October 29th, 2017 by Proprietor
When someone produces work that is timeless, it does not mean it is produced in a way that any reference to it’s time period is somehow erased, it means that the message still resonates. Many people say Shakespeare is timeless. The message in the works can be adapted to current times. Hamlet would play just as well staged in a Wall Street Stockbroker’s office as the traditional colonial era royal court. Though not on the level of Shakespeare, the Brady Bunch encapsulates timelessness.
Though the clothing, and decor are heavily late 1960s and early 1970s era, the messages are still appropriate. Many would call the Brady Bunch campy, and out dated, except, it is still a very widely watched, highly syndicated show. Why? The timelessness of the messages.
The Brady Bunch was hardly a model of “traditional” family values. Both Mike and Carol were presumed widowed. Both had children from their previous marriage, and decided to marry. Blended families in the 1960s/1970s era were new. The cultural revolution had made divorce acceptable, except the producers of the Brady Bunch did stay away from that implication, because they were too afraid of alienating a segment of potential viewers. Even though there were stricter regulations during the Brady Bunch era, the producers could have had both Mike and Carol be divorced. The producers were savy enough to operate under the concept that many people might disapprove of divorced men and women remarrying. Also, the potential of ex-spouses brought in other possible story entanglements or problems the producers sought to avoid at the time. Today’s producers could learn something from this, because today’s producers seem intent on alienating anyone who does not agree with their view of society.
One of the timeless messages that resonated with many people was the strength of family. Even though the Brady Bunch was a blended family, the bunch was a family. The boys versus girls adversarial relationship gave way to standard sibling rivalry. Carol and Mike at first went out of their way to prove to the step children that the children meant as much as to them as their biological children, to being wholly accepted, and after the first season, all the Brady children viewed Mike and Carol as mom and dad wholeheartedly.
Many episodes revolved around how one child had a problem, the entire family was willing to step up and help that child. Even Alice, who was an outsider, and at times alienated in a few stories to a point where she wanted to quit or did quit, was accepted as part of the family. The children and parents going to extraordinary measures to make Alice feel like she was indeed an integral part of their lives, if not actual family member.
As the children aged, and the seasons continued, there were times when Mike or Carol would refer to a talent or skill a child had as being inherited from them. Greg had a great singing voice, and Carol would beam at how her son was so talented, and claim he inherited the talent from her, even though Carol was not Greg’s biological mother. The original ex-spouses were cast aside when it was no longer necessary, there were no stories that had the children morning their former parent’s death. Though today’s shows would at least do one or two shows in the first couple of season’s to show that the children were impacted by their parent’s demise.
When one watches the Brady Bunch, the timelessness comes from the fact that the producers were careful not to have episodes stuck within the actual time period. The 1960s and 1970s were rife with political counter culture, and it would be easy to have draft protests or civil rights issues dominate the shows. The Partridge Family was a show where it is almost difficult to watch because some of the episodes focus on actual politics of the time, and those things are now so alien to today’s viewers, they cannot relate. The closest the Brady Bunch came to politics was women’s liberation. Marcia felt women could do the same thing as men, joined Greg’s scout troop and did manage to succeed. In the end, Marcia demure to actually becoming a scout, and decided to go back to more female oriented things. There was also the fighting city hall to save a park episode. Thanks to Mike being an architect, he found a reasonable solution to the problem. Otherwise there was no worry about Greg possibly being drafted out of high school, he only focused on going to college. Johnny Bravo was more likely a danger to Greg’s college ambitions than the military.
In every episode, there was a primary problem that was the focus of one of the children, sometimes Alice or the parents, then there was a secondary issue. Marcia going into high school and not knowing anyone, so no longer being popular was the major focus of one episode, the secondary issue was Peter’s volcano for his science class. When Marcia was seeking membership into the most popular and powerful girl’s club in school, the Boosters, Peter’s volcano brought Marcia back to earth. Everything was wrapped up nicely. The message was about the need to be popular sometimes overwhelms one’s sense of self. Marcia soon realized she could be herself, and she would make friends and become popular.
The Brady Bunch still seems to hold some form of significance with people, though the generation that grew up on the show and remember it fondly from syndication are now aging, some of the iconic phrases are part of pop culture. Those of modern generations who watch the show, do seem to acknowledge that the show itself, and the messages do resonate.
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