Bradys or Partridges?

I saw an A&E program the other day about the Brady Bunch, and how over the decades the story of the archetypal modern family has become an American cultural icon.

It was fun to relive the series.

I liked watching “The Brady Bunch” when I was a kid, and like everyone my age and younger (since the show has constantly been in syndication since it originally went off the air in the mid-‘70s).

But I also have been watching the first-season episodes of “The Partridge Family” on DVD, and having a ball.

I’ve always been surprised that the Bradys became such a cult phenom while the Partridges suffered a reputation as a somewhat forgotten TV curiosity and phony rock fad. Personally, I think the single-mom (one of the first characters in pop culture to acknowledge this long-suffering role) played by Shirley Jones, and her sitcom kids, led by teenybopper idol David Cassidy as oldest son Keith and the foxy object of many boys’ fantasies, Susan Dey, as second-oldest Laurie, made for more interesting TV watching than the mom-and-pop and buncha kids plots of the Bradys.

Besides, as a pre-teen, I still listened to bubblegum rock and roll, and the Partridges had bonafide hits on Top-40 radio. They fit my world better.

Sure, a lot of the songs haven’t held up and they sound like awful pop pap. But the theme song, “C’mon Get Happy” (which they didn’t use until a few episodes into the first season), still sounds pretty good. I’ll take it over the “Here’s the story…” Brady Bunch theme song any day.

And the sappy but forever catchy “I Think I Love You,” which hit #1 on the charts in the fall of 1970, sounded just fine alongside a lot of other hits that year. The Partridges were a manufactured group, sure, but Cassidy really sang and played and he was as “real” a pop star as the Monkees were a few years earlier.

When the Bradys tried their lame imitation of the Partridge Family and became a singing group, did THEY have any hits? Hell, no. Case closed. They even tried that awful Brady Bunch variety show in the late ‘70s – one of the stupidest abominations in television history.

Besides, we knew what happened to Shirley Partridge: she was widowed when her husband suddenly died, and the rock group idea was one way the family could make money and stay together.

But the Bradys? Mike Brady’s first wife died, according to the series’ first episode, but Carol Brady’s first husband? Not a clue. What’s with that?

Was she a widow? Or was she — gasp — divorced, which is hard to believe today but would have been paramount to scandalous back in the day. The series’ creator wanted her to be a divorcee but the network chickened out.

Me, I’ll take the partridge over the chicken. Cm’on everybody, get happy!

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