Alibi V.28 No.37 • Sept 12-18, 2019 

Idiot Box

Building a Flashback

“A Very Brady Renovation” on HGTV

A Very Brady Renovation

Forget fentanyl, nostalgia is the most potent drug our country manufactures. Americans will always possess a powerful desire—perhaps even need—to share a sentimental longing for the past. It’s something that unites us. Despite our differences, humans have a universal longing for the past, a sentimental desire to revisit a particular period or place with happy personal associations. For me it’s sitting on the curb of a Circle K next to my banana seat Huffy, sipping on a Slushie and reading the latest issue of Captain America. For certain conservative voters, it’s the comfort of racially segregated 1950s suburbia. Heck, middle-aged folks in 1802 probably bonded over conversations about how life was so much more civilized under British rule.

So it’s no great shock to see HGTV trading on our country’s collective nostalgia, adding the ’70s sitcom-inspired home makeover show “A Very Brady Renovation” to the pile of sequels, prequels, remakes, etc. currently flooding out of Hollywood at high volume.

More than 45 years after the iconic TV series “The Brady Bunch” was canceled by ABC—and kept alive, Frankenstein’s monster style, by reruns—HGTV went out and spent $3.5 million ($1.6 million over asking price) for the original “Brady House.” The house at 11222 Dilling St. in Studio City, Calif. was used in exterior establishing shots as the home of Mike and Carol Brady (Robert Reed and Florence Henderson) and their blended brood. The rest of the show was shot on sets at Paramount Studios. Somehow, though, few viewers noticed that the exterior of the house was a single story residence, while the inside featured a memorable staircase and a full second story.

Undaunted by the wide gap between reality and imagination, HGTV has launched a five-episode series reuniting the surviving Brady kids Maureen McCormick (Marcia), Barry Williams (Greg), Eve Plumb (Jan), Christopher Knight (Peter), Susan Olsen (Cindy) and Mike Lookinland (Bobby) and pairing them up with a selection of the network’s handy personalities. Together with telegenic twins Drew and Jonathan Scott (aka “The Property Brothers”), along with Mina Starsiak and Karen Laine (“Good Bones”), Leanne and Steve Ford (“Restored by the Fords”), Jasmine Roth (“Hidden Potential”) and Lara Spencer (“Flea Market Flip”), the Bradys are restoring their house to its tacky 1970s glory.

Of course the well-aged moppets aren’t exactly building much of anything. They’re just strapping on toolbelts and pretending to hammer a couple nails while real contractors do the actual work. And it’s a lot of work—more of a top-down demolition than a “renovation.” The interior of the house looks nothing life what we saw on TV. So HGTV crews are going to have to add 2,000 square feet and a whole extra story—all without altering the exterior “look” of the building.

Drew and Jonathan are genial, good looking and offer plenty of silly jokes, which dovetails just fine with the lightweight reminiscences of the cast members. Pointless as it all is, it will sit well in the pop culture-filled consciousness of anyone curious enough to sit through one or more episodes. In the pilot, for example, the Property Brothers obsess over the staircase, which doesn’t quiet fit the new layout. Should they reduce the number of steps or lower the angle to make it fit? Naturally, they build an entire replica staircase for Maureen McCormick to walk down. Her determination: Angle is more important than the number of steps (which are hereby reduced from 12 to 11).

Again, there’s nothing important or necessary or particularly fascinating about anything happening on “A Very Brady Renovation.” At the end of it all, Southern California will be blessed with one very ugly ’70s-style ranch house filed with hideous couches and cheesy wood paneling. And yet, don’t be surprised to find some tiny part of your soul suffused with nostalgic delight when someone hunts down the exact vase the Brady kids broke playing basketball in the house (even after Carol told them not to). It’s just proof that all those hours we, as a nation, have wasted watching network TV are finally paying off.