perennial fan favorite, despite never cracking the top 30 through its five-year run. Filmed in color from the get-go, The Brady Bunch reflected the new social reality of instant families emerging from previous marriages, and is the first series with a blended family. Widower Michael Paul Brady (Robert Reed) has three boys from his first marriage—Greg (Barry Williams), Peter (Christopher Knight), and Bobby (Mike Lookinland)—while Carol Ann Tyler-Martin (Florence Henderson) has three daughters—Marcia (Maureen McCormick), Jan (Eve Plumb), and Cindy (Susan Olsen). Rounding out this newly formed family is live-in housekeeper Alice, and there's a family dog named Tiger.
"It's a story, of a man named Brady, who was busy with three boys of his own."
Like he had done with Gilligan's Island, Schwartz exposes the show's premise in its theme song, sung in this first season by the Peppermint Trolly Company (subsequent seasons had the kids themselves singing). The pilot, The Honeymoon, in which the Bradys are wed (in typically disastrous fashion), introduces the family, and is also notable for featuring a different Brady house, and the lone appearance of Fluffy, the girls' cat (for reasons Schwartz outlines in his commentary). The stories here are primarily related to coping with the new living arrangements, and the battle of the sexes that ensues. Aside from being entertaining, the show also provides kids with valuable life lessons; getting along with your siblings, making the right choices, consideration for others, and the importance of family. The show isn't only for kids though, as there is plenty of cleverly disguised adult humor thrown in.
The writing shifted focus from week to week on different members of the family, making sure everyone got their share of screen time. The ensemble cast gels right off the bat. With Cindy and Bobby at their youngest here, the cute factor is high, and it is interesting to see these kids grow up, literally, in front of our eyes. Cindy takes center stage in Eenie, Meenie, Mommy, Daddy, where she must chose which parent will get to see her performance in the school play. This episode also features a cameo by future Partridge Family member, Brian Forster. In Every Boy Does It Once, Bobby becomes convinced Carol is his evil stepmother after watching Cinderella on TV, and decides to run away from home. Middle girl Jan is the recipient of a gold locket from a secret admirer in Lost Locket, Found Locket, and Peter learns a lesson in humility in The Hero, after letting the accolades for saving a young girl at the toy store go to his head. Marcia is faced with her own vanity in Brace Yourself, when, after getting a new set of braces, her date for the prom suddenly drops out, and the family kicks in to help. Marcia again is the focus when her diary goes missing in The Possible Dream. With his math grades slipping, Greg's crush on a mysterious Linda gets Carol and Mike in a fit in The Undergraduate.
The battle of the sexes theme runs through several episodes, including A Clubhouse Is Not a Home, pitting the boys against the girls when it comes to their backyard hideaway; A-Camping We Will Go takes the crew on location when the girls invade a manly ritual; and the adults find out it's not so easy raising the opposite sex in The Grass Is Always Greener, as Mike and Carol switch parenting duties for the day. Although primarily a comedy, The Brady Bunch does have its share of hanky moments, such as the climax of Father of the Year in which Marcia shows her appreciation of her new father, or Vote for Brady, which demonstrates the bond that has been created when Greg and Marcia become campaign rivals for class president. Alice gets her spotlight when she feigns having to leave to tend to a sick aunt in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore and inspires a little teamwork when she sprains her ankle with Carol out of town in The Big Sprain.
Carol Brady: Mike, would you love me if I had to get braces?
Mike Brady: Every chance I got.
Even in the age of women's lib and a growing social consciousness, there were some things that just weren't appropriate for a sit-com. Schwartz had originally intended Carol to be divorced, but ABC rejected the idea, thus the fate of her husband is never revealed, and despite housing nine people, the Brady home is without a toilet, which brings me to another draw of The Brady Bunch. Even as a child, the architecture of the Brady residence fascinated me; brick and stone work throughout, its Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired living room has to be one of the most instantly recognizable in TV history; the kitchen, with its massive island, red counter tops, walnut cupboards, and avocado appliances, and of course the nice peacock blue shared bath with its yellow tub—it is amazing just how much coverage the whole house gets on the show, and it's no wonder we thought it was real, despite the fact that there is no way in the world the exterior had any correlation to the interior.
