Everybody's smiling. Everybody's laughing. Everybody seems so happy today. Judge Dennis Prince officially declares this a Sunshine Day.
Our reviews of The Brady Bunch: The Complete First Season (published March 2nd, 2005), The Brady Bunch: The Complete Second Season (published October 5th, 2005), The Brady Bunch: The Complete Third Season (published October 19th, 2005), and The Brady Bunch: The Complete Fifth Season (published March 29th, 2006) are also available.
"Cruisin' down the highway in a makeshift Model TA."
They're a little bit older and a whole lot groovier. Settle in for a fourth year with the far out Brady Bunch.
Facts of the Case
My, how time flies. It seems like just yesterday when Carol Ann Tyler-Martin (Florence Henderson) and Michael Paul Brady (Robert Reed) put their past heartaches behind them, finding a joyous new start in each other's arms. Oh, and don't forget about the twelve other arms constantly flailing around them, those belonging to Michael's three boys, Greg (Barry Williams), Peter (Christopher Knight), and Bobby (Mike Lookinland) plus Carol's three girls, Marcia (Maureen McCormick), Jan (Eve Plumb), and Cindy (Susan Olsen). And, never to be forgotten are those two extra helping hands offered by live-in housemaid, Alice (Ann B. Davis).
It's been four years since the bringing together of this Brady bunch and, despite the ups and downs of adjusting to their new lives together while also managing the rousing and sometimes raucous climate of such a busy household, all the Bradys—plus Alice—continue to travel the road of good times and wholesomeness together. Amazingly, their upscale, split-level home at 1422 Clinton Way is still housing the troops just fine, never in need of an exterior paint job nor landscape maintenance—just how is it that their healthy garden doesn't grow? What is growing, however, are the Brady kids, as they start the year with a fun- and fright-filled vacation to Hawaii where they sample the island hospitality and wind up on the bad end of island superstition. Once back in suburbia, Greg enters his sophomore year of high school and finally feels the need to break away from his younger brothers in their three-bunk bedroom. Marcia's just entering high school and is wary of facing the upper-class crowd head on, and perhaps for good reason ("Oh, my nose!"). Peter's in the midst of his teenage gangliness, seemingly all thumbs when it comes to matters of a juggling a job or jostling with the opposite sex. Poor Jan continues to struggle with the deep psychological scars of growing up as the self-proclaimed "overlooked Brady," wondering now if she would have been better off growing up an only child instead. Bobby's busy trying to find his own groove yet stumbles plenty when he becomes an overbearing school safety monitor and has the temerity to try and put one over on Broadway Joe. Cindy's growing up too but doesn't seem to be growing much wiser as she accidentally loses Mom's favorite earrings and then loses touch with reality when she lands a spot on the Quiz the Kids show. Mike and Carol put their modesty aside when they wind up on the stage during "Family Frolics Night" while Alice fears she's about be tossed aside by the kids who are convinced the once-lovable live-in has become an untrustworthy snitch.
And how about that back lawn; it simply never needs mowing. Incredible.
The Brady Bunch started its fourth season with a real winner of a three-part adventure. Cribbing from the success of the previous season's Grand Canyon caper, the production temporarily relocated to Hawaii for an exciting and enjoyable season kick-off that remains among the best episodes of the lot. The location shoots provided a long overdue break from the artificial omnipresence of the Brady home. Viewers were treated to beautiful vistas, sumptuous waves, and a bit of Vincent Price, too. It was a perfect way to get reacquainted with the Brady clan for another year of fun and frolic. (Incidentally, this three-part segment, like many other third season episodes, was directed by none other than Jack Arnold, the man in the director's chair for such well-loved creature features like The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Monster on the Campus.)
While the episodes continued to exude wholesomeness and a heavy-handed dose of the Golden Rule, the show remained a favorite among home audiences during the 1972-73 season and continued to reign over ABC's 8 PM Friday prime time spot. Viewers, still charmed with the gentle nature of the show, were also curious to see how these Brady kids would handle growing up, filling out, and breaking out (you'll have to look mighty hard to spot a pimple on any one of these unnatural Noxema faces). Mike, Greg, and Peter all sport groovy perms while Bobby is finally able to give up the rinse and show off his natural hair color. Awkward Jan manages to out-mammary Marcia but even that development doesn't seem enough to help her emerge from her big sister's shadow. Poor Cindy now precariously treads the unbecoming ground of Baby Huey, looking much too old to continue sporting pigtails. Carol lends her tonsils again (well, her vocal chords anyway; her tonsils were snipped in Episode 37) to sing along with Marcia during Family Night Frolics. Peter is still looking for his first love while Alice seems to have cooled her flame for gruff and goofy Sam the Butcher.
Truthfully, if you're a longtime fan of The Brady Bunch, it's difficult to cite a bad episode (that is until pie-faced cousin Oliver comes to stay in Season Five). That said, Season Four is another bumper crop of Brady goodness. Brady fans, they who nonchalantly foil purported Brady trivia stumpers, will likely cite these Season Four memorable quotes with ease:
"Something suddenly came up."
"Jan, how could you be so stupid?"
"That's Diamond Head, dumb-head."
Of course, those truly in the know will get the giggles over watching Barry Williams caught on camera under the effects of a certain recreational substance. As he tells it in his book, Growing Up Brady: I Was a Teenage Greg, Williams was unprepared for a surprise day of shooting one Saturday morning—really unprepared. The episode, "Law and Disorder" features a stumbling and glassy-eyed Greg on the driveway, fiddling with a bike pump, when Dad drives up with a new boat atop the family station wagon. Greg has difficult clearing the height of the bike pump as he rambles over to see the boat, then stands around looking extra goofy, clearly struggling with a few simple lines of dialogue. It's a hoot, and Williams attests that it was at the time, too. There's also a fun flub in the "Amateur Night" episode when, as the kids secretly practice for a TV talent contest, Marcia can be overheard saying, "C'mon, Chris," meaning Peter. Her subsequent guffaw indicates she caught her blooper, yet the show's editors didn't. Perhaps they too were chillin' with Barry.
There's plenty of fun in this The Brady Bunch—The Complete Fourth Season boxed set from Paramount which, like its predecessors, arrives in the usual slipcase with two slimline keep cases inside, each holding two single-sided discs. The season's 23 original episodes are contained as follows:
As with the previous boxed-set editions, each fourth-season episode here is presented in its original 1.33:1 full frame format as originally televised. Whether it was due to improvements in television taping or the fact that the Paramount authoring team is stepping up their effort, the episodes here look better than those of the previous three releases. There is still grain to be found but the boost in color and sharpness certainly makes these the best looking episodes to be released. The audio is offered in a clean and clear Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Still no extras, and that's a real disappointment to fans who were treated so well with the bonuses of the Season One release yet have been snubbed with the subsequent three sets. With just one more season to go, we're crossing our fingers, toes, and pigtails in hopes that the final release will contain the goodies loyal Brady fans so richly deserve. C'mon Sherwood, do your stuff.
The content here is great and the comedy gained a bit of cynical edginess that softened the saccharine smack of previous seasons. The Brady kids were becoming better actors (comparatively speaking) and, overall, Season Four has so many memorable moments going for it that it would be difficult to not include it in any respectable TV library. It's a shame that Paramount remains so stingy regarding extras, but nevertheless this is a recommended set.
Despite their occasional indiscretions, there's still no fault to be found with these Bradys. Case dismissed.
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