10 things you probably forgot about the '80s classic 'A Very Brady Christmas'
Everyone returned for this reunion — minus the original Cindy, the original Sam, and Bobby's original hair color.
In the 1980s, just as much as the Rubik's Cube, TV reunions were all the rage. Andy and Opie came home in Return to Mayberry. The Clampetts struck it rich again with The Return of the Beverly Hillbillies. There was The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E.: The Fifteen Years Later Affair in 1983, I Dream of Jeannie... Fifteen Years Later in 1985, Perry Mason Returns in 1985, Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge in 1987, Bring Me the Head of Dobie Gillis and The Incredible Hulk Returns in 1988… and so on and so on.
But no television family reunions featured more nostalgia and Aqua Net than the Brady comebacks. Early in the decade, the Brady girls got hitched in The Brady Girls Get Married. Seven years later, the gang gathered once again for 1988's A Very Brady Christmas.
Of course, the Bradys never really went away. After the original 1969 sitcom ended in 1974, the beloved blended clan bounced back with a variety show, The Brady Bunch Hour, from 1976–77. There was also a Saturday morning cartoon, too, The Brady Kids.
But things felt far different when the Bradys reunited for the holidays. We were clearly deep, deep into the Eighties here. The special opens with Mike and Carol, both sporting perms, getting in an aerobic exercise. It's big hair and big hearts all around from there on, as the adult Brady children come home to flashback clips and saxophone solos. It's a gem for anyone who adores the '80s while missing the '60s.
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There's a new Cindy Brady.
Susan Olsen was in Jamaica celebrating her honeymoon at the time. Enter Jennifer Runyon, whom some might remember as Gwendolyn on Charles in Charge or one of Bill Murray's students at the start of Ghostbusters. Cindy is just about to graduate college herself in this special.
But at least the original Jan was back!
Eve Plumb famously did not reprise her role of Jan on the successful 1970s variety show The Brady Bunch Hour, though she was not against the idea. She agreed to do an initial Brady Bunch Variety Hour special, but balked at the commitment to a full season. She was up for doing a few episodes, but when the network presented her with an all-or-nothing contract, she walked. Plumb had aspirations of being a more serious actress. A decade later, however, she was ready to sister up with Marcia, Marcia, Marcia, once again.
Bobby was suddenly blond.
Mike Lookinland is naturally blond. But when he was cast as a child star on the original series, producers dyed his hair brown to match the rest of the Brady men. It was a somewhat miserable experience for the young performer, as the hot studio lights would cause the dye to melt and run down his head in brown streaks. We can't blame him for passing on the makeover process for the reunion.
Greg had a righteous mustache.
Speaking of hair changes, elder Greg has a bushy lip-tickler here. It's a 'stache that would even make Phil Packer jealous. You remember Phil Packer, right? Peter's fake-mustache-wearing alter ego in "Peter and the Wolf"?
Marcia's kids were Cubs fans.
Adult life is not a bunch of roses for the Brady girls. Jan is separating from her husband, while Marcia's spouse was recently laid off. Marcia's two kids, Jessica and Mickey Logan, represent their new hometown wearing Cubs gear and colors.
The iconic Brady house had a serious Eighties makeover.
Naturally, the film opens on an establishing exterior shot of the classic Brady house. It's a good thing they do, as the inside of the home is completely unrecognizable, aside from the familiar staircase. The orange Formica kitchen has been replaced with blond wood. The living room is a riot of pale pastels, floral patterns and glass brick windows. It seems as if Carol hired the Golden Girls to redecorate.
It was directed by Peter Baldwin, who directed everything.
The name Peter Baldwin does not likely ring a bell. But you have undoubtedly seen much of his work. For half a century, Baldwin directed classic television. He helmed episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Andy Griffith Show, Gomer Pyle: USMC, Mary Tyler Moore, The Bob Newhart Show, The Love Boat, Too Close for Comfort, ALF, Full House, The Wonder Years, Sabrina: The Teenage Witch… and more. Oh, and The Brady Bunch, of course. Baldwin passed away earlier this month.
Two popular L.A. disc jockeys made minor cameos.
The Mark & Brian Show, a pioneer of the "zoo crew" type of morning radio programming, kicked off in Los Angeles in 1987. Mark and Brian made quiet cameo appearances in A Very Brady Christmas, playing two onlookers at the collapsed building site in the last act.
There was a new Sam the Butcher, too.
Poor Alice! We learn that Sam the Butcher has left her for another woman. Ouch, Sam. In the end, he turns up disguised as Santa and earns Alice's forgiveness. Even the white beard cannot disguise the fact that Sam is no longer played by Allan Melvin, who was still alive at the time. Instead, actor Lewis Arquette filled the role. Some might remember him from Waiting for Guffman.
It was a massive success.
When it aired, A Very Brady Christmas became the most-viewed TV movie of the year, raking in a whopping 25.1 Nielsen rating and 34 share. That means that more than a third of all people watching television that evening had the Bradys on their screen. You don't see numbers like that anymore.
SEE MORE: BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE SURREAL, SILLY 'BRADY BUNCH HOUR'
Before there was Fake Cindy, there was Fake Jan. READ MORE
Image: The Everett Collection