Looking Back On ‘The Bradys,’ A Bizarre ‘Fuller House’-Type 1990 Reboot That Ran Against ‘Full House’

Senior Entertainment Writer
08.19.15 19 Comments

The Bradys

In 2016, Netflix will bring back Full House after a 21-year absence, something we think is a terrible idea. A lot is being made about the recent slew of “rebooted” television series from the ‘90s – which, yes, includes Fuller House, more X-Files and another season of Twin Peaks. (I use “reboot” loosely because these are more continuations of an established story than a true reboot.) It’s a new phenomenon! Even though it’s really not. Still, I wanted to find an example a television show from the ‘90s that brought back an entity from two decades earlier – preferably a comedy, something that truly parallels Full House. This led me to a show that used to air at the same time as the original Full House — The Bradys.

The Bradys was a 1990 CBS continuation of The Brady Bunch, though this new series decided to ditch the concept of a half-hour comedy and, instead, transform the series into an hour-long drama. First, could you imagine the Internet uproar if something like this show were released today? Not only the (justified) claims about nostalgia for the sake of nostalgia, but the fact that it was an honest to goodness drama? This really would be like if Fuller House took itself completely seriously and we, the audience, were expected to just accept all of this as normal. They even took the original Brady Bunch theme song and made it more… serious?

The strangest thing about comparing The Bradys and Fuller House is that when The Bradys premiered, it really did seem like it had been a lifetime since The Brady Bunch had gone off the air, and everyone in the cast who had been in the original series looked significantly older. But The Brady Bunch ended its run in 1974, meaning that its return as The Bradys was five years less than the gap between Full House and Fuller House — and not to mention that John Stamos doesn’t even look like he’s aged that much, if at all. (When Robert Reed played Mike Brady in The Bradys, he was 57 years old; John Stamos is only five years younger.) Yet, it really doesn’t seem all that long ago that Full House was on the air.

(The Bradys was actually the seventh separate Brady entity: Following the original series, there was The Brady Kids cartoon, The Brady Bunch Hour variety show, The Brady Girls Get Married television movie, The Brady Brides series that lasted 10 episodes, and the A Very Brady Christmas television movie. And yet, it was still a very odd thing for The Bradys to ever exist, even though maybe it shouldn’t have been.)

Watching these episodes now, the new, serious tone of The Bradys is set in the first episode when Bobby Brady (Mike Lookinland) is paralyzed from the waist down after a racing accident. (Reading that sentence again, I still feel like there’s no way that can be true.) Remember, The Brady Bunch was a television show with plots featuring the pressing concerns about a swollen nose, or how puberty can cause a voice to crack, or meeting Davy Jones. Now, all of a sudden, Bobby Brady is a paraplegic. (It’s not too surprising that The Bradys would only last six episodes. Or that, five years later, a parody movie would be made that would win its debut weekend.)

In the third episode, “A Moving Experience,” the Bradys are informed that the Department of Transportation wants to build a new freeway off-ramp through the location that their house currently sits. Mike then organizes a neighborhood protest, which leads Mike to a new political career, running for city councilman – a position Mike balks at initially because, “Men with mustaches don’t run for office.” He may be right. (Oh yeah, in the end, they just decide to move the house, which at first I thought was a joke until I remembered this show is now a drama.)

The strangest part of this episode is when Mike and Carol (Robert Reed and Florence Henderson) nostalgically tour each room of the house, which is then intermittently interrupted by a series of flashbacks to a much more hilarious time. “Remember when all we had to worry about was the washing machine room filling with suds? Haha.” Every original Brady here is represented, except for Marcia, because Maureen McCormick, who had participated in all the other Brady revivals, decided that The Bradys was one too many — which makes Maureen McCormick look very smart, in retrospect. Marcia is replaced on the show by Leah Ayres, who looks nothing like Maureen McCormick – to the point that every time she appeared on screen, I would ask myself, “Who is that?” Also, Marcia battles alcoholism during the course of this series, mainly because, from what I can tell, her husband is a loser. Again, this show lasted only six episodes.

My favorite line in the series does come from this episode. Cindy, who is now a morning disc jockey, meets the children of the divorcee she’s been dating. The divorcee’s daughter, not reacting well to the situation, tells Cindy, “Lady, I’m never listening to your show again. I bet you like Barry Manilow.” Luckily for this little girl, she only had three episodes more to ignore.

In the final episode, “The Party Girls,” Bobby’s wife, Tracy (played by Martha Quinn, because why not?) teams up with the now-Dr. Greg Brady’s wife, Nora (Caryn Richman), and the fake Marcia Brady to start a catering business. Their first gig is for a German-themed event Mike Brady is hosting at the now-moved Brady residence for an Australian ambassador (this show!), which almost turns tragic when Peter (Christopher Knight) chokes on an hors d’oeuvre and almost dies (this show!). Luckily, a mustachioed Greg (Barry Williams) gives Peter mouth to mouth, because he’s a doctor, saving Peter’s life at the last second.

(It’s here I should mention that Dr. Greg Brady and Nora Brady spawned a pre-Home Improvement Jonathan Taylor Thomas.)

Anyway, “rebooting” isn’t really a new thing. In the ’80s, there was The New Monkees, The New Perry Mason, a new Twilight Zone and probably still the oddest reboot, Trapper John, M.D.* So, no matter how weird it is that Full House is returning, it’s nowhere near as weird as the hour-long drama that would give us our final look at the original The Brady Bunch characters. And let’s just hope that the Tanner family can at least avoid life-threatening injuries, alcoholism, choking to death, political aspirations… and Jonathan Taylor Thomas.

*In the series M*A*S*H, Trapper was played by Wayne Rogers and left the show after a contract dispute after the third season ended. Later, Pernell Roberts would play the role on Trapper John, M.D., but his character had nothing to do with the television series and was a continuation of the character from Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H movie, played by Elliott Gould.

Mike Ryan has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and New York magazine. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.

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