I had a hard time relating to my elementary school peers, back in the late ’80s. While my female classmates were obsessed with ponies and princesses, my fellow males’ more destructive focus was on dinosaurs and pro wrestling. I, on the other hand, enjoyed cars (duh), watching the evening news and classic sitcoms. I was a little kid who wanted to play with adult toys and one show which spoke to these ambitions was The Brady Bunch. Other kids would go home and watch Care Bears or Ninja Turtles, but I’d turn on TBS just to admire the Brady’s ultra-modern house and the gigantic cruisers parked behind it.
Even when originally broadcast, the show was criticized for being too tame, but as a child of five or six, I had no such complaints. If anything, I learned a fair amount about late sixties and early seventies design and fashion. I like to think that even the furniture and clothes displayed in scenes without cars said something about what people wanted on four wheels during the period.
To that end, I can really see shades of Fuselage styling in the two eldest daughters’ super straight hair and simple jumpers. ABC apparently agreed as Mopars were the most prominently featured cars on the show.
Mike Brady must have been a successful architect, because Carol had hired help, did not work and always drove a brand new Mopar wagon. Maybe I’m just jumping to conclusions; she could have been living off her dead ex’s life insurance. They never did reveal just how he kicked the bucket.
His first car was this ’68 Polara convertible. It only featured in the pilot episode. Perhaps it reminded him too much of his first wife; obviously, she was a terrible person, as she was never mentioned again. The point was, Mike and Carol were happy together, so there was no reason to either mention past lovers (or show any toilets during bathroom sequences).
After a year of brutal Southern California driving, however, it would have to be replaced, especially since the family planned to drive it to the Grand Canyon. An all-new 1971 version replaced the 1970, with clean lines to match Marsha and Jan’s hair.
Meanwhile, Mike Brady began trading cars more than wives (well, we all know about Robert Reed), as a 1970 Fury convertible–note the loop bumper–replaced the 1969, making for a grand total of three cars used by Mike during the first season.
Carol, ever faithful, remained with Plymouth until the show’s end, replacing her ’71 wagon with a darker brown ’72, which got bashed in during an episode covering another of the family’s travails. That trim panel on the tailgate provides perfect relief to the car’s otherwise stark lines.
The conspicuous absence of Ford products was remedied in the hilarious 1995 and 1996 spoofs, in which Carol drives a Montego Villager. Did Paramount think I wouldn’t notice the use of this different car? Who did they think they were fooling?
Perhaps they weren’t trying to fool anyone. Maybe the use of this more cynically styled Mercury, complete with raised white letter tires, was used to further the caricature of a family stuck in the wrong decade, much like the following scene:
Obviously, it’s more likely that viewers wouldn’t notice or care. Most people didn’t tune into the show or watch the movies to analyze the cars used, although such considerations were still important in terms of product placement and set design. Today, thanks to the internet, those of us with such specific interests as mine can share their passion at Internet Movie Cars Database.
All in all, despite the kitsch and sentiment, it’s fun to watch shows like The Brady Bunch to see what the mood of the lowest common denominator was during the period. It’s very interesting to see how different everything was before the effects of the fuel crisis and post-Vietnam politics were felt. Whether the show holds up to my adult sensibilities is a different matter, of course, but since I loved it as a child, it remains fun to watch today.