With the relative success of 1988’s A Very Brady Christmas, CBS decided to put the Bunch into series television once more. True, their 1977 variety show, The Brady Bunch Hour had been a disaster, and 1981’s Brady Brides lasted only 10 episodes. Still The Brady Bunch, like Star Trek, had become one of those iconic shows that everyone references. Tongue-in-cheek theatrical performance of original episodes were receiving enthusiastic responses from audiences across North America. Robert Reed had never really liked playing the Brady patriarch, but (despite a well-handled supporting role in 1976’s landmark Roots), roles post-Brady were few and far between, and relegated to shows such as The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, and Galactica 1980. The other actors found themselves similarly limited; Brady was work they could get. The entire clan, then, with the exception of Maureen McCormick, gladly reunited one last time for The Bradys.
(Leah Ayres took the role of Marcia Brady Logan. Apart from the parodic movies, each of the Brady girls has a ringer. Geri Reischl took Jan’s role in The Brady Bunch Hour, while Jennifer Runyon filled in as Cindy Brady in A Very Brady Christmas).
The twist this time was the show would not be a straightforward comedy, but would contain a strong element of drama. The Bradys would face serious problems that never touched the innocently groovy world of the originally sitcom.
Beginning in February, 1990, viewers observed the following:
- Bobby Brady, now a racer, has a horrible accident which leaves him paralyzed from the waist down.
- Cindy Brady (now calling herself “Cynthia”) begins a relationship with her boss.
- Peter Brady breaks up with his fiancée, and becomes a player.
- Jan Brady Covington remains married to Phillip Covington III (Ron Kuhlman) from Brady Brides, but she has been unable to get pregnant.
- Marcia remains married to Wally Logan (Jerry Hauser); they’ve had a son and a daughter, Mickey and Jessica, since Brady Brides. Unfortunately, Wally has lost another job, and they have to move in with her parents. Depressed, Marcia begins drinking heavily.
- The Brady house may be torn down to make way for a freeway (a plot which influenced The Brady Bunch Movie).
Greg Brady alone carries the Family Torch; a doctor with a wife and son, he seems to have few serious problems.
In some other family drama or soap opera, these events might make compelling viewing. In the Brady world, they seem like some kind of sick joke, as though the cast has finally decided to join the world in snickering at their perfect, campy past. Of course, the 1990s films would do just that, quite successfully— but they were sold as spoofs. On television, with the original cast, and sold seriously, the idea survived a two-hour premiere and four one-hour episodes. In March of 1990, the Brady Bunch were cancelled for the last time.