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President Brady? Wow, Dad, groovy

November 29, 2002|Susan King | Times Staff Writer

The polyester-challenged Brady Bunch trade in their split-level home and move to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in the new Fox movie "The Brady Bunch in the White House," which premieres tonight.

Gary Cole and Shelley Long, who starred in "The Brady Bunch Movie" (1995) and "A Very Brady Sequel" (1996), based on the eternally popular 1969-74 comedy series "The Brady Bunch," return as the clueless and eternally optimistic Mike and Carol Brady. (The original "Brady Bunch" can still be seen on TV Land.)

In this outing, son Bobby finds a missing lottery ticket worth $67 million, but instead of keeping the money, Mike decides the "Brady" thing to do is try to return it to its rightful owner. When no winner comes forward, the Bradys donate the money to a fund for homeless architects (Mike's an architect, you'll recall).

The crooked U.S. president invites the Bradys to Washington to reward their generosity. Because he needs an ethical man on the ticket, he asks Mike to become his vice presidential running mate. When the president is forced to resign because of scandal on inauguration day, Mike becomes president and names Carol vice president.

It doesn't take long for the White House to begin to look like their kitschy split-level home. The Bradys allow Marcia to have a slumber party, and poor Jan begins having conversations with the painting of Abraham Lincoln while Greg falls in love with an "older woman."

"It's big and goofy and silly," Cole says of the movie. "It's a romp."

"The characters don't find what they are doing funny," Long says. "It is an extreme of earnestness which makes the characters funny. They have a great deal of respect for everybody they encounter."

Lloyd Schwartz, the son of "Brady" creator Sherwood Schwartz, was executive producer and co-writer of the movie with his sister Hope Juber. Schwartz worked on the original series as a dialogue director for the six actors portraying the Brady children and later as a producer and director.

He says there are many reasons why the "Brady Bunch" has become a popular culture icon. "It was the first family show in color," he says. "The world hasn't changed a whole bunch since the 1960s. We are kidded about the clothing, but it wasn't as outlandish as in the feature films. The moral lessons are pretty much the same. When it started taking off in syndication, people would say kids were tuning in for nostalgic purposes, but the fact of the matter is kids don't understand nostalgia. They turn it on because they like Bobby and Cindy.

"Another reason why it's so popular is that it's told from the point of view of the kids, and kids like watching that. Then we didn't have an extraordinary kid like an Urkle or a Michael J. Fox character, where it was a fad. So we didn't have catch phrases that would become dated."

Because the second "Brady" movie didn't repeat the box office success of the first one, Paramount Pictures decided not to do any more. Besides, Schwartz says, he and his father had fights with the studio over the plot for the second movie.

"The first one satirized the Bradys and I thought it was the proper approach. The second one tried to do the same thing. I thought the best thing was to apply them to other things pretty much like Abbott and Costello movies, where you would enter other areas. But the studios have their own minds, and we couldn't convince them. Thankfully, it didn't do as well, so we could go back to television, where we feel very comfortable. Fox got what we wanted to do immediately."

And though the ultra-square Bradys are blissfully stuck in the 1970s, they actually are not an embarrassment as the first family. Mike Brady, says Cole, "is clueless, but he does have integrity."

And who can really disagree with Carol Brady's plans to clean up America's highways or instigating a time-out period between warring members of Congress?

*

To see it

"The Brady Bunch in the White House" can be seen Friday at 8 p.m. on Fox. The network has rated it TV-PG (may be unsuitable for young children).

First family follies: This "Brady Bunch" movie is too goofy for its own good. Page 45

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