''A Very Brady Christmas'' had some of the strongest ratings in 1988, but the series that followed did not
When it aired, it was the most-viewed TV movie of the year.
Any Brady from the Bunch is a household name when it comes to classic TV. Though The Brady Bunch never broke into the Top 30 of the Nielsen rankings, the show has stood the test of time in the decades since.
The longevity success of the show made up for the series' slower start and its 34th ranking, the highest the series ever hit during its initial run. As fans know, when The Brady Bunch went off the air in 1974, their story wasn't over. What followed were specials, reboots and even recreations of the show.
The most successful was the 1988 made-for-television film A Very Brady Christmas. The series was a smash hit when it debuted, and in the years since, has turned into a holiday classic for plenty of families.
A Very Brady Christmas wasn't the first attempted revival of The Brady Bunch. The Brady Kids was a 22-episode animation series that follwed the Brady children, which were voiced by all six original members with the exception of a few episodes at the end of the series. The Brady Bunch Variety Hour followed, as did The Brady Girls Get Married, a made-for-TV movie, and the subsequent spinoff The Brady Brides in 1981.
All of these revivals paved the way for more, and more came. In 1988, the most succesful of the bunch aired and the Brady phenomenon kept coming back.
The cast returned all grown up, with real problems. Of course, Susan Olsen was in Jamaica when the movie was being filmed so she was replaced by Jennifer Runyon to play Cindy Brady. Sam the Butcher was portrayed by Lewis Arquette rather than Allan Melvin, but the rest of the bunch from the original series was left intact.
Despite a new Cindy and Sam, the TV movie was a smash hit in the ratings department. When it aired, it was the most-viewed TV movie of the year. Mike and Carol were grandparents and each grown up Brady child faced their own adult-like problems. Seeing the success was reason enough to put a full continuation show on the table.
As a result, the network began production of The Bradys, a series in which everyone was much older, making adaptations a necessity according to producer Sherwood Schwartz. One of those being a full hour show.
"The kids were too old to do a half-hour comedy," he said in a 1990 article from Knight Ridder. "The problems that people this age deal with aren't frivolous. It clearly became, in my mind, an hour series."
The addition of grandchildren turned the Brady home into a "tri-generational household," said Schwartz.
The Bradys had a six-episode commitment, but it didn't get any further than that. Though the ratings for A Very Brady Christmas were off the charts, it was difficult for audiences to see the Brady children in such a different light. With such strong numbers from the now Christmas classic, it was no surprise CBS tried to capitalize on it.
Often times, nothing will beat the original. In some rare cases, like The Brady Bunch, some adaptations do great, while others stumble.
No matter how many recreations, continuations and sequels there are, nothing will change the fact that The Brady Bunch will always be a classic TV staple, and that A Very Brady Christmas was a top-ranked holiday hit.