Here’s the Story: A Pop Culture Phenomenon

On September 26, 1969, the first episode of acclaimed television show “The Brady Bunch” appeared on ABC. While most of us now are familiar with the Bradys and can probably sing at least one verse of their iconic theme song, the show was actually not very popular during its original five seasons. It wasn’t until the late 70s, when the show was in reruns, that children and teens became infatuated with this ideal American family. What was it about the Bradys that drew such a dedicated fan base almost a decade after its original airing?

“The Brady Bunch” was created by Sherwood Schwartz, who was also the creator of the famous 1960s sitcom, “Gillian’s Island.” Apparently, Schwartz got the idea for the show when reading an article in the Los Angeles Times that said that in 1966, “30 percent of marriages involved children from a previous relationship.” Schwartz wrote the pilot and submitted it to several networks who weren’t sure about a television show with such an unfamiliar premise. Shortly after, however, the movie Yours, Mine, and Ours starring Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda premiered and became a hit. After its success, ABC picked up Schwartz’s pilot with a similar premise and began filming the first season.

The show, in which Carol Martin and Mike Brady get married and bring their six children (her three girls: Marcia, Jan, and Cindy and his three boys: Greg, Peter, and Bobby) to live in a beautiful home in an LA suburb, revolved around the children and the pitfalls they faced in the process of growing up. During the years it originally aired (1969-1974), critics did not have great things to say about the show, claiming it was too cheesy. After its cancellation, ABC began rerunning the episodes on weekday afternoons. Children and teens who were just getting home from school gathered around the television set to watch. An article in Entertainment Weekly from the 90s suggests that the show resonated so deeply with this group because “the show was a picture of stability while Vietnam and the sexual revolution rocked the rest of the world. While our real-life parents were splitting up at an alarming rate, those goody-goody Bradys were telling us a shameless lie about family life. We desperately believed it. Most of all, this was the family that the latchkey kids came home to every day after school, the family we could always count on.”

In the 50 years since the Bradys appeared on television, many television shows featuring unique family structures have become national treasures, including “Full House,” “Modern Family,” “Gilmore Girls,” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” What television executives learned from the Bradys and then applied to these other shows is that we love to see a family that takes a difficult situation and makes it good and funny and wholesome.

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