The Greg Brady Project

Welcome to the official Barry Williams' blog

My friends call me Barry. From time to time I also hear the name Greg. Yeah, as in Greg Brady. The Brady Bunch represents a fun time in my life. But it’s only part of the story. There’s more to say and that’s what The Greg Brady Project is all about – a place to say it. So, I’ve invited some friends to join me and share their perspectives on the Brady’s, the 70′s and just about everything else. Now, I’m inviting you…

14 Aug
Eric Greenberg

The Andy Keaton Exception

written by Eric Greenberg in Blog | 1 comment


With all due respect to Robbie Rist, when people mention the new kid added to a sitcom, it’s usually in a joke or a trivia question. You just don’t usually hear people say things like: “Can you imagine ‘Diff’rent Strokes’ before Sam showed up?” It’s usually TV geeks like me trying to one up each other with references that most people don’t remember. Why? Because the shows usually get cancelled shortly after they join the cast. 

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not necessarily the actors’ fault. Some of them are perfectly talented. Hey, Leo DiCaprio couldn’t keep growing ”Growing Pains” on the air. And it’s not necessarily the sign of a bad show. In fact, it’s usually the opposite. New characters are often brought in because a show has been successful enough to stay on the air for several years and needs something new to keep it fresh. That’s just the nature of TV in the U.S. Unlike the BBC, we generally keep our shows going until people stop watching…which by the way, I completely understand. TV is a business and it’s hard to quit when you’re on top. I also understand the inclination of shows (or networks) to try to extend the life of a sitcom by adding a new character. The problem is, most shows don’t do it particularly well. That said, let’s give a little credit to a guy who got it right…twice. 

“Family Ties” creator Gary David Goldberg was a genius at adding new characters that actually made the show better over time, and here’s why. The characters he added to ”Family Ties” brought out the best in the rest of the cast. So while like other sitcoms, he brought in something new, he really reminded you how much you like what you already had.

Take Nick for example. A fun character played very well by Scott Valentine that made the show better in his own right. His biggest value to the series though, was that he brought out that great maniacal side of Steven Keaton. Now I happen to think Steven Keaton just might be the most underrated character in TV history (and Michael Gross the most underrated actor). Nick helped him get there. Throw in the Alex is from Venus, Nick is from Mars layer and you have a brand new energy to the show. Only you didn’t change everything that was great about it in the first place. You just took what already worked and made it better.

It’s for the same reason that Andy improved things when most others do the opposite. He wasn’t just a cute kid, although he was. He wasn’t just a good actor for his age, although he was. People have their own kids at home. Sure, a cute kid can add something to a TV series. But despite what some executives seem to think, that eventually wears off if that’s all there is. Here again though, Andy made the rest of the cast stronger. In this case, he made Alex shine by giving him a new audience for all his quirkiness and extreme views and he upped the stakes of the Alex/Nick rivalry by getting stuck right in the middle of it in a tug of war.  

So what did Gary David Goldberg do after seamlessly adding two great characters to extend “Family Ties” on his own terms? He shut the whole thing down while he was on top. This guy’s good.  


1 Comment

    on Sep. 22nd, 2008

    Goldberg’s autobiography is brilliantly cleverly funny. What an interesting life!

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