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.   

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