Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Bowling for Bradys

How do you separate the hardcore Brady Bunch fans from the casual observers? They are the ones that, like me, actually purchased a DVD called The Bradys Go Bowling.

The DVD features two episodes of Celebrity Bowling, a series produced at KTTV in Los Angeles from 1971 to 1978. The concept was as straightforward as it sounds – two pairs of celebrities bowl one game against each other, each playing to win prizes for a randomly chosen member of the studio audience.

In the first show, Barry Williams and Maureen McCormick take on their younger TV siblings, Christopher Knight and Eve Plumb. 

The second show features Mike Lookinland and Susan Olsen against two of the Waltons kids, Eric Scott (Ben) and Mary McDonough (Erin). The host is actor Jed Allan, best known for multiple stints on daytime dramas, and here wearing suits from the you’ve-got-to-be-kidding Collection.

The competition was best-ball format, meaning both members of one team would roll a first ball. A strike ends the frame; anything else, the bowler with the worst result would then try to pick up the spare left by their teammate. 

Prizes were typical for a low budget syndicated game show – Samsonite luggage, an Amana Radarange and Rice-a-Roni (the San Francisco treat!). The higher the teams score, the better the reward. For something really good, like a trip to Mexico, the celebrity bowlers had to bowl 210 or more. If the athletic prowess displayed on The Bradys Go Bowling is any indication, that didn’t happen very often.

I bought the DVD because I am a devoted Brady Bunch fan, and I thought it would be intriguing to see the cast in something else they did at the time the show was still in production. The Brady-Walton match aired September 8, 1973, six days before “Adios, Johnny Bravo,” the memorable first episode of the series’ final season. 

The Brady vs. Brady showdown aired on December 22 of that year, the same week as another spectacular Jan flameout in “Miss Popularity.”

But something was missing. In fact a lot of things were missing, starting with any sense of good-natured competition between the participants. There are no pep talks, no “Come on, Eve!” no, “Good one, Barry!” No ‘70s equivalent of a high-five after a strike, or any affectionate heckling after a gutter ball. They came, they bowled, they left.

One would expect players to be mic’d so their comments could be picked up for viewers. This wasn’t done either, but from what can be seen of their limited interaction between frames, we didn’t miss much. 

The entire undertaking is surprisingly subdued, to the point where I wondered if any of the Bradys really wanted to be there.

For fans this should have been a delightful chance to see the real people behind the familiar characters, and find out how they got along with each other. That cheerful combination of competition and camaraderie is what made the Battle of the Network Stars specials so much fun. Well, that and the lycra swimsuits on Heather Thomas and Lynda Carter. 

But it’s not here. And without that good-natured rivalry, the only potential for entertainment was in getting caught up in the actual matches. Unfortunately, the level of bowling prowess is about what you’d see at a third-grade birthday party.

If you remember the Brady Bunch episode where Bobby was upset over never winning a trophy, now you know why he didn’t get one for bowling. And Peter bowls about as well as he fixed bikes for Mr. Martinelli. Greg is the only participant who could throw a hook, but in a best-ball format Barry Williams and Maureen McCormick could not even break 100.

My one qualifier for purchasing a series or special on DVD is re-watchability. Great shows deserve repeat viewings. But I knew as soon as I removed The Bradys Go Bowling from the DVD player that I wouldn’t need to watch it again. Even with a total running time of just 45 minutes, it would be a chore.

Instead, I’ll pull out my Season 1 set and take another look at “54-40 and Fight.” This was the episode about the trading stamp company that was going out of business, and how the boys and the girls combined their stamp books but couldn’t decide whether to buy a sewing machine or a rowboat. Instead, they have a winner-take-all showdown, boys against the girls, building a house of cards. Now, that was a Brady vs. Brady competition with some gravitas. 

1 comment:

  1. Jed Allan appeared as C.C. Capwell on "Santa Barbara" from 1986 to 1993. During his "SB" stint, Jed hosted a short-lived revival known as "The New Celebrity Bowling." I don't know if either Robin Mattson or Marcy Walker appeared on the revival; both actresses were regulars on "SB" along with Jed. Heck, I don't even know if Jed's former "Days of our Lives" castmate Deidre Hall appeared on "The New Celebrity Bowling."