Gen X TV: The Brady Bunch to Melrose Place

Friday, May 22, 2009

Today's book, "An entertaining chronicle of television. Owen focuses on certain popular shows such as Schoolhouse Rock and Beverly Hills 90210 to depict not only how Gen Xers influenced network programming, but also how television affected the lives of this generation."

I picked today's book because it had the words Brady Bunch in the title, and I'll read/buy just about anything that relates to The Brady Bunch - and anyone who has seen my copy of Alice's Brady Bunch Cookbook can attest to that.

I thought today's book was really interesting, although the book turned out to be quite different from what I expected. There seemed to be very little in the book about how television has affected the lives of Generation X, and instead the book focused on sharing background information on shows that aired between 1970-1995, with the emphasis leaning heavily towards 90s shows. There are random tidbits about other shows, but most of the book centers around The Brady Bunch, Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place, Friends and The Real World.

The Real World - I didn't find that part of the book very interesting because I've never watched that show before, which is totally shocking because I love bad TV.

Friends - Most of what was in this book was information that I've already read before, with the exception of this piece of information, "... in July 1994 just before Friends premiered, ABC Entertainment president Ted Harbert declared a moratorium on TV show theme songs in an effort to reduce the opportunity for channel surfing. Instead of a 40-second theme with credits, he suggested that the credits should play over the shows first scene." (Does Harbert have no soul? Does he not understand the sweet relief of turning on the TV and having the theme song to Dallas or The Golden Girls wash over you? Thank goodness Harbert changed his mind not long after that.)

Beverly Hills 90210 - Mid-way through the section on 90210 the author mentions how the actors from the show were much older than the characters they portray. That's no surprise, I think everyone already knows about that, but it gave me a flashback to my first day of high School, which came after watching three seasons of 90210 - and all I could think on that day was how everyone around me looked so young and badly dressed. 90210 gave me such a false idea of what high school was really going to be like.

Melrose Place - I was really amused during the Melrose Place discussion when the author argues that, while the show isn't great TV, it's more than just "bad TV," and then he goes on to share an excerpt from a book called Bad TV (which is definitely going on my to-read list) which describes the difference between bad TV and bad TV as, "Bad TV is just boring and amateurish; something you banish with a quick flick of that remote control. Bad TV, however, is something truly amazing, enriching, and compelling - TV so bad, it's in a class all by itself." (Or as I like to call it, TV that's so bad it almost loops back around and becomes good again.)

The Brady Bunch - There was much more background information on this show than any of the other shows in this book (and you won't hear any complaints from me about that). But if Brady Bunch isn't really your scene, then you might not find this book as interesting as I did. I learned all kinds of interesting new information about the show from this book. But, for the sake of not trying my dear readers' patient with endless discussion of Brady Bunch, I will condense the information down to the two most interesting things I learned:

  • There were three other Brady Bunch shows, The Brady Bunch Hour (a variety show airing in 1977 that was so bad that no one involved can even bring themselves to defend it), The Brady Brides (a sitcom airing in 1981 involving Jan, Marcia and their new husbands all living together in the same house), and The Bradys (an hour long drama - drama? what were they thinking? - airing in 1990 that was so bad it only lasted for 6 weeks the featured: Jan and her husband adopting a baby from Korea after suffering fertility problems, womanizing Peter going through his fourth failed engagement, Bobby being crippled in a racing accident, Cindy becoming a DJ despite the lisp that she still had, Mike running for city council, and Marcia who was played by someone else becoming an alcoholic for one episode). It's hard to believe that show didn't take off. How on earth did they come up with those plot ideas? Did they all sit around in a room and say, "Let's see if we can come up with the worst, most depressing story lines imaginable. Let's see if we can make up stuff so bad that it will wipe out every happy memory anyone ever had in regards to the show."
  • The show's creator, Sherwood Schwartz, was an egomaniac. There were excerpts in the book from various interviews he gave, and he spent most of them whining about all the shows that copied The Brady Bunch. I thought he had a point when he was discussing how Step by Step copied the show, but when he starts arguing that The Cosby Show was clearly copying his show that's when I started to mutter under my breath Get over yourself Sherwood. (That was quickly followed by me spending five minutes wondering how anyone could look at a newborn baby and name them Sherwood. It truly boggles my mind.)

Other favorite shows that got a brief mention:

Designing Women - I learned that the show almost got canceled in 1986. I'm trying to imagine my life without the Pearl episode or the New Orleans episode, but it's too dark of an image to even contemplate.

Homefront - I loved that show. It's my all-time favorite show, and I'm still bitter about it getting canceled despite the fact that the cancellation happened back in 1993. I really have had plenty of time to let go, but I just can't. And now I've added to that bitterness the bitterness I feel whenever I think about how it still hasn't been released on DVD despite the fact that shows like Alf and The Jeff Foxworthy Shows have been available for years.