Sitcom Face Off = The Brady Bunch vs. The Cosby Show
It’s time once again for a sitcom face off, where I take two similar shows and compare them to see which is better. Today we have a real grudge match for you!
For five years the Brady’s charmed us on ABC. It left the air in 1974, and ten years later The Cosby Show debuted on NBC and literally revived the sitcom format. On the surface these two shows don’t immediately seem like they have a lot in common. But actually they do. These were warm, loving family comedies with simple stories. They were also groundbreaking. Brady Bunch was an example of a successful blended family while Cosby was an example of a successful, upper class African American family. These were both almost unheard of when these respective shows premiered. So, which was better?
Round 1:Male Leads
Mike Brady vs. Cliff Huxtable
This is a really tough one. Both of these guys are great fathers. They are always there for their kids, whether it be with a soft shoulder or a firm hand. They know when to be serious and at the same time when not to take things to seriously. Outside of the family, both are professional men well respected in their fields. Mike is an architect while Cliff is an OB/GYN. Cliff was a goof off as a child which permeates his parenting. He is always clowning around and being silly. Sometimes, a little too silly. There is one episode where Vanessa has some cool kids over to impress them. Cliff keeps acting silly, and even I would have been embarrassed if that had been my father. Mike’s major flaw is being a little too long winded at times with his speeches and lectures. He also tends to be a little too serious all the time. Cliff can get upset, although it’s a little harder to get to it then it is for Claire. Claire is a stronger personality so very often Cliff will just sit back and let her go. He also has bad habits like over eating and the unfortunate tendency to ramble. There is a great episode where Theo explains how on his good days Cliff is sharp and gives good advice. On his bad days he just talks and talks….and talks. His worst trait may be refusing to acknowledge his bad traits, there is always an excuse. I think Mike Brady is a more consistent parent, and does a better job at getting through to his kids. Let’s be honest, his kids take advantage of Cliff a lot. True, it almost always backfires but they still know Cliff is the soft touch and the way to go. Like the episode where Rudy wanted to wear a dress Claire had forbade her to wear. She tried to use Cliff, and it only didn’t work because Claire caught Rudy. I really didn’t expect this to this way. I love Bill Cosby and his character, but at the end of the day I have to give the award to Mike Brady for being a stronger all around parent.
Round 2=Female Leads
Carol Brady vs. Claire Huxtable
Carol and Claire are great mother’s and wives. They love their kids and are always there for them. They do have some faults. Claire has a hard time admitting when she is wrong. Take the episode where she hurts her toe and acts horrible toward Cliff, he has to drag the apology out of her. Carol is a worrier of the first degree. I always loved the episode where Carol panicked about Greg playing football. When Claire worried about Rudy playing football that made sense, she was five. Greg was the same age, as I think Mike points out, as dozens of kids who are playing football. There is another episode with a trampoline, Carol is doing the whole worry act and Mike doesn’t even acknowledge it. Claire of course is a respected attorney. The only problem is she tends to bring that home to much, I never liked it when she would question her children and husband like they were criminals on a witness stand.Â They’re both tough when they get upset, and have no fear of letting their kids know it too. On the positive side Claire is very smart which is one of the things Cliff admires about her. Carol is the attentive housewife, always there (of course, where else would she be?). So, who wins? Claire has a little to firm a hold on her family, she comes off as intimidating. One of her worst traits are times when something isn’t really a problem until she gets mad. Cliff will be offended but Claire tells him it’s no big deal. Then suddenly she gets offended and it’s a problem. That’s not fair, why was it silly when Cliff was upset about it but now it’s to be taken seriously? On the other hand, Carol is a bit of a wimp. She defers to Mike a little too much and when she makes mistakes she tends to be scared to death of telling him. I always suspected Carol’s first marriage was an abusive relationship the way she is so petrified to tell Mike that she messed up. He always forgives her almost instantly. I think Clair beats out Carol in this category. She doesn’t feel the need to check with Cliff when things go wrong the way Carol has to check with Mike. When Mike is not around Carol is strong and has no trouble being strict, but when he is Carol kind of uses Mike as her backbone, if he is ok with it suddenly she changes her mind and is fine with it. Claire would never do that, if she is not ok with something then that’s the end of the discussion even if Cliff disagrees. So, for being stronger……
Round 3=The kids
The Brady Kids vs. The Huxtable Kids
We have six Brady kids and five Huxtable kids. of course, the kids are what drives the stories for every episode. Without them there would be no show. But which show did it better? Let’s look at The Brady’s first. Marcia was the perfect, popular, and beautiful one. Jan was the neurotic one who worried about everything from her looks to being under her sisters shadow. I really liked Jan when she wasn’t being a worrier, but I guess one of the kids had to take after their mother. Cindy is the cute one, however the creators decided in order to be cute she also had to be dumb so Cindy got stuck with some really stupid lines. How do you forgot you loved peanut butter and jelly? They also used her big mouth to spoil things that were going on in the episode. Greg is the leader, the man of the house. He was also very cool and in demand with women. Peter was the black sheep, he couldn’t hold a job or do anything right. Bobby was probably the most normal of the Brady’s, he had insecurity issues because he was the youngest. So, what about the Huxtables? Sondra was the college student and I almost can’t even count her. Denise was the black sheep of the Huxtable family. She couldn’t commit to anything, as soon as she got frustrated she wanted to quit. Theo was the under achiever but we learn that there was a reason. It was a learning disability that made it so hard for him to have good grades. Vanessa is the typical teen, when we first meet her she is the gossip but as the series evolved she was the one getting into trouble for teenage reasons like wearing make-up, staying out with boys, or sneaking off with her friends. Rudy was the baby, and unlike Cindy Brady, Rudy didn’t need silly lines of dialogue to be cute. She simply was cute, and her scenes with Bill Cosby are still precious to watch. The big factor here is age. I always felt the Huxtable’s aged better than the Brady’s. In that last year Greg seemed like an adult and everyone got so bland. The Huxtables stayed interesting as their characters aged and evolved. So, who wins? I am going with the children who aged well, were a bit more realistic, and who didn’t form their own band to bore us with horrible songs in several episodes.
