Sitcom Episode Face-off:Brady Bunch vs Fresh Prince
Hello my friends! Since my sitcom face-off’s have kind of dried up, I decided to come up with another idea. Rather than general comparisons between series, I will take two episodes of different shows with the same plot and see which did it better. Now obviously this would work better in a video show but I will try to be a detailed as I can and of course the episodes are available elsewhere to see for yourselves
You may remember back at Christmas I talked about how Family Matters had an episode with the same plot as a Growing Pains episode. That happens a lot in sitcoms, since there are only so many stories creators can come up with. However in that case the Family Matters episode sucked while Growing Pains did a decent job with the story. Of course that may be because the writer or writers were better or were less afraid to take a risk. Sometimes the writers know they are writing cliche so try to spin it another way, with varying degrees of a success.Â Today I want to compare two very similar episodes of :
So which episodes are we discussing today? I was reminded in my last article of the Davy Jones episode of the Brady Bunch “Getting Davy Jones”, and realized what a stunning similarity it had to the Fresh Prince episode “Twas the Night Before Christening” featuring Boyz II Men. It even followed the same structure! But who told the better story?
Before I even begin, yes the Fresh prince episode is a Christmas episode but I don’t feel like waiting until next December to do this. What I will do is break the story down and try to determine which series handled it better. In the end I will tally up the winner and determine the better episode. And of course, as always, this is just for fun and completely my opinion.
BASIC PREMISE:On The Brady Bunch, Marcia promises she can get Davy Jones to sing at her senior prom. On Fresh Prince, Will promises he can get Boyz II Men to sing at his cousins Christening. Hijinks ensue!
So let’s break the plot down.
ROUND 1 : How does the conflict come about?
Right off the top to be fair to both shows, it is explained the artist(s) is in town before the situation comes up. So it’s not as if their being there in the end makes no sense (like that early episode of Brady with Desi Arnaz Jr where he pops out of thin air for no reason). Both series get a pass on that one.
On Brady Bunch Marcia says she is president of his fan club and even got a signed letter from Jones saying he would help her if she needed. She promises she can get him even though she has no real connection to him. On Fresh Prince, Will let’s it slip he knew the boys in Philly and can get them to go to the Christening. Even though he’s never met them before.
VERDICT-Yeah, at least it’s plausible that Will could have known Boys II Men if they lived in the same city. Marcia actually believing that the fan letter she received was an actual promise from Davy Jones and not anything more than a form letter makes her dumber than usual.
ROUND 2 : How does the complication occur?
On The Brady Bunch Marcia doesn’t have a chance to tell anyone she couldn’t get him before it’s all over school. Risking embarrassment she can’t tell the truth, and then scrambles to find a way to reach Jones. On Fresh Prince, Will decides to try to get Boyz II Men rather than just tell someone the truth.
VERDICT-Yeah I couldn’t even make that sound less stupid. Will could easily tell everyone he was full of it and the only people who would know would be his family. Marcia is facing being embarrassed in front of the entire senior class and as a teenage girl I imagine that is unpleasant.
WINNER-The Brady Bunch
ROUND 3 : How does the complication get more complicated?
On The Brady Bunch Marcia’s attempts to get Davy Jones meet with failure. Including sending him a telegram and going to a TV studio where he is supposedly making an appearance. It’s finally Sam the Butcher who comes to save the day (via Alice) because he knows the chef at the hotel Jones is staying in. Greg helps her get into the hotel disguised as bus boys (Marcia is disguised as a boy because girls can’t be bus boys. Ah 1970’s, never change!).
On Fresh Prince, Will somehow gets into the studio and when it is revealed Will stole away one on the Boyz girlfriends they hate him and throw him out. When calling the girl fails, Will has to steal Carlton’s Santa suit and dress up like Santa to sneak in to their studio and get another chance.
Verdict-Tough call but Marcia really tries and her failures are at least believable. Yeah the stuff with Sam is a bit forced but Sam is a butcher so maybe he does know the Chef? However, while the idea that Will stole one of the Boyz girlfriends is a stretch but one I can accept, the Santa thing is idiotic. But we’ll get more into that.
WINNER-The Brady Bunch
ROUND 4 : What about that B story?
