I tend to like things that can be broken down into black and white. I know that's not necessarily very open minded of me, but it's the way I'm wired. Yes and no, on and off, in or out, up or down - that makes it nice and easy. Shades of gray are a pain in the ass, although I accept that in fact most things work in shades of gray. Things, people, and situations - they can almost never be broken down easily into an either/or proposition. So mostly I go through life wishing that things were more black and white (because I'm essentially lazy) but dealing pretty well with the gray as I'm thrown into it.
Despite this tendency to look for the two extremes, I do generally find it grating when someone pipes up with, "You know, there are two types of people in this world..." because you know they're full of it. There are almost never only two types of people in the world, no matter what the next homespun folksy aphorism to come out of the speaker's mouth is. It's bunk to say, "There are two types of people - the ones who love to win and the ones who hate to lose." Sheesh - shut up and pass me the Tanqueray and tonic already. Keep your fluff to yourself.
Sayings that start with "There are two kinds of people in the world..." are usually designed to promote the speaker's agenda - as when they finish the statement with something like "those who love chocolate, and communists". That's just not true at all, and the black and white detective in me becomes incensed upon hearing stuff like that. I myself am not that fond of chocolate. Given the choice between chocolate torte with raspberry sauce, a trio of deep chocolate truffles, and double chocolate pound cake with fudge ice cream, I'll skip dessert altogether. I detest dark chocolate utterly. But am I a communist? Does that make me Stalinesque? Isn't that a little harsh? What the hell do the two have to do with each other in the first place?
If you're going to make a "two kinds of people in the world" statement, at least do it with a subject that can fairly be juxtaposed. I myself have thought long and hard about this, and I feel that there is at least one area where we can safely divide the populace into two distinct camps. So, for your edification, there are, in fact, two kinds of people in the world.
Those who watched The Brady Bunch, and those who watched The Partridge Family.
There is, of course, no correct side to be on in this situation (although if you watched the Partridge Family, you're clearly a liberal weenie scum - but it's nothing to feel badly about). The Brady-Partridge feud started early in their respective runs and plays out often even now. ABC started the whole thing by scheduling the shows back-to-back with the wholesome Bradys first at 8 pm followed by the more "adult" (well, it was 1972) Partridges following at 8:30. I was too young to watch either show in first run, but in syndication I watched the Bradys into the ground, and still do. I never - ever - made it through an entire episode of the Partridge Family, however, even though they often follow the crew that somehow formed a family in repeats. I can't stomach Danny and they sing far too often for my taste.
I mean, think about it. The Partridges sang at least once in every episode, right? I'm guessing they sang more often, but as I say, I never made it through a whole episode. But even if it was only once an episode that's just way too much singing for one family. The Bradys only sang a couple of times in their whole run. They sang in the local talent show when Jan screwed up and they had to pay for the inscription on the God-awful silver platter for their parent's anniversary... and Marcia and Carol did a number for the Family Night Frolics (the very scary bum/clown song, remember?)... and there was the episode where Peter's voice changed and Greg wrote the insipid "When it's time to change, you've got to rearrange" song... and, of course, there was the late lamented Johnny Bravo. But that's all the singing they ever did on the show, assuming you don't count the theme song.
Look, I know it's a little pathetic to know each of those episodes, but, like I said, I watched the Brady's a lot. Still do.
If you can overlook the singing - and I think in the case of the Bradys we can, although it's much less forgivable for the Partridges - we're still left with the weird dynamics in the two families. I know all the rumors about Greg and Carol going on dates and about Marcia and Greg getting it on in the dressing rooms (hey, Greg got all the action, didn't he? Must have been the eyebrows) but on camera there was no hanky panky to be found, and not a whiff of incestuous impropriety. You can't really say that about the Partridges. Susan Dey and David Cassidy gave each other the eye in every damn episode, which I could see even as an eight year old! That's some creepy stuff right there! And while Mike and Carol made kissy face in all five seasons of the Bunch (which was some darn good acting from Robert Reed if I may say so), Mrs. Partridge and Reuben Kincaid had some extremely strange chemistry going on that nobody ever talked about. Mike Brady never seemed gay to me though Robert Reed was, but damned if Reuben Kincaid didn't come off a little light in the loafers and Dave Madden's been married twice. C'mon get happy, indeed. There was just too much to think about when the Partridges were on-screen, and I like my wacky families presented mindlessly.
There's also a fashion issue that cannot be understated. The wardrobes of both families frankly sucked. (The hair in both families was also truly frightening. Mike Brady should never have gotten a perm and Keith Partridge spent far too much time on his feathers.) But the Partridge family always sang in those hideous magenta polyester pantsuits with the frilly pirate shirts. Always. They went to Sea World in those outfits! Shirley sang The Whale Song in that getup! It was like they stepped onto that psychedelic bus in normal clothes and emerged as the Clothing Deranged Family. And Reuben Kincaid let them out like that! What kind of manager allows that kind of behavior?
Before you open Outlook and start to send me flame mail all, "Oh yeah!? Well, what about those dumb-ass rainbow colored jumpsuits with the freaking beads hanging off the arms that your precious Bradys wore, huh!? And what about all the stupid outfits they wore on The Brady Bunch Hour!?" please don't get your panties in a bunch (ha ha. Little joke there). I don't excuse the Bradys one bit for their bead-infested garb. Those outfits stayed in my nightmares for years. But - and here's the crucial factor - they only wore them once. The Partridge family couldn't get enough of their magenta polyester. The Bradys tossed out the beaded jumpsuits as soon as the high wore off.
And as for the Brady Bunch Hour, I never watched it. It was a Sid and Marty Kroft extravaganza and those guys simply freaked me out. I didn't watch the extremely disturbing Banana Splits, or HR Puf'n'Stuf (I was of the Just Say No generation, you see) or Land of the Lost, or The Bugaloos or any of the myriad frightening productions of the Kroft brothers. I am better off for it.
Despite these clear differentiations between the families (which obviously prove the Brady's superiority) I admit that there were some pretty suspicious similarities. The storylines were recycled an awful lot. Marcia Brady gets braces, so Laurie Partridge has to get them. Bobby Sherman shows up at the Partridge pad, Davy Jones drops in on the Bradys. Shirley's high school sweetheart "Captain Cuddles" Corwin barges in on the scene, Carol's high school honey "Tank" hangs around calling her Twinkletoes and exciting Mike too much. Carol has to go to court over a traffic accident - so does Shirley. And on and on. You'd think the writers would at least try to come up with something new.
The fact is that for whatever reason - and I think I've made the case for many good ones here - I'm a Brady fan. I watched Carol's bout with laryngitis and Bobby's case of the mumps, Marcia's broken nose and Peter's valiant struggle against multiple personality disorder (the infamous "pork choooops and aaaapple saaaauce" episode). I know they had a cat in the pilot but not in the rest of the series (Fluffy) and I know Sam the butcher's last name (Franklin). I don't know why Greg's whistle sounded exactly like a theramin when he was trying to scare his siblings, but I do know who sent Jan the locket (Alice). I accompanied the bunch to the Grand Canyon and Hawaii, to a movie studio and an amusement park. Yeah the show is dopey, and true, it's corny in the extreme, but some days after work, after commuting, after burning myself making dinner, I just want to turn off my brain and watch the story of a lovely lady, her three very lovely girls, a man named Brady, and the three boys of his own.
And if you come over on a weekend night, you can watch them with me.
- KNP June 22, 2003