Produced by Sid and Marty Krofft, this most bizarre of 1970s variety shows began as a 1976 one-shot special, and for reasons unknown was made into a series in January of 1977. It lasted eight episodes. Fred Silverman, responsible for much of the worst television during that decade, commissioned the show without approval of Paramount, who owned the copyright on The Brady Bunch. They gave the green light, because they believed the series would increase the sales of the original series' reruns.

Inexplicably, the producers decided to give a variety show a backstory. Apparently, Mike Brady (Robert Reed) has abandoned his career as an architect and decided to have his family star in a tv show. That's right: the Bradys appear as their television characters, referring to each other by their television names. The Brady Kids call Mike and Carol "dad" and "mom," and in one episode, worry that "dad" may be having an affair with special guest Charo. Jan is introduced as "our sister" as she enters to sing one of her musical numbers.

And it's middle-daughter Jan Brady for whom most recall this show. Eve Plumb wisely refused to reprise her role, and was replaced by Geri Reischl. (Apart from the tongue-in-cheek movies, each of the Brady girls has a ringer. Leah Ayres played Marcia Brady in the short-lived The Bradys series, while Jennifer Runyon filled in as Cindy Brady in 1988's A Very Brady Christmas).

Rip Taylor appeared as someone named Jack Merrill, while Ann B. Davis made appearances as Alice. Some variety shows had dancers; Donny and Marie had the Ice Capades. The Bradys went with the Water Follies Swimmers. The entire cast wore even more colorful and unbelievable 70s clothes than in the final seasons of the original series. The Bradys! Rip Taylor! Synchronized swimming! Groovy threads! The show plumbs the depths of 70s cheesiness and threatens to drown the viewer.

In addition to the variety show, we see fake "behind-the-scenes" material concerning the making of the show and the Bradys' home adventures. Music and comedy numbers interrupt with minimal warning. Rather than subject myself to the memories of the single episode I watched, mouth agape with incredulity, I will turn to Pagan Kennedy's Platforms: A Microwaved Cultural Chronicle of the 1970s for a sample musical-comedy sketch. This conveys a good sense of the show:

In a fifties segment too weird to be believed, the Bradys head for a roller rink and affect Italian accents as they perform jazzed-up rollerboogie versions of oldies hits. Just when you think it can't get any worse, Donny Osmond shows up, calling himself "the Don," riding a motorcycle, and otherwise pretending to be the Fonz. This is tv at its most self-referential (9).

In 2002, TV Guide declared The Brady Bunch Hour the fourth-worst show in television history. Many 70s variety shows are merely bad; The Bradys' contribution to the genre is surreally bad.

"The Brady Bunch Hour." TV Tome.

The Brady Bunch Hour Website.

Pagan Kennedy. Platforms: A Microwaved Cultural Chronicle of the 1970s. New York: St. Martin's, 1994.

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