Normally The Brady Bunch is usually all about that B story but here the whole episode is Davy Jones. The other kids, and even Mike, try to help Marcia out.Â Â On Fresh Price, the B story involves who is going to be Nicky’s godmother. Vivian asked both her sisters!
Verdict-I think one of the reasons this Brady episode was never a favorite for me was the lack of a B story. By not taking a break from the plot it doesn’t have the usual Brady balance. The episode was a little to much into the Davy Jones loves when EVERYONE is trying to help Marcia out. We don’t even get a decent scene between Mike and Carol, almost unheard of!! While there is no B story on Brady the B story on Prince is real stupid. How does that end? Vivian gets fed up with her sister’s bickering and makes Geoffrey godfather. It’s as stupid as it sounds since the sisters wouldn’t have been fighting if she hadn’t screwed up. Geoffrey being godfather is nice but making it a last minute thing makes it feel forced as if Vivian were doing it more to piss her sisters off than any other reason.The idea Vivian asked both her sisters is so stupid it happened off screen. And it takes time away from Will’s story which could have been explored better. But, fair is fair and at least they tried to have a subplot.
ROUND 5 : How is Complication resolved?
Marcia figures out where Davy Jones is recording, and goes to the studio. While she pleads her case to the manager, Davy Jones hears the whole thing over the studio microphone. Before Marcia can tell her teacher she blew, Jones shows up at the house that night. He felt guilty for the letter that started this mess and promises to go to her prom. He then says all he needs is date, and asks Marcia if she know a girl who would like to go with him. Awww.
On Fresh Prince, Will goes to the studio dressed as Santa and tries to talk Boyz II Men into attending the Christening. They accept, until they realize itâ€™s Will and he is thrown out. The next scene before Will can admit to everyone that he lied Boyz II Men mysteriously show up in the Christening. They sing â€œSilent Nightâ€ and all is well.
Verdict-Fresh Prince is just so contrived. Why would the Boyz listen to some guy dressed as Santa? What made them change their minds and attend (remember they hated Will)? I suppose you could argue “Christmas spirit”, but that seems weak to me. Phil knows the whole story so when did Will come clean about the whole thing?Â I didn’t even get into the nonsense of the gift contest that started this whole plot. Will decides to give Nicky a lame puppet (because he has no money), and is shocked that the family has nice expensive gifts. What? And what the heck gift is Boyz II Men anyway, the kid won’t remember or even care? They try to make a case that the baby loves the band but….No. Finally while i can understand Marcia wanting her friends to not hate her who the hell is Will trying to impress here, an infant baby or family who will always love him? I don’t get it.
What happens on The Brady Bunch makes perfectly reasonable sense, and it simply works. We clearly see how and why Davy came aware of the problem and wanted to help (it’s actually a nice bit of acting for Jones. He says nothing but his facial expressions really sell it). The prom is a week away so it makes sense Jones could juggle his schedule to appear (Boyz II Men decided LAST MINUTE to show up) and besides you can’t beat that scene of Marcia and Davy on the couch. She even gives him a kiss. Awww. It’s just so adorable.
WINNER-The Brady Bunch
ROUND 6: Final Scene
Fresh Prince used a framing device of Phil telling to the story to an older Nicky. Maybe because the creators knew how contrived it was and doing that would explain the silliness (Phil didn’t get the details right?). Anyway, the final scene is Nicky saying he loves Geoffrey…before ordering him to get him some hot chocolate. On The Brady Bunch, we get a scene of the four younger kids belting a song because they want to be singers, until Mike shoos them out of the house so he can work. And, I like that scene it feels very genuine. Didn’t we all do things like that as kids? Nice.
WINNER-The Brady Bunch
The Brady Bunch did it better. I know, that seems hard to believe. But they at least made Marcia’s dilemma a realistic one and her attempts to solve the problem made sense. Fresh Prince was built on one contrivance after another. Is it a bad episode? No, not at all. Getting to hear Boyz II Men sing their cover of “Silent Night” is awesome, as good as hearing Davy Jones belt out “Girl”. I just think that it was done better on Brady. The Brady episode is one of the best remembered of the series while the Fresh Prince episode is largely forgotten. Now I guess we know why.
This was an experiment on a new idea, what did you guys think? Hopefully I can do more in the future.