Round 4=SUPPORTING CAST
You already know who’s going to win this one, right? Alice was the ultimate supporting cast member because she could be everything. Oh sure, she was officially the Brady’s housekeeper but we know she did more than that. She was the fun aunt, best friend, and surrogate parent at times too. She was the one who saved the day on several occasions by realizing the solution to the problem when no one else could, take the episode about Greg smoking. Alice is the one who finally realizes the jacket the cigarettes were in was, in fact, not Greg’s jacket. When she didn’t need to be any of these, Alice was quite simply comic relief with her one liner and observations. She was also the doting singe girl, desperately hoping to finally get married. That’s where Sam the butcher came in. Unrealisitc? Yes! But Anne B Davis did such a great job with her that Alice came off as the most normal, and was loved by everyone. The Cosby Show of course can’t compete with that. They did have a decent supporting cast. We had Cliff’s parents, Theo’s friends like Cockroach, Rudy’s friends Peter and Kenny, and others that came and went over the years. Truth is if you took Alice out Cosby would win this category hands down. However, this category has to go The Brady Bunch, Alice was just one of a kind.
WINNER=The Brady Bunch
Round 5=THEME SONG
Both of these shows have corny openings. The Brady Bunch has the family in checkerboards smiling at each other. Cosby had the family dancing and smiling at the camera was their names appear. Which is better, the one with the corny theme song or the one with the jazzy music? While the Brady song is memorable, it also gets down right silly. I’m going to go with Cosby, at least all the cast’s names appear in the opening credits. Also, Cosby did a different opening almost every season and unlike The Brady Bunch which was the same one every year except that the cast got older as the show went on.
WINNER=The Cosby Show
So, here we get down to the gritty stuff. Which show told better stories? These shows did many similar episodes. Greg wanted his own car much like Denise did. Greg was caught with a pack of cigarettes in his jacket, Theo was caught with a joint in his book (which wasn’t his of course). The Brady Bunch had big named guest stars like Davy Jones while Cosby also had big name guest stars including Stevie Wonder. Mike and Carol liked being romantic with each other and Cliff and Clair sure were as well. Both the homes used in the established shots are famous and real locations you can visit to this day. Hard as it may be to believe, the parents on the Brady Bunch were also allowed to make mistakes. What episode of Cosby had Cliff and Claire admit they screwed up? On the other hand Cliff and Clair had some real arguments which we never really saw Mike and Carol have. The Brady Bunch also did more experimenting, they took their show to The Grand Canyon and Hawaii. They gave Robert Reed and Florence Henderson chance to do dual roles. They both had backdoor pilots but Kelly’s Kids went nowhere while A Different World became a hit show in its own right. Before I continue I want to talk for a second about the unfair criticism both these shows get. The Brady Bunch gets made fun of for portraying a very happy family. Yeah, and the problem with that is? The Cosby Show was criticized for “not being black enough”. That’s idiotic, I am sure there are many upper class African American families who are happy. Not all families are dysfunctional, and not all African American families live in poverty stricken ghetto’s (no disrespect to those who are these things). It’s nice to see a happy family on TV, and I never understand why so many people mock it. These shows are cherished for a reason. Now that I have that out of my system, I will give this category to The Brady Bunch. Why? If I were just comparing this to the first few years of Cosby, this would be a no brainer. However, as the series went on there were so many episode where the kids were an afterthought. Cosby used his show to feature his favorite music and actors, and those episodes always sucked. Take the episode with John Ritter, I loved John Ritter and actually like this episode. But hardly anyone from the regular cast appears in it! What did this show have to do with anything? So, for staying closer to formula more of the time……..
WINNER=THE BRADY BUNCH!
Round 7-Jumping the Shark (or Olivia vs. Cousin Oliver)
As usual we decide the winner by choosing which show suffered more as the years went on. The last few times I did the choice wasn’t always simple. However, it’s easy in this case. Sure, Cosby aged but nothing like The Brady Bunch. One other thing these shows have in common that I haven’t talked about yet are the new cast members. Cosby brought in Olivia, and of course Brady introduced Cousin Oliver. The difference, of course, is that Olivia worked. She fit in with the show and did bring a bit of fresh air to the series. She was adorable and fun to watch, and at the same time didn’t take anything away from the rest of the cast. Cousin Oliver, on the other hand, was the final nail in the coffin of The Brady Bunch. Not that the show was so great that last year, but when he was introduced that was it. Oliver just didn’t work, and thankfully was only in about six episodes. The Brady Bunch’s final episode was idiotic, a show about hair tonic which changes Greg’s hair to orange. The show was so dumb Robert Reed wound up not being in it. The Cosby Show had a fantastic final episode. The show about Theo graduating from college was such a sweet finale. It brought the show full circle, and the final scene was Cliff and Clair dancing right off the set and into history. So, while I have given a lot of credit to The Brady Bunch at the end of the day the better program is still….
Final Thoughts-This was all for fun of course, both these shows were a major part of my childhood and I cherish them both. Hope you enjoyed this!