brady house

Getting established

The premise of The Brady Bunch (1969-1974) is the grafting of two realities. As explained in the theme song, two families, one male and one female, are joined into the titular bunch. In this arrangement, harmony depends on the compression of personal space and identity. Episodes that involve the attic feature Freudian plot devices and reveal Oedipal tensions with occult overtones. The door to the attic is the rupture that threatens the structural logic and integrity of the house and the family inside.

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The magic attic

Most episodes of The Brady Bunch begin with an establishing shot of the house at 11222 Dilling Street in North Hollywood. It represents the exterior of the Brady house. The cut from the exterior establishing shot to the interior is the rift between one reality and another where dimensional physics do not apply. The reality of Dilling Street is grafted onto to the reality of Stage 5 at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, an impossible union. The exterior and interior don’t match.

From the exterior there doesn’t seem to be room for an attic at all, but in the second season episode “Our Son the Man” (original airdate: February 5, 1971), reference is made to one. Greg thinks he is a man and therefore entitled to a level of privacy enjoyed by his father. Greg wants his own room. “My own pad. My own scene,” he says.

Greg Brady, the man.

Greg, the man

Mike's den

Mike’s den

Mike and Carol try to think of a place to accommodate Greg. The attic would be “great if he were two-and-a-half feet tall,” says Mike who grudgingly surrenders his den, unseated by his eldest son.

Greg's own pad, his own scene

Greg’s own pad, his own scene

In the fourth season episode, “Fright Night” (original airdate: October 27, 1972), the attic is shown to have headroom to spare and the Brady house is no longer the place viewers understood it to be. From the attic window, the Brady boys, with Greg as de facto leader, project an image of a ghost to scare the girls. The girls figure it out and retaliate. They wager that their brothers, all of them, won’t sleep all night in the “haunted” attic. The girls fabricate a ghost of their own, and Peter and Bobby flee in terror, losing the bet. The attic exerts a possessing power over the children, fogging rational thought and inspiring mischief that involves illusion, deception, and the supernatural.

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Ghost hoax

In the final episode of the fourth season episode, “A Room at the Top” (original airdate: March 23, 1973), the attic is again a place of discord. The family cleans it out, and noting the vastness of the space, Greg and Marcia both want the attic as their own bedroom. They are each granted the attic by their biological parent. Something’s got to give. By reason of seniority, Greg gets the attic, but gives it to Marcia who is in tearful hysterics over it. Peter and Bobby, whose personal space has increased by a third, are loath to relinquish their newfound elbowroom and torment Marcia until she gives the attic back to Greg. Despite the uneasy truce, the episode and the season end with the unity of the Brady family, routinely exhibited by proximity, fragmented.

Conflict

Conflict

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Greg uses the privileged privacy afforded by his attic room in the service of criminality, again with occult overtones. In the season five episode “Getting Greg’s Goat” (original airdate: October 19, 1973) Greg and his friends steal the Coolidge High mascot—a goat (!) named Raquel—in an eye-for-an-eye retaliation for their stealing of the Westdale High bear cub. Greg keeps the stolen goat in the attic and Bobby’s voyeuristic impulses are coaxed forward by Greg’s voice in the airshaft. Bobby thinks his brother is talking to a woman he spent the night with. Such a possibility is part of the new post-attic Brady reality.

Mike and Carol aid and abet Greg’s malfeasance and family roles lose definition. When Greg is caught, his sentence, writing a 5,000-word essay on the evils of mascot stealing, is suspended. Authority is shown to be corrupt and the rule of law arbitrary and contingent.

UFO hoaxers

UFO hoaxers

Increasingly arrogant and reckless since moving into the attic, Greg, perpetuating a cycle of transgression and retribution, pranks Bobby and Peter because they snitched on him for breaking curfew in the season-five episode “Out of this World” (original airdate: January 18, 1974). Using the old projection gag from “Fright Night,” Greg tricks his brothers into thinking they have seen a UFO. Also seeking vengeance, Marcia becomes Greg’s lieutenant. Like vindictive rulers on their thrones, they punish their younger siblings for having the audacity to insist that Greg and Marcia follow the same rules as everyone else. In the ensuing mayhem, local and federal authorities are humiliated.

Mike does not attend Greg’s high school graduation in the final episode of The Brady Bunch, “The Hair-Brained Scheme” (original airdate: March 8, 1974), nor does he, the patriarch of the Bunch, appear in the episode at all. The series ends with family incomplete. The dissolution can be seen to have begun with the opening of the attic door. The viewer is left with little hope that Greg’s anti-social tendencies, unleashed and fomented in the attic, will abate in the vacuum of paternal disregard.

"I hit the skull light." -Greg Brady

“I hit the skull light.” -Greg Brady

The Snowman Electrical Band’s Halloween 2016 treat, “Igor’s Cellar (Hit the Skull Light),” features a sample of Greg from the episode “Fright Night,” in which the children, after scaring each other, conspire to terrorize their servant, Alice. The plan works, and (get this) a bust of Mike, a representation of and tribute to patriarchal authority, is destroyed, the symbolic killing of the father/ruler a condition of fallen regimes.

Think about that and then join the dozen other people that have already been given the creeps by Snowman Electrical Band’s cover of The Detergents’ “Igor’s Cellar.”

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