I was a "Brady Bunch" and "Partridge Family" fanatic as a tween and teen. Absolutely loved those t.v. shows and still do. I actually wanted to name one of my sons Brady but my husband refused, although I know of quite a few boys named Brady or Braden.
Both shows were in the news recently. Evidently there is a feud going on between Maureen McCormick and Eve Plumb (Marcia and Jan Brady). And today some of the Partridge Family cast reunited on the Today Morning Show.
This got me to reflect on the programs and I recall that the Partridges lost their father to death, although I'm not sure the details were ever related - just a kind of hazy hint that was the reason why this family was out singing songs to earn a living - the dad had died. The same kind of haziness was in The Brady Bunch. This was a blended family because the prior spouses had died. But again, no details, nothing specific and in all the following shows, nothing mentioned about these characters previous lives.
Now I know that this was a convenient plot line for Hollywood to launch off these programs. Back then divorce was still rather unacceptable. I remember when a couple of women in our subdivision got divorced and moved in together. People used to drive by their house to point and stare. Looking back, what pioneers these poor 1970s housewives became, paving the way for less stigma toward divorced woman forced to start wearing pants and work outside the home. (Girls were not even allowed to wear pants to school in our town until 1974 unless it was terribly cold and snowy!)
So these shows were created from a situation involving the deaths of parents and spouses because that was easier than having the characters be divorced. Convenient but sad. I think that even as a kid I had some interest in the Partridge's old life. What did the dad do? How did he die? Maybe back then such a show could never be envisioned. Maybe it still can't be. Almost 40 years have passed and we still don't feel comfortable talking about or even acknowledging death beyond a nod.
What I find even more extraordinary is that as the feminism movement really started to swell and women were becoming more independent, Hollywood could not portray a widowed mother surviving on her own. They had to add a creepy band manager to the cast to be around for Shirley Partridge to lean on.
Today I propose a new and updated Partridge Family. Based on my own experiences I can provide the pilot story line and even some additional plots for future episodes.
Keith Partridge returns to his childhood home with his five children, all of whom are the same ages as when the original series aired. He has lost his wife to breast cancer (we'll be specific here and not leave the audience guessing). Keith is a physical and emotional mess, overcome with grief. He needs the help of his mother to care for the kids. We see him hiding bottles of Vodka around the house and he starts smoking again. There are days he is incapable of getting up out of bed.
The two older kids in high school start acting out, fighting and skipping school because they didn't want to move from their hometown to live with their grandmother. The younger kids are all experiencing nightmares and miss their mother terribly. In one episode the police have to be called because a fight breaks out between a drunken Keith and the two teens. In another episode, Shirley goes to the younger kids' school to meet with teachers and staff. We can go two ways here - either have grandmother be sympathetic or not able to handle her son's grief - the "get over it" mentality which causes friction between mother and son.
As the shows continue, Kelsey Grammer will join the cast as the family therapist. Each week's episode will open with a counseling session involving some conflict or issue involving the family which will be elaborated on during the hour (too much stuff going on for a 30-minute show). At the end of each episode, the family will meet with Kelsey and discuss their progress, or lack of progress if we want to be honest.
I see a lot of potential for this Partridge Family Reunion. But hey, there would have been a lot of potential 36 years ago if someone had written a Brady Bunch episode where the Brady boys and Brady girls each end up in a showdown between the parents, shouting "You can't tell me what to do because you're not my real mom/dad!" And then when the parents respond,"But your parents are dead and now we all have to get along and move forward," the kids all break down, unleashing all the emotions they've had to hide. Alice will come in with cookies and lemonade and lead the family in an impromptu healing session where order will be restored without missing a beat. See, it could have been done, even in that wimpy example. Even some acknowledgment would have been better than nothing.
I am grateful:
1. For blasts from the past that allow me to remember my wacky 1970s.
2. That next month is April.
3. For the Easter wreath I saw on a house today, the first one of the season.
4. For the promise of spring.
5. That short, shag haircuts for women have never come back in style.