Saturday, November 14, 2009
The Brady Bunch: Super Groovy After All These Years! (BearManor Media, $19.95)
It was 40 years ago when The Brady Bunch family hit the airwaves and is still being shown all around the world today. The Brady Bunch was the story of a widow with three girls who married a widower with three boys, who lived under one roof and solved life's problems within 24 minutes! Author Mike Pingel's new book shares the history, fun facts, full episode guide and interviews with actors, Ann B. Davis, Susan Olsen, Robbie Rist, Geri Reischl and producers, Sherwood Schwartz, Lloyd Schwartz, plus so much more. Brady Bunch fan Charlene Tilton (Dallas) has penned the foreword.
The book opens with A Very Brady History Lesson. This chapter provides information on how Sherwood Schwartz came up with the idea of the show, how the show was cast, highlights from various seasons and the release of the Brady Kids albums, filming at the Paramount Studios lot, the friendships between the cast members, and the end of the show and later spin-off series and reunion specials. There's a good general history of the show, but I've seen more detailed information in previous Brady Bunch books. Various "groovy tips" are sprinkled throughout the book where we learn which Brady kid was the only one to have brown eyes, that First Lady Michele Obama is an avid fan of the show and the Brady kids and Liberace did the limbo on The Mike Douglas Show on June 13, 1973. Groovy indeed!
Next up is a Brady Chat with creator Sherwood Schwartz. He talks about casting Florence Henderson and Robert Reed, about the fights he had with Reed and how Reed had no sense of humor and how the Brady kids were cast. We also learn how Tiger the dog was killed and why Robert Reed refused to act in the final episode of the show. He then shares his favorite episode and memory of the show.
Chapter Two deals with The Brady Actors and includes interviews with some of the cast and crew. This section provides brief bios of the cast members and some of their recent projects. Again, the information isn't incredibly detailed and you won't find a listing of all their credits. Links are provided to the cast member's official websites where you can find more information on them.
Susan Olsen is interviewed talks about many different subjects, including her hairstyles on the show, her relationship with Mike Lookinland, her favorite outfit and favorite/most hated episode, her favorite guest star, working with Robert and Florence and the Schwartz family, why she didn't return for A Very Brady Christmas and her current/future projects.
Ann B. Davis is the next cast member to be be interviewed. She discusses how she was cast in the show, her favorite episode and crazy kid moments, meeting Henry Kissinger, working with Allan Melvin (Sam), working on The Bradys and The Bob Cummings Show and what she most remembers about the show.
The next member of the Schwartz family to be interviewed is Lloyd Schwartz. This is the most comprehensive interview in the book with some detailed responses. He talks about the origins of the show, the typical film week, working with his family, what was behind the Robert Reed fights, his favorite guest star/episode, the Brady Musical, the kids dating and his future projects. I'm surprised how critical the Schwartz family is of Robert Reed, but I guess they are entitled to their opinion.
A short section provides some information on books that were written by the cast, including Growing Up Brady (Barry Williams), Here's the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice (Maureen McCormick), Love to Love You Bradys: The Bizarre Story of The Brady Bunch Variety Hour (Susan Olsen) and Alice's Brady Bunch Cookbook (Ann B. Davis).
Chapter four is titled Brady's Reincarnated. "Fake Jan", Geri Reischl, is interviewed. She talks about how she was cast in The Brady Bunch Hour, her favorite episode, working with the cast, the "Fake Jan" phenomenon, the typical filming day, her favorite guest star and memory, and funny stories from the set. It's cool how she is proud of being called "Fake Jan."
The spin-offs, tv reunion movies/specials and feature films are covered with some short summaries and original airdates. Zach Bostrom, who played Kevin Brady in A Very Brady Christmas, is the next person interviewed. He discusses his favorite memory, working with Barry, funny incidents on the set and why he didn't return on The Bradys.
Hope Juber, daughter of Sherwood Schwartz, is next to chat. She appeared in several episodes as various characters. She talks about working on the show, filming The Slumber Caper episode, working on A Very Brady Musical and her favorite incarnation of the Bradys.
The Brady Effects details some of the references in pop culture and on other shows. This includes the Day by Day episode, Brady Bunch vs. Partridge Family Saturday Night Live skit and references on Family Guy and The Simpsons. It seemed a little unnecessary to mention some adult movies, but I guess this book could be rated PG or PG-13 for some of the content.
Chapter Five is Why We Love The Bradys. This section talks about the opening theme, the hair & clothing, the family cars, the Brady Home and links to some groovy websites. Wendy Winans, creator of the excellent Brady World, is interviewed. She is asked about the the number one question fans write in about the show, how she became a fan of the show and created her website, and her favorite episode.
The Very Brady Characters are profiled in Chapter Six. This section provides details on the characters pulled from the episodes. Honorary Bradys Alan Melvin (Sam the Butcher) and Robbie Rist (Cousin Oliver Martin) are listed as well. The replacement Brady Girls and extended Brady tree are noted. Robbie Rist is interviewed and chats about how he landed the gig on the show, the "Cousin Oliver Syndrome", working with the cast and fun stories from the set, and what he is doing today.
Chapter Seven is titled The Brady Stories. This is an episode guide and is the largest section of the book. Episode titles, writing/directing credits, original airdates and short summaries are provided. While the summaries aren't as detailed as some of the previous Brady Bunch books, there are some cool tips, tidbits of trivia about the episodes, and notes on the cast and guest stars included. This would be a pretty good reference for answering trivia questions. There is also a section on various Brady Bunch toys and records and a very short interview with Steve Sandberg who produced new Brady dolls for ClassicTVToys.com .
Final Comments: Overall, I liked the book and it would be a worthy addition to your Brady Bunch library. It's organized nicely and researched well. There are about 15 or so black and white photos scattered throughout the book. It wasn't as detailed as some of the previous books published over the years on the series. Other books have provided more detailed information on the history of the show and behind-the-scenes details on the cast, but this book has a nice mix of all things Brady. The most interesting sections were the interviews with the cast and crew. Some unique questions were asked and it was interesting reading their responses. The book probably could have benefited from even more interviews with the cast. The author is pictured with other cast members who weren't interviewed, so it's a bit surprising they weren't asked any questions. As a fan of The Brady Bunch for over 30 years, I can never have enough information on the show and cast and I recommend you pick up this groovy book for the 40th anniversary of the show.
Reviewed by Todd Fuller
To purchase this book, click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:
The Official Mike Pingel Website
Love to Love You Bradys: the bizarre story of The Brady Bunch Variety Hour
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Monday, January 23
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