Thursday, December 27, 2012

Happy Fake Jan Day

Television has created catchphrases, fashion trends and classic theme songs, but it hasn’t tried adding many holidays to the calendar. The only one that caught on is Festivus, introduced on Seinfeld. The O.C. tried to make Chrismukkah work but it had little pop culture impact, despite the steady encroachment of some Christmas traditions into the Jewish faith.

However, there’s one other TV-inspired holiday that is celebrated by a small but loyal contingent of classic television fans – particularly those over the age of 40. It has but one inspiration and one tradition, and it has its origin in a short-lived series that few people watched and less remember.

On January 2, 2013, I invite you to join me in celebrating Fake Jan Day. 


The holiday was created by fans of The Brady Bunch Variety Hour, an ill-fated attempt to revive the popularity of the Bunch with a new series featuring singing, dancing, and water ballet. All of the original series’ cast returned except for Eve Plumb, who was replaced by a lithe teenage beauty named Geri Reischl. Since then, Reischl has forever been immortalized as Fake Jan.

In my book What Were They Thinking? The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History, I ranked The Brady Bunch Variety Hour at #11 among TV’s most memorable atrocities. Here’s a quote from that entry:

“It’s impossible to single out individual moments, as it all runs together now into a blur of ghastly images: the performance of “Car Wash” as characters from The Wizard of Oz; the Brady kids saying, “We want to sing the music of our generation,” and then opening the show with “Baby Face,” a chart-topper from the 1920s; The Water Follies Swimmers and the Kroftette Dancers; Greg in a white Elvis jumpsuit doing The Hustle; a 1950s roller-rink scene, in which the three Brady brothers try to pick up their sisters; a family sing-along to Donna Summer’s orgasmic “Love to Love You Baby.” 

Having now become friends with Geri Reischl on Facebook I might have felt bad about some of that criticism, but then I read Love to Love You Bradys, a book coauthored by official Brady Susan Olsen that trashed the show worse than I ever could. And Barry Williams is on record as referring to the series as “perhaps the single worst television program in the history of the medium.”

Fortunately, no repeat viewings of the show are required to celebrate Fake Jan Day, which was first recognized in 2008. In fact, this is the perfect holiday to follow Christmas, as it is completely stress-free. There are no decorations to put up, no cards to mail, no gifts to buy. It is also controversy-free, with no whining atheists griping about Fake Jan Day displays in the public square, and no politicians co-opting the occasion to advance their agenda. I’ve yet to hear a Senator, arguing gun control or the fiscal cliff debate, asking “What would Fake Jan do?” If they did, the answer would probably be “sing an Elton John song.”

There is only one tradition associated with Fake Jan Day, and that is the purchase and consumption of the holiday’s official food, the cheese ball. If you have to ask why this particular delicacy was chosen, you have clearly never watched The Brady Bunch Variety Hour

Why January 2? If you look at that date on many calendars it is abbreviated as “Jan 2” which is another way to describe Geri Reischl’s altar-ego. Reischl, by the way, is completely on board with this unconventional tribute, and proudly serves as the charismatic ringmaster for her own silly circus. With her ever-growing numbers of Facebook supporters (more than 5,000 and counting), and the unpredictability of what may capture the fancy of social media, Fake Jan Day already has the potential to spike cheese ball sales at Hickory Farms. 

What I like most about Fake Jan Day is that it is goofy, immature and utterly pointless. We’re all getting too busy in our lives to make room for such things, so when an opportunity presents itself, go for it. You’ll feel better in the morning – unless your cheese ball surpassed its shelf life. 

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