Last week CBS/Paramount Home Video released the holiday classic A Very Brady Christmas to DVD. The one-disc feature contains the 1988 Brady Bunch reunion TV movie and sadly, no extras. It is, however, the first time this movie has been available on its own.
We’ve been fortunate enough to get our hands on a review copy and of course, we have thoughts. Any excuse to write about the Bradys, right?
The Movie: In a time before every show returned decades later for full-length series, reunion movies were a big thing for much of the 1980’s and 1990’s. The trend may have started with a few Gilligan’s Island features that actually preceded the decade; the ratings for Return to Mayberry topped the charts for the year it was on. Eventually, even something as old as The Patty Duke Show got in on the act, and the reunion movies continued until they started to fail, as was the case with the second Growing Pains reunion that seemed to put the nail in the reunion coffin for a bit.
Studios may have also realized that full series are an easier sell for syndication, DVD, and streaming, which is why we have things like the Will & Grace revival and Fuller House these days.
But I digress. Back to A Very Brady Christmas as it is really the gold standard for this sort of thing. Yes, there’s a fake Cindy, and a fake Sam the Butcher if you really want to get down to it. Yes, the “modernized” (for 1988) Brady house has windows that it never had before, that architecturally might make less sense than the original series even did. But yes, it’s fantastic. Written by creator Sherwood Schwartz and his son Lloyd, this movie honors Brady continuity (including the Brady Brides’ Wally and Philip – original actors and all!) but rightfully ignores the Brady Variety Hour. “Real Jan” Eve Plumb is back and Maureen McCormick makes her last appearance as Marcia Brady in this feature.
I remember the first time I had seen this movie and I thought it was so cool to see the Bradys “all grown up.” Apparently so did most of America, as it was such a success it spawned more TV movies, which inspired someone to decide to just make a 6-episode series The Bradys in 1990. That would be the last we would see of the original Bunch, sadly.
Watching A Very Brady Christmas is weird for me now, knowing I’m older than all six Bradys were at the time the movie was filmed. It’s also a little sad, knowing that Robert Reed, Florence Henderson, and Ann B. Davis are all no longer with us. Someone will probably try to reboot the Bradys again someday, and not in the fun spoof/parody way of the films… and it will probably lack the heart.
For those unfamiliar with the Brady Bunch, the original series followed a lovely lady who was bringing up three very lovely girls. All of them had hair of gold, like their mother, the youngest one in curls. It was also the story of a man named Brady who was busy with three boys of his own. They were four men, living all together, yet they were all alone… until the one day that the lady met this fellow, and they knew that it was much more than a hunch, that this group must somehow form a family… and that’s the way I just took the theme song to the Brady Bunch to tell the tale. In any event, A Very Brady Christmas took place 15 years after the conclusion of the original show, and many of the Brady “kids” had families of their own. While some comedy is mined from the children of Marcia (with Wally) and Greg (with Nora), the kids are largely forgettable and at least one would be recast before The Bradys happened. It’s fun to see where each Brady ended up — and of course, what they may be hiding from the family at Christmastime. Mike and Carol have a challenge of their own, too, dealing with a developer who might ruin Christmas when Mike goes to check out a site collapse that he warned about. Yes, it’s drama, which the Bradys weren’t; but it’s got a ton of heart.
The Extras: Sadly, there are no extras on this DVD set. Not a single one. Couldn’t someone have at least gotten a few surviving Bradys to do commentary? Maybe Susan Olsen to carry on about how she missed this? That’s a little unfortunate.
Is It Worth It, Though? Absolutely. I remember seeing A Very Brady Christmas on videotape at Montgomery Ward when I was very young and wanting to buy it but I never was able to. And previously, this film was only available as part of a Brady full series set that I didn’t get because I already had the previous seasons. Yes, this movie is often available on cable around the holidays, but wouldn’t it be nice to have without commercials? In any event, now that this film is more available at my fingertips, it may again become a Christmas tradition for me. I really like it, and at under $10, it’s a steal.