Jennifer Walton: The corny, campy long-lasting appeal of ‘The Brady Bunch’


By Jennifer Walton - Guest Columnist



Marcia, Marcia, Marcia. What began as an innocuous line from a script has become the siren song for countless “The Brady Bunch” fans. Although the most time period-specific of TV shows, it has remained in style for generations of viewers 45 years after the original series ended.

As evidenced by the HGTV special “A Very Brady Renovation,” in which the supposed homestead is brought to life, viewers cannot get enough of this family, which is known for its symmetrical pairings of siblings. And, even though the final “Renovation” episode aired Sept. 30, do not despair. Reruns are available aplenty on stations and platforms that would have been unimaginable to Carol and Mike’s clan.

The appeal of “The Brady Bunch” is not evident at first glance. In all, the episodes were definitely corny and not particularly uproarious. While they dealt with some common teen-age issues, they were never cutting edge. However, upon examination, perhaps those aspects actually explain the show’s long-lasting appeal.

In all, the show made us laugh more than it made us think. Viewing “The Brady Bunch” is classic escapism, and in this way, the show remains true to its purpose.

The original series, which aired from 1969 to 1974, helped people relax during this turbulent time in American history, which included the Vietnam War, the Kent State shootings and Watergate. It was a time in which people questioned the direction of the country and the motives of its leaders.

That largely holds true in today’s incendiary political climate. Again, through the magic of spinoffs and reruns, the Brady clan is there to help us through our day, offer a moral lesson and remind us of life’s good side.

Also, for many veteran TV viewers, watching the Brady family is like going back to their childhoods, when times were easier. The type of low-impact conflicts experienced by the Brady family are a welcome relief from the strains of our everyday lives.

Further, although undeniably campy, “The Brady Bunch” was a cultural ground-breaker in many ways. Mike and Carol’s marriage offered the first TV blended family. Also, it was set in middle America, which was unusual for the time. Previously, most comedies were placed in big cities, such as “I Love Lucy,” or rural venues, such as Mayberry and “The Andy Griffith Show.”

Along those lines, the Brady Bunch’s storylines and family dynamics resonated with people. The Brady family dealt with everyday issues that are relatable. Also, anyone having a rotten day or bad childhood can relate to middle-child Jan, who was never going to win while trying to follow in the footsteps of older sister Marcia, apparently the prettiest and most popular teenager on the planet.

At the end of the day, the same reasons that critics would pan “The Brady Bunch” are the aspects for its long-lasting success.

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia. Maybe it’s a Brady Bunch world, and we are just living in it.

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By Jennifer Walton

Guest Columnist

Jennifer Walton, Ph.D., is the chair of communication and media studies at Ohio Northern University. She is also an avid TV expert who has studied pop culture extensively.

Jennifer Walton, Ph.D., is the chair of communication and media studies at Ohio Northern University. She is also an avid TV expert who has studied pop culture extensively.

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