The Brady Bunch is pop culture’s most famous blended family.
The story of a “lovely lady who was bringing up three very lovely girls,” and a “man named Brady with three boys of his own,” who “would somehow form a family,” ran for fives seasons on TV, endlessly in reruns and even spawned two movies.
“The Brady Bunch is a live-action modern fairy tale of family,” says Christopher Knight who played Peter Brady on the original show. “In this context it’s less odd that it’s lasted for over 30 years; and why it may last in some respects as long as Mother Goose!”
He may be optimistic on the eternal appeal of his show, but he’s not wrong to imply that the idea of blended families could remain the subject of stories and movies for years to come.
This weekend “cinematic soulmates” Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler reunite for a third time, following The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates, for Blended, a romantic comedy about the mixing and mingling of two families.
Hollywood has been blending screen families for years. The grandfather of these blended family stories has to be Yours, Mine and Ours.
Based on the memoir Who Gets the Drumstick? by Helen Beardsley, this 1968 Lucille Ball, Henry Fonda film sees a widow with eight kids and a widower with 10 children (including Mike, played by Tim Matheson 10 years before he found fame in Animal House) become one big (almost) happy family.
The film was produced by Ball, who became so friendly with the Beardsleys she treated all 20 of them to a trip to Disneyland. ABC and Paramount Studios were so impressed with the film they gave the green light to the similarly themed The Brady Bunch show.
The same year, movie legend Doris Day made her final big-screen appearance in With Six You Get Egg Roll, a blended family story about a widow with three sons who marries a man with a daughter. The kids don’t see eye to eye, but soon figure out a way to live together. Released so soon after Yours, Mine and Ours, Eggroll got good reviews, but, as Roger Ebert wrote at the time, “would probably seem funnier if it didn’t suffer by comparison.”
Finally, Step Brothers is an R-rated look at extreme Peter Pan Syndrome. Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly play 40ish men who become bunkmates and reluctant stepbrothers when their parents (Mary Steenburgen and Richard Jenkins) marry. The familiar reprimand “Grow up and act your age” fell on deaf ears with these guys. It’s like watching two overweight, foul-mouthed 10-year-olds with thinning hair going at each other, but it is good vulgar fun.