For those of you who haven’t seen Neil’s blog, those of you who’ve simply heard the wild rumors ricocheting from one end of the blogosphere to the other, stories that have grown more and more ridiculous with each telling and retelling, the simple truth of the matter is this: as a child I never watched The Brady Bunch. Ever. Not one episode. Ever. I realize that making such a statement appears to make me a traitor to the baby boom generation and everything that generation holds sacred. It is a matter of recorded historical fact, after all, that during the 1960’s and 1970’s the baby boomers did little else except fight in Vietnam, protest fighting in Vietnam, smoke pot, get laid, and watch The Brady Bunch whenever the opportunity afforded itself. I did not. I was not making a political statement nor was I protesting the networks’ dumbing down of American culture by my not watching—I was in no way a lonely voice crying out in dumb horror from the depths of Newton Minow’s vast electronic wasteland, warning a slumbering and apathetic America that the unholy Beast of the Apocalypse that is Jerry Springer was alive and working his way slowly towards a television set near you.
I was none of these things. I was an unwilling mote, a bit of trail dust, if you will, in that great Sixties migration known as the white flight to the suburbs. My father, seeing our neighborhood filling up with the chemically dependent and his eldest sons becoming adept at the art of the five-fingered discount, a skill set that will do a boy good in politics and car repair but nowhere else, decided that a change of venue was in order. Being something of an extremist by nature, the father moved us all from Highbridge, a wonderful place surrounding that holiest of all shrines, Yankee Stadium, to a point well beyond the suburbs as the state delineated the suburbs in those days, to the exurban paradise of our happy little burg. To celebrate our exodus from the great metropolis, my brother and me set fire to a candy store and made off with enough gum, candy, sodas, and comic books to last us to the end of the great trek northwards. After we left, a good-sized portion of the Bronx burned down without our help, thereby freeing the real estate for the housing boom that continues there to this day. My brother and I are proud of the contribution we made to kick starting the local economy, although I’ve noticed over the years that we’ve never gotten the credit we deserve for doing so. I don’t think there’s any problem with pointing out our part in this great economic revival; I’m pretty sure that we’re well past whatever the statute of limitations on this sort of thing was. Just in case we’re not, setting the fire was my brother’s idea—he made me do it.
Now, our happy little burg has a great many things to recommend it to the family seeking a rest from the troubles of modern urban life, but the one thing the town did not have was good television reception. I know that some of the younger readers will scarcely credit what I am about to say; they will laugh and say that I am exaggerating; there could never have been a time so primitive, so utterly benighted, after all, but I fear it is true: we did not get cable television. In fact, no one had cable; cable television, as young people know cable today, simply did not exist at the time I am talking about. People at that time received their television signals through antennas on their roofs. You can see the antennas in old pictures; they’re those big metal things that look like bird perches. Every house had one and, I am proud to say, so did ours. Our antenna, as magnificent as it was, had one small flaw. Due to the presence of mountains in the neighborhood, our television set could only pick up one channel, Channel 2, which was then and is now the CBS affiliate in the great metropolis our unhappy little clan had just fled (my brother and I were especially distraught at the move, as our happy little burg afforded us little room for the full exercise of our juvenile rapacity; once or twice up and down Main Street and all the merchants knew who we were; there was no hopping on the subway and wandering over to Tremont or Kingsbridge looking for fresh opportunities for looting and pillaging; in this neck of the woods mass transit is the car that takes a good Roman Catholic family to church on Sunday morning).
In any case, Channel 2 was (and is) a wonderful channel as television channels go; I yield to no man in my admiration of Channel 2 as a television channel, but at the time of which I speak the channel and the network whose flagship station it is offered the discriminating television viewer, should such a creature actually exist, a wide range of inanities to choose from, prolonged exposure to any of which caused permanent tooth decay, diabetes, and the heartbreak of psoriasis in laboratory rats, and is there any creature on earth more put upon than the laboratory rat, who die like rats, appropriately enough, in the thousands and the tens of thousands every year for our sins? The one thing, however, that Channel 2 did not offer, indeed could not offer in any way, shape or form, was The Brady Bunch, which, if I remember this correctly, was on Channel 7, the local ABC affiliate. So even with the best will in the world, I could not partake of the adventures of the Brady family, and by the time we finally managed to get an antenna and a television set that picked up all of the New York stations, The Brady Bunch was no longer the hip, edgy show everyone talked about around the water cooler at work the next day, and I went past the show looking for more substantial fare like Hogan’s Heroes. I’ve never managed to bring my core Brady knowledge up to the standard expected for one of my generation and for this I must say that I am truly sorry. I know I should do something to rectify the situation; I do get the TV Classics channel, after all, so it’s not like I have an excuse for not bringing myself up to the level of my generational peers. I should, I know; there’s something incredibly unnerving about a good-sized chunk of my childhood memories being the copyrighted property of the Columbia Broadcasting System. I just haven’t gotten around to it, I suppose.