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…
American culture is often 20 years nostalgic, and one of the better examples of this is the 1990s and 2000s television sitcom That 70s Show. Many of the themes and characters of That 70s Show are reminiscent mostly of Happy Days (both shows takes place in Wisconsin, both shows were set 20 years prior, both shows were about the experiences of adolescents, and both shows had “bad boy” characters move in with the respectable family (the Happy Days episode was called “Fonzie Moves In” and That 70s Show was called “Hyde Moves In”) to name a few examples). The adventures of Eric Forman were much the same adventures of Ritchie Cunningham.
However, The Brady Bunch, the real 70s show, was given its proper respect with a few episodes. In the episode “Red Sees Red” the character Kitty dreams that her family stars in The Forman Bunch Variety Hour in a fun parody of The Brady Bunch Hour. In the episode “The Keg,” Brady star Eve Plumb starred as Jackie’s mother Pam Burkhart in a role that would eventually go to Brooke Shields the next few years.
Two of the most intriguing shows on television in the 1970s and 1980s were Battle of the Network Stars and The Circus of the Stars. These shows featured some of the biggest television stars of their day either competing in sports events, or showing their circus abilities. Hosted by Howard Cosell, BOTNS feautred stars from ABC, NBC, and CBS who competed in various athletic competitions. It was a twice a year show that was on ABC from 1977 to 1985, with 1988, 2003, and 2005 revivals. Circus of the Stars was on from 1977 to 1994, although ABC has expressed serious interest in returning the show to their schedule this year.
While 1970s and 1980s television staples, these shows have an influence on modern shows. They represent some of the first television reality shows, and there are hints of these shows in such modern entertainment as Dancing With The Stars. Actor Greg Grunberg from Heroes and Alias has a band called The Battle of the Network Stars.
The first episode of Battle of the Network Stars, shown in November of 1976 is a tour de force of action and adventure.
Our previous post “The Nostalgia Society” referenced that society tends to be twenty years nostaligic for popular culture. Various television shows or movies of the 1970s were 1950s themed, especially Happy Days or Grease. These entertainments were pastiche, a combination of some 1970s styles and 1950s styles. For example, when watching Grease audiences were treated to the music of Sha Na Na, a 1970s band that played 1950s music. John Travolta, by then a popular 1970s actor, was playing a 1950s character. The title song “Grease Is The Word” was written by Barry Gibb of the 1970s super group Bee Gees, yet sung by Frankie Valli. Some of the gestures or symbols of the film were more from the 1970s than the 1950s. Certainly pastiche.
Yet, The Brady Bunch was one of those uniquely 1970s narratives.
When our son was younger, we were looking for a hobby that as husband and wife we could enjoy while attending to the needs our son. We enjoyed going to Star Trek and popular culture conventions, although we thought that travel and expense were prohibitive then. We thought of perhaps writing to the celebrities we would have otherwise seen on stage at conventions to ask for signed pictures. It started out with a few letters asking for signatures. Yet, the fun of getting an envelope in the mail, knowing it was a signature, yet not which signature, was kind of like Christmas for adults. It is much better than the bills that usually arrive in the mail.
There are words from sociology, call them our argot or lingo, which are sometimes utilized differently from the generic society. The word icon is a good example. Icons mean popular symbols. The Superman logo or the American Flag is an icon. Usually, people are not icons for sociologists. People, fictional or real, are called celebrities, not really icons.
Yet occasionally, some people become symbolic enough to be icons. John Travolta with his polyester suit is icon worthy. Madonna is a symbol of the 1980s. Greg Brady is the fictional icon of 1970s fashion, music, television, and media culture. Yet, is Barry Williams?
Greg Brady: I will listen better to people’s exact words (“Greg Gets Grounded”)
Marcia Brady: I will nose that personality means more than looks (“The Subject Was Noses”)
Peter Brady: I will know that when its time to change its probably time to rearrange (“Dough Re Me”)
Jan Brady: I will try to remember that being average isn’t so bad (Every episode)
Cindy Brady: I will be happy with what makeths me spethial (“A Fistful of Reasons”)
We should be thankful to a Swiss medical student Johannes Hofer from 1688 for the retro Mego versions of Brady Bunch toys now available in stores and on this website. Nostaligia is actually a psychological condition defined by Hofer as what we might think of as homesickness. When we use the word today, it means thinking fondly of the past, yet the sadness that Hofer wrote about is there because the old days can never actually be reinvented. That doesn’t mean American society doesn’t try. We are a nostalgia society. Especially starting in the 1970s, although there are examples earlier, Americans tend to be nostalgic for the era twenty years previous.
The 1970s = The 1950s
American Graffiti which was 1962, yet was about 1950s culture
Idols like Shaun Cassidy singing 1950s ballads
There is no more popular culture. Rather, we have customizable culture. If the world was Philosophy, it would be niche. We have more choice now, yet that doesn’t mean things are necessarily better.
Popular culture refers to widely shared traditions or entertainment. We certainly don’t have this now, at least not like previous eras of American history. In fact, it could be argued that the 1970s, the era of Greg Brady and his Bunch, was the last great era of real popular culture. When Happy Days was the number one show in 1976 to 1977, it was watched by over 30 million people per week. Now, shows like American Idol garner about 12 million to earn that same accolade with modern TV. It might frighten American Idol fans to know that The Brady Bunch Variety Hour of 1976 to 1977 earned better viewer numbers, 15 million, than their affectation. In the 1970s, American Idol might not have been on the 20 most watched show list.