It would be very hard to pick out a single cultural artifact that somehow manages to embody all of Seventies pop culture, but the Brady Bunch’s short-lived variety show would certainly be a strong contender. For those who weren’t watching ABC between November 1976 and May 1977, The Brady Bunch Hour featured the cast of the original show staging elaborate song-and-dance routines mixed in with comedy segments and even domestic scenes of the family in a new home. In a bizarre twist, they did the whole thing in character as if it made any sense for a random architect’s family to have a variety show.
The Brady Bunch had only been off the air for two-and-a-half years when the The Brady Bunch Hour went onto the air, but the reruns had never stopped airing. Variety shows were at the peak of their popularity, and after some of the Brady kids guested on Donny & Marie to big ratings, the whole family quickly got their own show. As would be the case with nearly every future Brady reunion, there was a single holdout. In this cast, it was Eve “Jan Brady” Plumb. She originally agreed, but then balked at the demand that she sign a five-year deal. She was replaced by lookalike Geri Reischl.
The show didn’t look all that different from your standard variety show of the era when you remove the weird scenes of the family at home, but viewed today the episodes all seem like a crazy acid flashback. Here’s a typical performance from the March 28th, 1977, episode when the Bradys do a medley of songs from movies. If you’ve ever wondered what “Pinball Wizard” and “Live and Let Die” would sound like if the Brady Bunch kids and not the Who and Paul McCartney performed them, you have to watch this. (Also, keep your eyes on Mike “Bobby Brady” Lookinland. He wasn’t a natural singer or dancer and was miserable throughout the entire run of this show.)
ABC pulled The Brady Bunch Hour after just nine episodes. Ratings were down and the show was simply too insane even by the standards of 1977 network television. They tried again in 1981 with the song-and-dance–free reunion movie The Brady Girls Get Married and the follow-up series The Brady Brides. Eve Plumb and the whole cast came back for that, but it was yanked after 10 episodes. When they tried again with A Very Brady Christmas in 1988, Susan “Cindy Brady” Olsen sat it out. The unexpected success of that lead to The Bradys in 1990. Susan Olsen came back for it, but this time they couldn’t get Maureen McCormick to play Marcia. That’s three for three on the Brady girls refusing to come back at one point. The boys, however, never said no to anything.
Throughout all of the reunion specials, nobody mentioned the 100-percent canonical fact that the family had their own variety show in 1977. And at no point on A Very Brady Christmas did the family begin dancing to the hit songs of the day. Like so much of the Seventies, the whole thing was simply forgotten by nearly everyone that was a part of it.