When I first came to the United States, I became a huge fan of “The Brady Bunch.” It was the winter of 1978. I was seven years old, and I had never seen anything like it. Here was a family with perfect children, wise parents, a quirky live-in maid and even a dog. I watched every day after school. The Bradys were on back-to-back for an hour and a half, five days a week. I saw every episode more than once. In fact, that show probably helped me learn English because I watched it so much.
In hindsight, “The Brady Bunch” was an awful show. It was bland, predictable; every problem could be solved by the end of the episode (eye roll). And the Bradys”¦they were caricatures with no depth. Alice was quirky, Mr. Brady was wise, Marsha was vain, and Greg was athletic. Everyone was nice, gender-normative, thrifty, kind to animals, and the house was always spotless.
I’d like to say that “Bradys” was the only bland show I watched. It wouldn’t be true, but I have a good excuse. You would be hard pressed to find anything different in the late seventies. On “Little House on the Prairie,” for example, Laura Ingalls was good, Nelly Oleson was not. Predictably, Laura would win at the end of any confrontation. She also had a perfect family and a spotless house. I had not learned about suspension of disbelief back then, but I did know that cleanliness was next to godliness. Only innate goodness could explain how the Ingalls could keep so clean. The American frontier wasn’t that nice.
But then again, it was television, make-believe. The world I watched was “perfect.” Most people in it were middle class and white. Kids usually had two parents, and if they didn’t, it wasn’t because of divorce or abandonment. No. Single parents were always widowed. One cool widow even toured with her musical progeny on a brightly colored school bus.
Nowadays, I can’t watch seventies television without smirking. I am no longer a child, and I suppose that would account for my attitude change. However, television has also changed. For one, the original broadcast networks–ABC, CBS, and NBC–don’t monopolize the airwaves anymore. They have to compete with cable networks, the Internet, torrents, and now even Netflix and Hulu+. Bland and predictable does not necessarily cut it anymore, although you can still find bland and predictable shows, especially on CBS.
However, I don’t have to watch bland and predictable television. Not anymore. I can marathon all five seasons of “Breaking Bad” or “Orange is the New Black” on Netflix, or sample web series on Vimeo or YouTube. The choices are endless. They may not all be good, but they are endless.
And that’s why I don’t miss “The Brady Bunch.”