Monday, December 2, 2013

The Brady Bunch "The Voice of Christmas" (A Shitmas Post from Patrick Cooper)

I'm an unabashed fan of The Brady Bunch who long ago devoured the reruns on Nick at Nite. It's a disgustingly wholesome show, more so than it's white-family-friendly successors like Growing Pains and Full House. There's something about the "swellness" that permeates from the Brady family that makes the show hypnotic. It's like propaganda for the saccharine suburbs. A nourishing indoctrination of conservative values bordering on narcotic. 

That's why it's always bummed me out that out of its 117 episodes, there's only one Christmas episode - season one's tale of yuletide laryngitis, "The Voice of Christmas" (Dec. 19, 1969). And it sucks.

It sucks for a very simple reason: the Brady kids are barely in it. They're in maybe half the episode. It's their first Christmas together as a family and the kids just mope around upstairs. Their absurd, sometimes bewildering, reactions to society beyond their fake lawn are what make the show so entertaining. I mean, the show is essentially depicted from their point of view. So an episode short on Brady kids just doesn't work. 

In the Christmas episode, the kids are there to basically move around decorations and sulk. The lack of their presence in the one and only Brady Christmas episode resulted in one of their worst episodes.

It's Christmas Eve and Carol has come down with a mean case of laryngitis. Her immune system's timing sucks because she's supposed to sing during Christmas mass the following morning. Then the boys come home carrying a giant Christmas tree, which they somehow managed to transport by themselves. This is before Greg could drive and Bobby had muscles, so who knows how the hell they got it home. Thanks for your help, dad.

Carol changes into a robe and drapes a blue towel over her head, which is obviously a visual allusion to the Virgin Mary. 

Carol has a much nicer smile though. The girls bring down the boxes of decorations with Alice, who remarks, "We have enough ornaments to decorate the whole neighborhood!" To which Marsha venomously replies, "That's what happens when two families get together." Yeah, I guess so, Marsha. Thanks for your insight. Then Alice breaks an ornament because she secretly hates Marsha. 

Alice whips up a pot of "her grandma's secret remedy" for Carol. It smells so awful that Greg runs out of the kitchen in disgust. His slimy delivery of "I'm not hungry!" is probably the only funny moment in the episode. Alice soaks a towel into the vile brew and wraps it around Carol's neck. Now, this remedy is certainly what eventually cures Carol, but, since Alice is only "the help," she's given no credit for Mrs. Brady's turnaround. Oh no. All the credit goes to the biggest of all Brady blemishes: Cindy.

I hate Cindy Brady, that hobgoblin. She's always instigating something, then blaming it on one of her siblings. Remember the Kitty Carryall episode? She's a monster. My dream is to one day edit her out of every episode. Maybe I can apply for a grant or something. 

Cindy visits a mall Santa and wishes for her mom's voice back. It's probably the only selfless act she's ever done in her whole life. 

Then we get to spend a little time with the other Brady kids who are planning their present-hiding strategy. This leads to a cute moment between Bobby and Alice, who for some insane reason both decide to hide presents under Mike and Carol's bed. 

The episode takes place on Christmas Eve, which exhibits the Brady's love of procrastination. They wait until the day before Christmas to get a tree, decorate it, go shopping, wrap and hide presents, and get laryngitis. Meanwhile, Tiger probably hasn't been fed in days.

The Bradys then have the gloomiest Christmas Eve in TV history. The kids sulk around and decide it's best to just cancel Christmas all together because their mom can't sing. Alice overhears their cries of spoiled woe and delivers a heartfelt lecture on what's really important on Christmas. It's a sincerely touching moment - one that displays Alice's crucial role in the household. A role undermined in this episode by that pig-tailed pimple Cindy, who gets all the credit for saving Christmas.

Of course, Carol's voice returns on Christmas morning and she gets to belt out her solo version of "O Come All Ye Faithful." Man, Florence Henderson had some pipes on her. For some reason, she doesn't sing at all on the "Christmas with The Brady Bunch" album released the following year. Mike can be seen in church looking approvingly at Cindy and putting his arm around her, while Alice sits behind them - the true hero of Christmas.

"The Voice of Christmas" isn't their worst episode - season one was full of stinkers. There's an overly somber tone to the whole first season that was thankfully done away with in the subsequent ones. But the lack of Brady kids and emphasis on Cindy as the hero really makes it a sour Christmas special. It's a bummer the Bradys never got another Christmas episode. One where Cindy chokes on coal and Peter bunnyhops over her on his new bike while she writhes around or something.



• Ironically directed by Oscar Rudolph.

• The living room, Mike's den, and dining room are decorated with Christmas cards....literally hundreds of cards. I've seen every episode and the family does not have that many friends. I think that Alice wrote them all, like how the butler in Sunset Boulevard secretly writes all of Norma Desmond's fan mail.

• Mike has a great moment with the mall Santa after Cindy says he promised to give Carol her voice back. Mike's always lecturing the kids, it's cool to see him laying the hammer down on a grown ass man. 

• In 1988, the TV special A Very Brady Christmas aired. Actress Susan Olsen (Cindy) is not in it - she was on her honeymoon during filming. It's a Christmas miracle! She was replaced by actress Jennifer Runyon, whose last role was in 1993's Carnosaur.

1 comment:

  1. I choked up at this awesomeness! Jebus-on-a-pogo-stick it's hilarious!