Here's the story... of a bunch named Brady...
The kids, three girls and three boys, ranged in age from little Bobby and Cindy, to pre-teen Greg and Marcia, enabling the show to tackle tons of different storylines, as there was always a child at the right stage of life. Make no mistake, "The Brady Bunch" may have had nine cast members, but the show was only about six of them. The adults were somewhat superfluous, existing mainly to enhance the reality of the show and to provide the kids with foils and subjects of comparison, to illustrate differences. They may have been the motivation, but Mike and Carol were pushed into the background more often than not. That's not to say they didn't have their impact, but most of the plots focused on one or more of the younger six Bradys, leaving just three episodes in the first season focused on the parents, including two, "Is There a Doctor in the House?" and "The Grass is Always Greener", that are just extensions of their kids' battle of the sexes.
Surprisingly, Season One got off to a quick start, presenting some of the most classic and best remembered moments and ongoing concepts in the series' five-year run. The slapstick-heavy pilot episode, "The Honeymoon" set the tone, introducing the main players and homes for Mike and Carol, that wouldn't be seen again, as well as the first Mrs. Brady. "Sorry, Right Number" is one of the most memorable of Mike's schemes to teach the kids a lesson, as he replaces the house phone with a pay phone to cut down on the kids' calling. The sibling rivalry between the girls and boys, which would be a theme for most of the series' run, gets going right away also, in episodes like "A Clubhouse Is Not a Home" and "Vote for Brady," which pits Greg versus Marcia for student class president. As would be expected, Marcia is the center of attention several times, including "Father of the Year," "Brace Yourself" (a classic take on dental braces) and "The Possible Dream," the first of Marcia's star crush episodes, where she gets to meet Desi Arnaz, Jr. It doesn't get much bigger than that.
Considering the cheese factor and the dated nature of everything from the late '60s, the show really is not that bad. The kids are very good actors, and the material they have to work with doesn't handcuff them, which makes them more real than kids on similar shows from that era. Robert Reed and Florence Henderson are just as good as the parents every kid would love to have, as they portray a straitlaced, but extremely loving couple. This isn't Masterpiece Theater, but ignore the '60s stuff and there's a damn good family show underneath that can stand the test of time. Plus, Cousin Oliver hasn't shown up yet, which makes it twice as enjoyable by comparison.
These discs are stuffed, with each holding at least six episodes, and seven on the first platter. At 25 minutes each, that's plenty of Brady to enjoy. Here's the episode breakdown for each disc:
The audio is simple Dolby Digital Mono, which is exactly what you would expect for a show from 1969. The mix is crystal clear, without any distortion, and the music and dialogue co-exist peacefully. Unlike most shows, there's a lot of overlapping talk, but it's easy to pick apart. An excellent aural presentation.
In the other two tracks, we hear from three of the grown-up Brady kids: Barry "Greg" Williams, Christopher "Peter" Knight and Susan "Cindy" Olsen. Their commentaries are a bit more lively, as the three friends play off each other, taking the track in a more adult direction than one might expect for a family release. For the most part, the trio makes fun of the costumes and set, talk about the plot, and talk about what it was like to make the show. There's not much in terms of sentimentality, which makes them more fun. Sure, most of the gossip has been spilt many times before, but in this format, watching along with them, listening to the Bradys is definitely entertaining.
A 15-minute featurette is also included on the fourth DVD, titled "'The Brady Bunch': Coming Together Under One Roof." Schwartz is back, filling the main storyteller role, in a look-back at the series. Joining in for the featurette are Schwartz' son Lloyd, Mike "Bobby" Lookinland and the author of "The Brady Bunch" Files. There's some overlapping between the featurette and the commentaries, but with some new players involved, lots of footage from the show and some rare photos, it's an interesting bonus that's well-worth a look. Some of the facts about the show that are revealed seem relatively unknown to casual fans, such as Schwartz' first choice to play Mike Brady.
The first disc also includes trailers for several other Paramount TV DVDs, which are forced before the menu and can be chosen as an option on the menu.
The Bottom Line