How Brady Was My Valley

Would you pay $1.9 million for a two-bedroom rehab with a wood shingle roof in Studio City?

You would if it was this house, and you were Lance Bass from Nsync. Except this is a set and the house at 11222 Dilling St. we think of as the Brady Bunch House is merely a plausible exterior for what had already been created onstage at CBS studios nearby. Nothing was ever filmed there, yet the totemic effect is undiminished. Pilgrims from across the globe take pictures of themselves at the place where Greg and Marsha lived. It bears the distinction of being (after the White House) the second most photographed private home in the country. Over my lifetime it has had but one owner.

Lance wanted to go meta-Brady and retrofit the house to match the set down to the period detail, then live inside of it.

Oddly, there is a part of me which can relate to this.  Growing up I would watch Brady reruns on Channel 44 at friends houses after school.   There was little else on TV at that hour, and nothing waiting for me but a long walk home to a family nothing like the Bradys.

When the show originally aired, intact two-parent families with a working father were the norm. Ten years later, in coastal California, it was nostalgia. The latchkey kids, the apartment kids, kids in trailers, hippie kids, we sprawled on leaking bean bags with empty stomachs and gazed into a world as foreign to us as the Pyramids of Giza, in which the drama was small and resolved in 30 minutes. Maureen McCormick’s skirts held dominion over us all.

The staircase impressed on my impoverished childhood a sense of modernity on a palatial scale, yet looking at the show with a critical 2019 eye, one sees nothing but cheap wood paneling, avocado-colored appliances and unrestrained polyester knits from the Sears catalog.

Say this for 1970s: the upper and lower income tiers dressed more alike than they do today and everyone seemed to have the same carpet.

In keeping with the zeitgeist, Studio City has systemically banished Brady Bunch houses in favor of faux-Cape Cods with triple the square footage, behemoths intended to reduce older California split levels to the dimensions of a Mississippi Delta shotgun shack.

How many of these domiciles would you wager contain six kids? I would say zero. How many more than two? Not many.

If we could put the Brady kids in a time machine, what would they make of the even cozier confines of Chez UpintheValley?   They would probably be so mesmerized by my phone, my tablet, and the weird black cylinder on the kitchen counter which plays whatever I command they wouldn’t even notice my little stucco box and its pretentious landscaping.  They would stare into the obelisks. Land and space were abundant. Technology was rare.

Lance Bass’ fever dream of nesting inside a sitcom was not to be. HGTV outbid him, paying $3.5 million, and is now developing a show around a remodel starring the Scott Brothers.  Naturally, they’re building it out to the property line, but in a nod to posterity, with a 1970’s motif.

One thought on “How Brady Was My Valley”

  1. “unrestrained polyester knits from the Sears catalog”

    Such a way with words.

    “reduce older California split levels to the dimensions of a Mississippi Delta shotgun shack.”

    So you’re aware of Florence Henderson’s provenance, right? She was one of ten children. Her daddy was a sharecropper – farming rented land – in Kentucky during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The banal suburban landscape of Studio City was an opulent dream of indoor plumbing and central air conditioning just a few decades later.

    The pendulum of history swings back and forth. The Brady Bunch marked the broad sweet spot of Middle America. We’re now as far from 1974 as 1974 was from the 1930s. The pendulum should start to swing back soon. But there’s that whole “adjustment period” first. You know… The 1940s…

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