In 10 Words or Less
The second season for the Bradys
Likes: "The Brady Bunch," '70s cheese
Dislikes: No extras, early Marcia
The Story So Far...
The story of a lovely lady and a man named Brady started in 1969 and was told for five seasons, as the blended Brady family, with three girls and three boys, represented an idyllic home life that gave America an escapist fantasy to enjoy, one that remains entertaining today, even if it is extremely cheesy and dated.
Paramount released Season One of "The Brady Bunch" on DVD in March of 2005. DVDTalk has a review of that set here.
The first season got the ball rolling, bringing together the two sides of the Bunch and establishing the feel of the show. Nothing much would change in the second year, as the show honed the sibling rivalry to establish a consistent theme. Whether it was Bobby feeling shortchanged because his brothers and sisters all have won awards or Jan wanting to stand out from Marcia and Cindy, the dynamic between the six Brady kids was essentially the dynamic of the show. But even when they were at each other's throats, they were still there for each other, such as when Peter stands up to a bully for Cindy in "A Fistful of Reasons," or when the kids risk missing a vacation to save Peter's bacon in "Confessions, Confessions." It's that kind of give and take in the family that somewhat grounded an otherwise fantasy show.
Though the first season of the series delivered many of the most memorable episodes in the show's history, there were plenty more left for Season Two. "Where There's Smoke..." features a family scandal, as Greg gets busted for smoking, while "Will the Real Jan Brady Please Stand Up?" features Jan's goofy curly black wig, as part of her ongoing anti-Marcia efforts. And if anyone can watch "The Winner," where Bobby competes in a messy ice cream-eating contest with the King of Kartoons, and forget the gloopy climax or the disturbing show host, you're a better man (or woman) than I.
This season put something on a spotlight on Cindy and Jan, with eight episodes focused on them. Jan had three episodes centered around her neuroses, while Cindy was the focus of five episodes of her own, often because of some trouble she causes. The phrase "She sells seashells by the seashore" is memorable when delivered by a lisping Cindy in "Fistful," and leads to Bobby getting a black eye, while she may have put "tattle-tale" into the lexicon of a new generation with the appropriately named "The Tattle-Tale."
Jan also caused her share of trouble, but it was normally all brought onto herself. When she wasn't making up a boyfriend named George Glass in "The Not-So-Ugly Duckling," she was playing practical jokes on her family and letting a mouse loose on the house. I can't imagine anyone but a middle child appreciating her problems, and she became something of a cultural joke as the least well-adjusted Brady kid.
One of the best parts of watching a show of this age that reflects the time period, is seeing how much things change, as well as how much they don't change. For instance, in "Smoke," Carol and Greg talk badly about smoking, saying that they smoked as kids because they "didn't have all the evidence" they did. Yet, it would take almost 30 more years before any real action was taken on smoking. Meanwhile, in "The Liberation of Marcia Brady," the concept of women's liberation is handled with such a way that would cause protests now.
The most dated episode might be "Our Son, The Man," which finds Greg attempting to force his way into adulthood. The way he goes about it, with awful late-'60s clothes and a garishly decorated "pad," is pure '70s cheese. A running joke in the series is Greg's "far out" talk, which was just as stupid then as it is now.
It's worth noting that this season, the theme song is sung not by The Peppermint Trolley Company, but by the Brady Kids, and that the outfits worn by the Bunch in the opening and closing titles changed from Season One. Considering the show wasn't exactly a ratings success, to have worried about such matters back in 1970 was a rarity on TV.
The second season of The Brady Bunch arrives on DVD the same way the first did, in a four-disc set, packaged in two dual-disc ThinPaks. These cases are probably the best thing Paramount has done for their DVDTV sets. Each ThinPak has a two-sided cover that lists all the episodes on the back (with a synopsis for each), and a couple of quotes on the inside. The two cases come in a cardboard slipcase with a nicely-designed lenticular animation cover with this season's tic-tac-doe outfits.
The discs feature static, full-frame menus, that list all the episodes and includes a play-all feature. The menus are standard across the four discs, and less complex than the first season's. There are no subtitles or language options, but the episodes do have closed captioning. Each episode also begins with the classic "Brady Bunch IN COLOR" still image that sets the mood nicely.
The Season Two DVDs feature one less episode than the first set, with 24 episodes, split evenly across the four discs. Here's the episode breakdown for each disc:
1. The Dropout
2. The Babysitters
3. The Slumber Caper
4. The Un-Underground Movie
5. Going, Going...Steady
6. Call Me Irresponsible
7. The Treasure of Sierra Avenue
8. A Fistful of Reasons
9. The Not-So-Ugly Duckling
10. The Tattle-Tale
11. What Goes Up...
12. Confessions, Confessions
13. The Impractical Joker
14. Where There's Smoke
15. Will the Real Jan Brady Please Stand Up?
16. The Drummer Boy
17. Coming-Out Party
18. Our Son, The Man
19. The Liberation of Marcia Brady
20. Lights Out
21. The Winner
22. Double Parked
23. Alice's September Song
24. Tell it Like it Is
One can't be certain, but the lack of effort put into this set's extras (see the Extras) seems to have carried over to the color quality of the episodes. Whereas the full-frame episodes on the first DVDs looked fantastic at times, this set just seems a bit dull overall. The same problems with consistency that plagued the first episodes are back again, as the color quality will change in the middle of a scene, sometimes from camera to camera. The first episode, "The Dropout," and episode eight, "Fistful" are two of the worst offenders, as they look as if they were colorized, instead of shot in color. When the video works, the color is bright and clear, with a decent amount of detail, but that's not often the case. One place where the transfers work well though is in terms of how clean they are, without much in terms of dirt or damage, though "Fistful" has a consistent floating hair that becomes distracting about halfway through the episode.
The audio fares better, presenting a solid, if unspectactular Dolby Digital feed of a mono mix. The sound is clean, without distortion, and is well-representative of the times.
Paramount has really dropped the ball here. After putting together three entertaining commentaries for Season One and a featurette, they left this season high and dry. The only extras on this set are the previews on Disc One, which are the same as every other Paramount release. It's about time they get updated, as "Happy Days" Season One hasn't been "coming soon" since August of 2004.
The Bottom Line
Season Two of "The Brady Bunch" presents even more classic Brady plots, including the introduction of George Glass, Greg's smoking and Cindy's lisp. And with Greg in high school, the show has an even deeper root in '60s/'70s pop culture, increasing the cheese factor. The DVD presentation isn't optimal in terms of color, one of the show's key attributes, but is pretty good otherwise. Unfortunately, Paramount decided to follow up the quality extras from Season One with a big fat nothing on Season Two. Fans will want to own it for a sense of completion, but anyone else will feel disappointed paying for something they can watch for free on TV twice a day.