October 9, 2019

THE WAY WE ALL BECAME THE BRADY BUNCH by Kimberly Potts



Synopsis:   In celebration of The Brady Bunch's 50th anniversary, TV writer Kimberly Potts writes a Seinfeldia-like definitive history of the show that changed the family sitcom and made an indelible impact on pop culture.

There isn't a person in this country who hasn't heard of The Brady Bunch.  Whether it's the show they watched growing up, or the one their parents did -- whether adored, or great to poke fun at -- The Brady Bunch is unarguably one of the most enduring and inspiring TV shows of our time.  It's lived a dozen lives, from its original comedy debut and big-screen movies, to the Emmy-winning TV auteurs it has inspired -- everyone from Vince Gilligan to Jill Soloway -- and promises to live many more.

In The Way We All Became The Brady Bunch, TV and pop culture writer Kimberly Potts will draw upon her deep knowledge of and appreciation for The Brady Bunch and television and pop culture history, as well as her contacts, connections, and experience, to provide an industry insider narrative of The Brady Bunch.  With fresh interviews, The Way We All Became The Brady Bunch will examine the show's lasting effects on its audience and take readers behind the scenes and into the lives of our most beloved characters, all to document why The Brady Bunch was one of the most groundbreaking shows of its time -- and why it remains to this day, unforgettable.


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Serious disclaimer here:  I am a serious Bradyphile.  Honestly.  I know it's not totally groovy to admit that - - or maybe it is now, 50 years after the iconic sitcom debuted to lukewarm (or flat out vicious) reviews -- but there it is.  One of my warmest and strongest memories of childhood (and yes, even into and through adolescence) was coming home from school to watch the syndicated episodes of the perfect blended family.  No matter how stressed or upset or tired I was from school, catching up with the Bradys always made me feel good and it didn't matter how many times I had already seen a particular episode (because I had and have seen them all many, many times.)  The quintessential Bunch always put a smile on my face, a lift in my heart and could be watched over and over.

Joining the library of Brady-themed tomes is Kimberly Potts' telling of (as the cover tells us) "How the Cancelled Sitcom Became the Beloved Pop Culture Icon We Are Still Talking About Today."  Truer words, right?  I'm sure no one - - creator Sherwood Schwartz, the execs at ABC, nor the stars -- and particularly not star Robert Reed -- would have guessed back in 1968 when the pilot was filmed, or in September of 1969, when the first episode aired, that fifty years on, not only would the show still be airing but would have spawned a massive franchise that included a variety hour, cartoons, reunion-type shows, television movies, theatrical releases, plays and, of course, the ubiquitous merchandise.

Yet, here we are with The Brady Bunch not only still a part of America (perhaps more so than back during the 1969-1974 original run of the series) but with the fascination still there, as evidenced by HGTV's September 2019 four-part limited series in which various designers are helped by the six original Brady kids to renovate the home that was used for exterior shots as the Brady residence into the actual Brady residence as seen on our television screens.  Far out!

I found The Way We All Became the Brady Bunch a quick and enjoyable read (as any true Brady fan would.)  Ms. Potts starts from the beginning, long before the lovely lady ever met the man named Brady, with Sherwood Schwartz, who aimed to be a doctor before the entertainment field beckoned.  (Can you imagine if Schwartz had not gone to Hollywood?  No Bradys, no Gilligan's Island!)  She tells the backstory of how Schwartz came up with the concept for the Bunch (a newspaper article) and how our beloved show could have been called The Bradley Brood (horrors!).   Maybe not unknown facts for a ride-or-die Bradyphile but Ms. Potts does manage to throw in some facts/gossip/entertainment that was relatively new to me.  I won't spoil it for those who haven't read the book yet, other than this one that was a particular fave of mine:  At the time that Florence Henderson unexpectedly passed away in 2016, she was in talks with producer Lloyd Schwartz (Sherwood's son) to revive the Bunch, with Carol as a widow who dates and eventually marries a younger man (to the tune of 30 years) who is a friend of one of her children.  Scandalous!  And so juicy.  Sigh.  What could have been . . .

Ms. Potts interviewed many original Bradys as well as those on the Brady periphery and was able to fashion together a wonderful remembrance of the series, as well as the franchise itself.  I'm always pleased when such offerings as The Brady Girls Get Married and its short-lived spinoff, The Brady Brides aren't given short shrift and are acknowledged.  They certainly weren't Shakespeare but remain beloved by this writer.

I appreciated the pages that were given to Robert Reed, Florence Henderson, and Ann B. Davis, all of whom we have lost.  Most of the Brady-realizing public has heard that Reed was difficult on set for a variety of factors (but never in front of the children) so it was nice to read a counterbalance in which his kindness and generosity was highlighted, as well as his post-Brady work.   I personally loved hearing that Henderson was vastly different from the prim and proper Brady matron, with a crazy sense of humor, and that Davis was fond of fast sports cars that she would race around L.A.

The part of me that welcomes irony found it humorous to read the scathing reviews that were printed after the first episode aired, the authors of which forecast a short shelf life for the Bradys (and Alice!) and did not believe the series would resonate with anyone.  Boy, did they have to eat their words!  Not only did the series resonate and continues to do so but the Brady formula was the impetus behind many shows that followed.

In finishing the book, I was left feeling warm and fuzzy and with a renewed appreciation for the fictional family, as well as the real-life persons (writers, directors, actors, producers) who brought the show to life.  It's gratifying to know that the Bradys lived on in people's hearts for decades and will continue to do so.

