1969-1974: The Brady Bunch appears in its initial prime-time run. As I was born in 1968, I am only dimly aware of its existence, but like Mozart played for infants, the show fills the space around my developing neurons and synapses.
1974-1979: The First Golden Era of Syndication, in which I am exposed to the Brady canon repeatedly until the episodes are more familiar to me than the oral histories of my own family.
1980: A friend shows me how he uses audio cassettes to record the sound from television shows by dangling a microphone in front of the TV speaker. His recordings are low-fi and filled with atmospheric noise like kitchen clangings and his sisters chatting. I immediately employ his technique to preserve a few Bunch episodes.
1981: My parents stun the family by being among the first on the block to buy a VCR. It’s a $500 top-loading behemoth with a wired remote that has one function: pause. Video cassettes sell for $15 each, and we try to use every inch of tape at the 6-hr. slow speed.
1982: The Second Golden Era of Syndication, in which I catch Ann B. Davis mentioning in an interview that there were 117 Brady Bunch episodes, the first time I have ever heard this magic number. Superstation WTBS runs the Bunch right after Leave It To Beaver five afternoons a week; 15 heavily-edited, commercial-paused episodes can fit onto a single videotape, and I’m on my way to capturing all 117. “The Voice of Christmas” is the most elusive, as it’s always skipped in the syndication package unless it’s December.
1993-1994: The Columbia House Video Library offers uncut, unedited Brady Bunch episodes by subscription. Every four to six weeks, I receive a VHS tape containing four thematically grouped shows. I am ecstatic at their quality and the promise of replacing my heavily-edited syndicated recordings with a pristine collection. My ecstasy turns to agony, however, when Columbia House discontinues the offer after only 10 tapes, for a 40-episode total that is a mere third of the complete series.
2005-2006: At long last, the Columbia House VHS letdown is redeemed by Paramount’s release of the entire series in the superior DVD format. What’s more, the thematic grouping of episodes is ditched in favor of presenting the shows as God intended – by season, in the order in which they originally aired. Around the world, Bradyphiles finally feel secure ridding themselves of well-worn videotapes.
2008: The Golden Era of Self-Syndication. Through the magic of efficient freeware, I am able to convert the Brady Bunch episodes that I purchased on DVD for use on my iPod. All 117 episodes are on a playlist I have labeled “Brady TV.” When I enable the shuffle feature, my iPod becomes a miniature Brady Bunch server, calling up random episodes for my entertainment. I have entered Brady heaven.
2048: Now an old man, I nevertheless still have all my wits about me, and so I take the plunge and have a 1.5 googlebyte iBrain installed. Little do my retirement village friends know that I am not merely spending my afternoons staring vacantly out the window; I am, in fact, watching The Brady Bunch.
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