Friday, June 29, 2012

The Pride of Ownership – and The Brady Bunch

 I will never enjoy watching a TV show in a streaming video format as much as watching that same show on a DVD I purchased.

Oh, I know that’s where we’re headed, and eventually our televisions will be linked with our computers and mobile devices, and every TV show ever made will be uploaded into a big Apple-owned cloud, and we’ll push a button and it will begin playing in a few seconds.

But I’ll always prefer DVDs. For me, there’s a satisfaction in the ownership of a television series in a physical format, which cannot be replicated by having an episode of that series materialize for a few moments, and then disappear back into a distant, ephemeral mass of coded data.

To appreciate the difference, I think you have to be old enough to remember when all of television programming existed outside the viewer’s control. Back in the day, if you wanted to watch The Bob Newhart Show, you had to be home on Saturday night at 9:30, with the TV tuned to CBS. There was no setting of DVRs or recording on videocassette. There was no CBS app on an iPad. You watched the show when it aired, or you missed it.

And that is why, when the TV-on-DVD market was inaugurated with shows like The X-Files, I began counting the days until the release of The Brady Bunch.

I have only very distant memories of first-run Brady viewing. But following its five- year run the show went into syndication in practically every US market, and Chicago was no exception. So I really first came to know and love the series when it aired weekday afternoons on WFLD, channel 32.

As with many fans, one of my favorite episodes was “Amateur Night,” in which the Brady kids appear on a TV talent contest, performing “Sunshine Day” and “Keep On.”

It was always a show I looked forward to watching. But since there were no episode guides back then, most viewers never knew exactly when it might turn up. Eventually we figured out it was later in the series’ run, after Tiger disappeared. After Mike’s hair went curly. After Marcia got, um, you know.

Even with the series airing five days a week, it still took several months to cycle through all 115 shows (there were 116 episodes, but the Christmas show rarely aired in syndication).

So I had one chance about every six months to catch "Amateur Night." And contrary to what some readers of this blog may believe, I did occasionally have something else to do besides watch TV – then and now. But on those lucky rare afternoons when I was in front of the Sony Trinitron and that first scene began, with Jan entering the department store to pick up a silver platter, it was an event.

And it was a fleeting one. You watched it, there was no way to save it, and it might be a year or more before you happened across it again.

Now, I can take Season 4 of The Brady Bunch off the shelf, insert disc 3 in the DVD player, and watch that show whenever the feeling strikes me. And it feels great.

I don’t think anyone who grows up with the Internet will look at television the same way. If you see a TV show you like, you can immediately watch it again on your computer or an iPad. It’s now possible to store all 116 Brady Bunch episodes on an iPhone and carry them in your pocket.

That certainly makes TV viewing more convenient, but it also makes it less significant. If you can do something any time you want, there’s nothing special about doing it. 

I still remember when catching a rerun of a favorite show was enough to make a whole day better.

And that’s why I will always prefer my DVDs.


  1. I love the DVD format also... but I do wish the studios would make it easier, sometimes, to get the whole package.

    I'm thankful I taped A Very Brady Christmas on TV, for example, since the only way to get that movie is to get the complete series... which I had already bought, in individual seasons.

    Also, selfishly, I'd love the chance to have "the whole Brady canon"... the Kids, the Brides and the Bradys, at least. The Variety Hour, being from different producers, isn't a must, though it'd be nice. And I'd imagine some Brady Kids episodes - particularly the one with Superman and Wonder Woman - wouldn't be cost-effective to put on a set.

  2. I actually filmed "Keep On" to Super 8, but always had a hard time trying to play the record when watching the film. Eventually got a pitch-control turntable and could force it to time out! Of course we also used to cassette-record the audio and that was another way to have a soundtrack. Who would have dreamed back then that we could watch at our leisure?