Few shows encapsulate an entire television era like The Brady Bunch does. From its catastrophically wholesome take on the American family during the end of the Vietnam era to its never-ending shelf-life, the TV show kicked off one of the most iconic brands in television history.
Despite its success, however, the Brady family also has several failures under its belt. One of these, Kelly’s Kids, was canceled before it even had a chance to branch off.
Here’s the story…
Famous for its frustratingly catchy theme song and vibrant, pastel-themed aesthetic, The Brady Bunch helped anchor in an era of family-oriented sitcoms over the next several decades.
As The AV Club notes in a piece about its legacy, the show’s self-containing plot, wholesomeness that often bordered on self-parody, and memorable song and dance numbers, the show became bigger than almost anything before it.
For five years, the Brady’s came of age, dominated pop charts, and changed how sitcoms worked forever. However, while the show is still as big as it ever was, it had its fair share of failures, too.
The BCU (Brady Cinematic Universe)
In 2013, Matt Schimkowitz of Vulture covered a subplot that never fully came to be. “Kelly’s Kids” remains an odd outlier in the series. With a family of eight and Alice, the maid, they rarely needed to outside the titular bunch to find a plot point.
For this episode, however, the focus shifted from the Brady kids to a similar but not too similar family next door. While the Brady’s were a mixed family due to marriage, the Kellys were a different sort.
Schwartz meant for Kelly’s Kids to be a spinoff series based on the backdoor pilot in which Ken and Kathy, the neighbors who never appeared on screen before the episode, raised a family of three sons from three different backgrounds. With a white son, an Asian son, and a Black son, the Kelly family would have broken ground in more ways than one. Most sitcoms were still dominated by white cast members, and genuinely diverse television was mainly non-existent.
Kelly’s Kids could have given the American people an early dose of diversity. However, tackling such a subject in such a pure, apolitical landscape as the Brady universe would have come with several pitfalls. In this episode, issues of racism are hinted upon in dated terms, but it’s hard to see a Sherwood Schwartz property going much further than they did.
On top of that, backdoor pilots fail more often than they work. The most successful spinoffs tend to build on the stories of established characters and motifs. However, having a family move in for one episode to serve a spinoff series doesn’t give the same name recognition or built-in audience of successful properties.
The failed series is a cliff-note for one of the most iconic franchises of all time. However, it was not the last time that CBS milked the Brady brand.
Still becoming ‘The Brady Bunch’
The Brady Bunch brand is no stranger to offshoots. While the original sitcom remains the franchise’s crown achievement, it’s never truly gone away for good. From a short-lived Saturday morning cartoon series about the kids to an ill-fated variety show not long after the series left the air, the cast of The Brady Bunch is still reaping the benefits.
Woman’s World compiled a list of spinoffs, reunions, and revivals throughout the seventies, eighties, and nineties. The first attempt at a revival, Brady Brides, failed to garner much attention past the movie special that kicked it off. Then, in the early 1990s, Schwartz and company tried again with Bradys, a dramatic continuation focusing on Mike’s political career.
From the parody films of the 1990s to a recent HGTV series reuniting all surviving cast members as they build the house from all the exterior shots to look like the studio the original was shot in, few brands have the Brady Bunch’s longevity. It shows how popular the series is over fifty years after its premiere, but it also shows how uncertain success can be in television land.