October 7th: The Brady Bunch

Here's a story.

Pay no attention to that Vietnam War, that Watergate break-in, or that shuttering of the Apollo moon program - we've journeyed back here in the early-1970s to find some peace and a little stability, okay? Following the bludgeoning administered by our impromptu Jane Curtin Tribute Extravaganza, we need to find solace in the arms of an enemy we know all too well.

The Brady Bunch

For possibly the first time in the show's history, we are actually relieved to see it. Spending two days floundering in the Curtin back-catalog will do that to a person. Here, we at least know what we're in for, correct? That's right, wood paneling and white belts - you've got it, friend.

Now, as my parents have always told it, having been raised during the original run of this program, they knew. You know - they knew. They knew it was dorky at the time. Kind of like my sister and I always knew that DJ Tanner's first day of school outfit could only lead to her eating alone in a phone booth, or that Joey Gladstone's material wasn't on-par with that of, say, Howie Mandel. We knew that that family was flawed and demented in their quest for happiness. As was apparently the case with the Bradys. "They were never cool," has been the standby dismissal from those children of the 60s, all of whom are now old enough to know that history is written by the survivors, if not the winners.

Do kids still pass through a Brady Bunch phase, I wonder? In the decades before streaming libraries, there were ample opportunities to get caught up with the clan through the endless rerunning of what must now be a threadbare syndication package. Back in the early days of cable, you could count on making fun of the Brady outfits for at least an hour of your day, knowing - just as our parents and the Brady-actors before us knew - that their's was a hollow grooviness, a grooviness so prefab and paisleyed, it could never groove as much as anyone wanted it to. That's just one of the many, many groovy curses associated with this family.

But is there another curse - a more haunted curse that they must deal with? It's time to get a baseline reading on our electromagnetic frequency detectors, because something about this place is off-putting and distinctly Brady...

Space: Los Angeles, CA
Time: October 27th, 1972
Episode: "Fright Night" Season 4, Episode 6

Right from the get-go, I have to throw a flag. It's time for all good Brady-children to be in bed, lights-out, the whole deal, so this must be, what - 10 o'clock? 11 at the latest? And what are Mike and Carol up to at this hour, hmmm? Heh-heh-heh, I think we all know what they're up to, heh-heh-heh. Only so many things a young couple like that can engage in at this time of night, heh. You know, consenting adults doing as consenting adults do... like working on their sculpt of Mr. Brady's head.

That's right, this power couple spends it's late-night sensual detours posing, kneading, scraping, and glazing clay into humanoid form, just like the rest of us. What, you're saying you and your mate don't spend your evenings like this? That's crazy! That would imply that this anomalous hobby of Carol's may fall prey to becoming a plot-point somewhere, some time - maybe even in this episode!

Anyway, not all is serene patriarchal effigy-shaping in the Brady house; Jan thinks she sees a ghost, because of course she does - it's a very "Jan" thing to do. But is there more to this run-of-the-mill corporeal shroud-haunting than meets the eye? The answer... just might surprise you.

Except it won't - no, this is all the result of the jackass brothers, who snicker and revel in their small deception, as though they'd pulled off the goddamn heist of the century. This prankery is soon figured out and dismissed by Mother and Father Bernini (The Bernini Bunch would've killed as a premise), soothing the hysterical younger daughters. But what of the oldest daughter, you ask?

For all the fun that's been had with Marcia over the years - you know, the trueness of her moral compass stemming directly from how attractive she is, and the "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!"-ness of everything she does - it's something of a relief to see proof that she actually was that way. Just look at this expression as she casts doubts upon and then ultimately dismisses the story of those who are ostensibly in her charge:

And Marcia does quickly emerge as representative for the double-x chromosomal faction of the household, sometimes going from the bedroom into a hallway bustling with activity in order to liaise with a representative for the parent-caucus, before reporting back carefully-filtered information to her cadre of sequestered priestesses.And it's only a matter of time before she begins pulling the puppet-strings she's so carefully unspooled, allowing them temporary-leave from their chambers to do a little old-fashioned snooping.

"What's a slide-projector doing under Greg's bed?" they ask, having broken into the boys' room and successfully rifled through their personal possessions. A great question, girls - until you replace the words "slide-projector" with "browser-window," and suddenly Greg's glaring audio/visual proclivities come sharply into focus. Ah, but I kid those Bradys and their human-desires. Check out Marcia, throwing some actual shade and blocking out most of Jan's face. You just know she posed that way with the ghost-slide on purpose.

Anyway, having reverse-engineered the ol' slide-projector trick (and mercifully not found Greg's other box of slides), they scheme up a plot of their own, this one a modest proposal of the boys spending a whole night in the attic without getting the witlessness scared out of them. Who would not take this bet? Just look at these greedy idiots:

Anyway, the fellas beg and plead with Mike and Carol for permission to sleep in the attic, puh-leeeeease, pretty-please?? The parents cave under this overwhelming, attic-based pressure, offering a considered, "Since tomorrow isn't a school day... sure." And things play out from there as you'd expect - the girls giggle over their new catch-phrase, "All systems are ghost," and the rivalry is brought to conclusion with the discovery that, doggone-it, the girls pranked the boys! To quote the tsking Carol: "Fun is fun, but you can take a joke too far!" Truer words have never been scolded-through, Carol!

And here we find these sage, motherly words of advice borne out, as both groups of pranksters join forces to create a super-prank to play on that unsuspecting, kind-hearted, simple housekeeper, Alice. Oh, Alice says she doesn't scare, does she? Well, let's see what happens when she's faced with the illuminated skull of her beloved meat-man, Sam, huh!?

Or the ghostly waves of bed linens that died too soon, flying at her stupid, lovable, housekeeping-face! Take THAT, Alice, you perfectly-pleasant, wonderfully-agreeable, genuinely good person - here, have the stuffing scared out of your ignorant, helpful-self! Cook our meals and care for our general well-being, will ya!? Well, here's what I say to that!

Oh, I'm sorry - were you not really Alice, but rather Mike and Carol, bumbling through the house while carrying around that stupid husband-sculpture, only to have Alice accidentally destroy it while she cries out in her fear of the unknown?

Is that what happened? Oh boy. I blame Greg. Or Jan. Or Cousin Oliver. Anybody but Marcia. Because, you know: Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.