If you're a Brady fan, you simply must pick this book up.  Even if you're not one that would choose to visit 4222 Clinton Way and hang out with the Bradys for a good old fashioned potato sack race or a roaring 20s party, you should find the book interesting and enjoyable.  Pull up a chair in your orange and green kitchen, fix a plate of pork chops and applesauce and dig in!

The Way We All Became the Brady Bunch will be released on December 3, 2019.  You can preorder the book now at major booksellers and on Amazon.

FTC Disclosure:  The review copy of this book was provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.  The provision of this book did not affect the outcome of my review.  I was neither paid nor compensated for this review.   

October 2, 2019

BENEATH THE ATTIC by V. C. Andrews



Synposis:  Forbidden passions have shaped and haunted the Dollanganger family since their first novel -- Flowers in the Attic --  debuted forty years ago.  Now discover how twisted the family roots truly are, and witness the clan's origins as a result of one wild and complicated relationship.  In this evocative and thrilling tale from New York Times bestselling author V.C. Andrews, see Corrine Dixon as a young girl and discover the fascinating family history of the Dollanganger clan.

Two generations before Corinne Foxworth locked her children in an attic, her grandmother, a gorgeous young girl named Corrine Dixon, is swept away by the charms of rich, sophisticated, and handsome Garland Foxworth. After discovering that she’s pregnant, Garland does what appears to be the honorable thing and marries her in a huge ceremony on the luxurious Foxworth Hall grounds. Both families fervently overlook the pregnancy, happy for a suitable resolution.

Now the mistress of a labyrinthine estate, Corrine discovers that nothing is what is seems. Garland is not the man once captivated by her charms, and she’s increasingly troubled by his infatuation with memories of his departed mother.

Can Corrine survive this strange new life? Or is her fate already sealed?

Explore the origins of the legendary Dollanganger family in this page-turning, gripping gothic thriller.


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Be forewarned:  Spoilers ahead!

V. C. Andrews was the first author I became obsessed with (understandable, right?  I was 12 or 13 and every girl in my school was toting around Flowers in the Attic).  Even today, the story still sticks with me.  After Ms. Andrews' early death in 1986, I continued to read some of the Andrews books by the ghostwriter until I found other authors to follow.

When I heard about Beneath the Attic, I knew I had to give it a shot because Ms. Andrews never revealed much about the Dollanganger children's paternal great-grandmother, the infamous Corrine, other than Garland Foxworth was desperately in love with her and she ran off with someone else, leaving him and their son Malcom bereft.  So even though the beloved V.C. didn't pen this, I was still interested in reading some Dollanganger back story.

This is where it gets painful.  Firstly, I thoroughly disliked Corrine for much of the book.  I get that she's supposed to be a tween and then teen but she was disgustingly annoying.  Somewhat similar to her future granddaughter (and namesake) Corrine and her great-granddaughter, Cathy (she of Flowers in the Attic), she is blessed with gorgeous blonde hair and oh-so-blue eyes.  She's beautiful and she knows it, y'all.   And like her granddaughter and great-granddaughter, that beauty is clearly going to cause her nothing but problems.

Speaking of, those problems were . . . well, boring.  Original recipe Corrine comes from a well-to-do family; she's an only child with a father who adores her and a mother that either attempts to helicopter-parent her before it's trendy (the book mostly allegedly takes place circa 1890) and/or is envious of her daughter.  The friends she has seem to be of a purely shallow, superficial type -- and they were quickly dropped and forgotten once Corrine meets Garland Foxworth.  In fact, the friendships appear to be social occasions in which Corrine can stress to the other girls how pretty she is, make herself feel good about it, and tell tall tales about how much she knows about boys and sex (hint: very little.)

Again, that it until she meets Garland Foxworth.  This may be my biggest problem with Beneath the Attic.  In all previous Dollanganger sagas, Garland was portrayed as a good, decent man who was deeply in love with his first wife and devastated by her betrayal.  I guess no Andrews book, whether by V.C. or the ghostwriter, is complete with at least one rape scene, regardless of the parties involved.  Garland is utterly unrecognizable in this incarnation, between taking advantage of the flighty and somewhat stupid Corrine and then his 1890s version of ghosting, which only seems to change due to Corrine's father's interference.  And would Mr. Dixon be so calm over Corrine's situation?  I'm thinking not.  It was 1890, not 1990.

Regardless, I kept turning the pages, hoping not only for the story to pick up and get interesting but also hoping for some insight into characters the public was first introduced to in 1979.  If you're looking for that, as I was, sorry, folks.  You will be disappointed.

Not only does Beneath the Attic not give any real insight into either Corrine or Garland but the "story" ends before Corrine and Garland even marry - - despite the book synopsis mentioning that Corrine is now the mistress of an estate.  She is not.  Sure, we know they marry but the ending felt rushed and it was totally set up for another book or books.

I hate to say this but Beneath the Attic comes off like a cash grab, hoping to entice fans of Flowers, the Dollangangers, and V.C. Andrews.  The Andrews name does still guarantee book sales, and the Dollanganger connection certainly doesn't hurt but the story is so flimsy, I can't recommend this book.  It's a shame too because the original Corrine's story could have been a fascinating one, had the character been given any depth.

Beneath the Attic is available for purchase at major booksellers, in physical and e-book format, and as an audio book through Audible.

FTC Disclosure:  The review copy of this book was provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.  The provision of this book did not affect the outcome of my review.  I was neither paid nor compensated for this review.