Lessons of “The Brady Bunch”

Like most television shows, The Brady Bunch is a fantasy.  How many families have superstar athletes and iconic entertainers visiting their homes?  Unlike most television shows, The Brady Bunch is a tremendous instructor of life lessons.

Premiering on ABC in 1969 and ending in 1974, The Brady Bunch spawned several spinoffs — a Saturday morning cartoon show, a comedy-variety show, three tv-movies, a situation comedy, a drama, and two films.  But the mother ship gave ethics, morals, and values that are burned into the memory banks of those who saw the show in prime time and in countless reruns after reruns.

Don’t play ball in the house.  (Prevent accidents by not taking unnecessary risks.)

Adios Johnny Bravo.  (Be true to yourself.)

Caveat Emptor.  (Let the buyer beware.)

While some situations were fantastic, improbable, or even downright ridiculous, others showed universal problems.  Therein lies the genius of a show that appears, on the surface, to be merely a sugar-coated view of family life.  The Brady Bunch depicted issues with realism, sensitivity, and, perhaps, even a touch of gravitas along the way.

Sure, your family probably never got locked in an abandoned town’s prison on the way to the Grand Canyon.

Your family probably never experienced dangers on a family vacation, for example, a surfing wipeout, a tarantula, or a hula injury.

And your family probably never performed songs at local amateur talent contests.

But other dilemmas may be familiar.

As children on the cusp of their teenage years begin the journey from adolescence to adulthood, they undergo physical changes.  When Peter Brady’s voice goes through a transformation into a deeper tone, he’s speaking for every boy going through that awkward, unavoidable, and noticeable transition during puberty.

When Bobby and Cindy try to break a see-saw record to get attention, they’re speaking for all children suffering from the belief that older kids and adults ignore them.

When Jan refuses to wear her glasses because of vanity, she’s speaking for every child who fears being called “four eyes” or another derogatory name.

Every teenager strives for independence.  Greg Brady’s road to independence went straight through the Bradys’ attic.  He convinces his parents that he deserves his own room, largely because he is the oldest child.  With a one-year seniority ahead of Marcia, Greg symbolized the perks of being an older sibling.  But Marcia didn’t lose every battle with Greg.

Marcia won a driving contest against him after he boasted about his superior driving skills.  And we learned a huge lesson about cockiness.

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