Artifact Introduction: The Brady Bunch

The Brady Bunch aired on September 26, 1969. The show was about a blended stepfamily. Mike and Carol along with their six children from prior marriages appeared in 117 episodes until 1974. Throughout the decades, comedies have changed since the ‘60s and ‘70s. There’s a larger focus on incorporating sexual content. The Brady Bunch tried to teach a lesson in each episode while incorporating some sort of comedic relief. Even though The Brady Bunch was labeled as a sitcom (Situational Comedy), it was not that comedic but still remained an American classic. The creator, Sherwood Schwartz had developed the show in 1966. He had a vision that the Brady’s would attract viewers that were looking for an ideal yet unconventional family [2]. How often do we get to see stepfamilies become such a close-knit cohesive bunch? No one knew how much of an impact the show would have for future generations. Maybe Schwartz knew the recipe for success. He was also a producer for Gilligan’s Island, another American classic. [2]

It’s difficult to imagine what pop culture would be without The Brady Bunch, an American Classic. The producers were unsure of it’s future and certainty had no idea on the impact it would have. It’s interesting that the show was never renewed for a whole season until it’s final one (season five). At its peak, the show reached #34 on the Neilson ratings. [5] What made The Brady Bunch such an influential sitcom? My research concluded that the show was a pillar of stability during its era. As the Vietnam War neared its final leg and the rock and roll sexual revolution ignited, America was in an unstable state. Parents were divorcing at an alarming rate. America’s divorce rate started to gradually increase in the late 1960’s and throughout the ‘70s. Eventually every state adopted the no-fault divorce laws. Spouses who wanted to end their marriage did not have to provide any evidence of adultery or cruelty. According to a 2011 Census Bureau, the divorce rate was 33% in 1970 and 48% in 1975. With so many dysfunctional families in America, there was a yearning for more serenity and innocence. Schwartz took advantage of the current state of America and put together a fictional family that America would love despite it’s poor ratings.

Shows like The Brady Bunch have significantly impacted today’s pop culture. It showed us that an unorthodox family can be normal. The Brady’s paved the way for shows such as Full House and Modern Family. In the ‘50s, television portrayed the ideal image of the American family. Prevalent shows such as “Father Knows Best” and “Leave it to beaver” illustrated the ideal family led by a heterosexual, dominant, religious male. A decade later in the ‘60s, family depictions began to alter. And so did America’s perception. [1] At this point, the influence of television was gradually increasing. A 1970 nationwide study concluded that 96% of homes had at least one television. In addition, the average 15 year old spent more time watching TV that they did in the classroom. [4]

The Brady Bunch illustrated an unrealistic image of a family, especially a stepfamily. They were idealized and modeled as the perfect “goody goody” family. Americans loved the Brady’s because watching them gave viewers hope that maybe they can have what they had. Despite the poor ratings, the show provided a feeling of escapism that was desperately needed during the time. In 1992, Sherwood Schwartz, said, “People who are now 28 and 30 saw it every day, five times a week. The impact on them is exponential.” [3] The Brady Bunch symbolized what every family can be; however we all know how difficult is to achieve.

Sources

  1. Angier, Natalie. “The Changing American Family.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 25 Nov. 2013. Web. 12 Oct. 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/26/health/families.html?pagewanted=all
  1. Bierly, Mandi. “Remembering Sherwood Schwartz, Creator of ‘Gilligan’s Island’ and ‘The Brady Bunch'” Sherwood Schwartz: The ‘Gilligan’s Island’ and ‘Brady Bunch’ Creator Remembers His Own Shows. Entertainment Weekly, 12 July 2011. Web. 12 Oct. 2015. http://www.ew.com/article/2011/07/12/sherwood-schwartz-gilligans-island-brady-bunch
  1. Cagle, Jess. “The Brady Bunch Made History.” The Brady Bunch Made History. Entertainment Weekly, 29 May 1992. Web. 10 Oct. 2015. http://www.ew.com/article/1992/05/29/brady-bunch-made-history
  1. Hess, Donna. “Prime-Time Television and Gender-Role Behavior.” Jstor.org. American Sociological Association, 3 Apr. 1983. Web. 10 Oct. 2015.
  1. Shah, Yagana. “5 Things You Probably Never Knew About ‘The Brady Bunch'” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 26 Sept. 2014. Web. 12 Oct. 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/26/brady-bunch-trivia-_n_5846402.html
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