The Brady Bunch has become part of the 1960s and '70s collective experience. It was a representation of the ideal family, and a place where kids living in those turbulent years could escape to a nonthreatening, loving environment. No matter what the crime, the Brady parents were always fair—there were consequences and lessons to be learned, but at the end of the day this was as functional a family as you could get, with support from everyone. Its appeal is due in large part to the fact that there is someone in the cast that everyone could relate to. Now, on DVD, we can return to the styles and situations that has made this show the lasting treasure it is, and let our children experience the madness and mayhem we grew up with.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The elements used for this first season come from a few different source prints, so the quality varies depending on which is used. Most of the season looks wonderful, with bright, clean images, that bring out those garish late 1960s colors beautifully. When this show looks good, it looks great. The lesser quality sections are limited to specific scenes and shots. With the second level, which appears to be mostly generational loss, the image is a little less defined, and grain is noticibly coarser. The worst sections are more washed out, with heavier grain and more contrast. There are age related print defects scattered throughout, including a few major ones, but these are pretty sporadic. The pilot has a number of time compression-like jumps in it, while the first scene of the final episode has some weird color fringing/registration issues. While not perfect, I don't think I've ever seen the show look this good overall.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: For a 1969 TVs series, this transfer sounds great. Sure, the bottom end is pretty anemic, but that doesn't thin out Robert Reed's voice or add any excess sibilance. Unlike the video, this is fairly even sounding throughout. No disappointments here.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 150 cues and remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Mork and Mindy, McGyver
3 Feature/Episode commentaries by Sherwood Schwartz, Barry Williams, Christopher Knight, Susan Olsen
Extras Review: While not really extras, Paramount has done a great job giving us the shows intact, including the opening "The Brady Bunch in Color" title card, and the original closing Paramount logo. While not menu accessable, each episode contains six chapters, including a mark immediately following the opening credits for those who want to skip them. I wish all studios would at least get that one right. Menus are simple, listing the episode titles, and a second menu with the commentary option appears on the respective episodes. A Play All option is included.
Commentary tracks are available on three episodes (you need to individually select the episodes to access these). Creator Sherwood Schwartz narrates the pilot, The Honeymoon. While containing some of the same content from the featurette, he gives plenty of insight into the casting, his role as producer, and some of the challenges in filming the series. Actors Barry Williams (Greg), Christopher Knight (Peter), and Susan Olsen (Cindy) add their thoughts to A-Camping We Will Go and The Hero. These are fun group commentaries, with some interesting behind-the-scenes information. Parents may want to screen these before playing them for children, although some of the references may be over their heads.
The fourth disc contains a 17-minute featurette, Coming Together Under One Roof, featuring on-camera interview segments with Schwartz, Williams, Knight, Olsen, Michael Lookinland (Bobby), and Lauren Johnson, fan and author of The Brady Bunch Files. Although there may not a be a whole lot of new information for die-hard fans, it is great to see the kids as they are now, with the only disappointment is the missing cast members.
Forced but skippable, trailers for Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Mork and Mindy and McGyver open Disc 1.
Finally, I have to hand it to Paramount for the packaging, which features a lenticular lens on the outer box that mimics the show's opening credits. The four first season discs come housed in a pair of dual thinline cases, with episode guides printed on the back, and a couple of quotes on the inside.
Extras Grade: B-
Final Comments"That's the way they all became the Brady Bunch."
It has been many years since I have sat through complete episodes of The Brady Bunch, and in addition to the nostalgia factor, these shows are still a lot of fun. The presentation is very good, and the extras are swell. With the series fast-tracked for DVD, I'm looking forward to another three seasons of The Bradys this year. Recommended!
Jeff Ulmer 2005-02-28