"The Brady Bunch" vs. "The Partridge Family": A Brief History of Two Classic TV Favorites

Herbie J Pilato

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[The Classic TV Preservation Society]

They both were family-friendly Friday night half-hour sitcom staples on ABC-TV in the early 1970s. One family came out singing, and the other family eventually sang - and danced to a - few songs in the later years.

The Brady Bunch began airing in the fall of 1969 and ended its original run by the summer of 1974. Created by Sherwood Schwartz (the genius pop-culture scribe who, a few years before, introduced the television world to Gilligan's Island), Brady was essentially influenced by the popularity of the 1968 big-screen classic movie, Yours, Mine and Ours. That film, starring Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda, was about a blended family, which included one of their children played by Tim Matheson (who would later be featured in the first big-screen Brady Bunch feature film from 1995).

The first Brady TV series (which led to an entire franchise of shows and movies) starred Florence Henderson and Robert Reed as the parents, with Barry Williams, Maureen McCormick, Christopher Knight, Eve Plumb, Mike Lookingland, and Susan Olsen as the children. The girls were from Mom's previous marriage; the boys were from Dad's first wedded union. Ann B. Davis, as the family's holdover housekeeper from Dad's initial bond, kept everyone together and the house clean. As a combined unit, they formed The Brady Bunch (an actual term that was actually heard in the show's pilot).

The Partridge Family, which premiered in the fall of 1970, and originally ran until the summer of 1974, was loosely based on the real family pop group, The Cowsills. The show starred Oscar-winning actress Shirley Jones, who was the real-life stepmother to David Cassidy, who played the eldest of five singing children. That brood included also included Susan Dey, Danny Bonaduce, and Suzanne Crough, while Brian Foster and Jeremy Gelbwaks shared the role of the youngest son (the former replaced the latter after the first season). Unlike The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family was led by Jones playing a widowed, single-parent, whose only adult male presence arrived in the guise of Dave Madden, the manager of her musical family.

For many, The Brady Bunch was as different from The Partridge Family, as Dick York and Dick Sargent's two Darrins on Bewitched. One show (Brady) seemed more realistic than the other (Partridge), while both filled their own unique comedic niche in the history of family programming.

Considering that the Partridges were a successful musical band, it was a little odd that they were periodically presented as economically-challenged. And sometimes, The Partridge Family shared similar plots with The Brady Bunch (i.e. eldest daughter is traumatized by getting braces), but in the end, both programs remain beloved more than 50 years after their debuts.

Originally following both shows on ABC's Friday night in the early 1970s were sitcoms like The Odd Couple and Room 222 (one of TV's first half-hour dramedies without a laugh track), and Love, American Style. Couple was a TV remake of the 1968 feature film. Room was a shorter, more comedic school-based version of TV's hour-long Mr. Novak series, and Style was essentially later remade as The Love Boat (which is enjoying a reboot of its own in 2022 with the new reality show, titled, The Real Love Boat).

It was the same era that saw CBS air its remarkable Saturday night line-up of All in the Family, M*A*S*H, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, and The Carol Burnett Show.

Two spectacularly historic TV nights, the likes of which have yet, and most likely, now, will never be duplicated, certainly in the eyes of dedicated fans of The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family.

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS: A TREASURE HOUSE OF DECEMBER MEMORIES REVEALED, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, GLAMOUR, GIDGETS AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR, and NBC & ME: MY LIFE AS A PAGE IN A BOOK, among others. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA
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