Saturday, April 01, 2006

Oliver's Army

Sorry for the lack of posts, but lots going on outside of the Leper Pop domain. We're still writing, but like to post something more than a daily diary of how bad our jobs suck and what the deal is with Jessica Simpson. In between posts, drop by Leper House - the official message board of Leper Pop. Always nice to hear from new people or you perpetual lurkers.

Damn, I wish I was a Brady. I really wasn’t old enough to watch during the original run as I was busy making ashtrays out of Play-Doh and running an imaginary tavern in my bedroom. This was before modern technology gave us wonders such as the Fuzzy Pumper Barbershop or the slightly disturbing Dentist Set, so you had to use your imagination. But I digress.

In 1974, the great Robert Reed finally went mad after giving up a promising stage career to play Mike Brady in 117 half hour episodes of television greatness. The series ended after Reed barricaded himself in Mike Brady’s old den after Greg had turned it into a groovy bachelor pad, holding Mike Lookinland (Bobby) and Susan Olsen (Cindy) hostage until Dr. Bombay was called over from the Bewitched set to negotiate a deal that would spare the two youngest Bradys. Dr. Bombay (Calling Dr. Bombay, Calling Dr. Bombay, Emergency, Emergency, come right away!) had been through a similar experience on the Bewitched set when the first Darrin (Dick York) got a hold of some PCP laced brownies that a mischievous crew member mistakenly left out on the buffet table, and Bombay had to talk York down from a lighting truss high above the set where he was readying to fly around on a stagehand’s push broom. York was too ashamed to return and producers replaced him with another actor named Dick (Sargent) hoping that the viewers wouldn’t notice. Unfortunately it didn’t work, although Darrin’s boss Larry Tate didn’t notice. The backlash meant that Brady creator Sherwood Schwartz would have to scrap his plans to replace Robert Reed with another actor named Robert (Redford). Redford was disappointed (oh, and Florence Henderson wasn’t?), but instead Redford accepted a role in The Sting, for which he received an Academy Award nomination in 1974. Sherwood also considered replacing Reed with an actor named Dick, but that would have led to incessant giggles from the young cast and he scrapped that plan as well.

You’ve probably heard the term “jumped the shark” by now. It refers to that moment when your favorite TV show begins wasting away into a shell of what it once was. The term is inspired by Happy Days, which many people believe started its downward spiral when Fonzie decided to jump the shark tank on water skis. Like we hadn’t already seen that at the Tommy Bartlett Water Show in Wisconsin Dells every summer. For anyone that didn’t understand that regional reference, Wisconsin Dells is kind of like Orlando without Disney World. And it’s in Wisconsin and not Florida. It’s been years since I’ve been there, but that’s how I remember it. They also have the above referenced water show, during which they plaster an official Tommy Bartlett Water Show window sticker on your rear windshield while you’re distracted by the pyramid of water skiers motoring around the lake dressed up in used Vegas showgirl costumes. But I digress.

If you were a fan of the Brady Bunch, you might remember Cousin Oliver. His appearances in the final season are considered by many as the moment when the series “jumped the shark” and eventually ended production. Unfortunately for Oliver, his name became synonymous with the addition of a cute kid to a television show in an attempt to stave off a lack of fresh ideas and waning interest from the home audience. Future “Cousin Olivers” would include Stephanie (All in the Family), Sam (Different Strokes), Andy (Family Ties), Captain Break-It (Leper Pop), and even Scrappy-Doo (Scooby-Doo). Personally, I enjoyed the final six episodes with Cousin Oliver. Who didn’t want to have a whip-crème pie fight like the Bradys did after Oliver ended the jinx? I’d rather have had a private whip crème session with Maureen McCormick (Marcia, Marcia, Marcia), but that was a given for any guy my age. By the way, she aged well and I still would. Oliver also was there when Cindy attempted a career as a Shirley Temple impersonator and when Bobby started cruising pool halls to hustle people while Mike and Carol thought he was at the library. Oliver also uncovered the international spy plot that linked Sam the Butcher to the Russians. If the series wasn’t cancelled after the next episode, I’m sure that Oliver would have helped Peter discover Alice’s secret life as a madam for high class call girls in the area. The conspiracy theorist in me wants to believe that there are unreleased episodes that were considered too edgy that will soon be released in some sort of DVD compilation any day now.

Back in the early 90’s, the Annoyance Theater in Chicago presented the wildly popular Real Live Brady Bunch plays, which consisted of live performances of actual Brady Bunch episodes. I got to see the Davy Jones episode, with special guest Emo Philips playing the part of Mr. Jones, but I think there was a part of me that secretly wanted to see an Oliver episode. Philip Seymour Hoffman was relatively unknown back then and would have been great in the role. Not sure he would have earned an Emmy to sit next to that Oscar he just got, but it would have been a good story for me to tell. Does anyone even know who the hell Emo Philips is anymore or whatever happened to him?

In their heyday, the Bradys put together a pretty impressive list of guest stars including Desi Arnez Jr (he’s so dreamy), Mr. Howell from Gilligan’s Island, Don Drysdale, Don Ho, Davy and Deacon Jones (Are you guys brothers?), Gordon Jump (WKRP), Joe Namath, and Vincent Price. I was especially resentful that my dad, unlike Mr. Brady, could not get Joe Namath to come over to our house to toss the ball around the backyard. I let go of that resentment a few years later when former Chicago Bears quarterback Bobby Douglas showed up at our football practice in high school and damn near broke my hand with one of his passes (Now I'll never be a hand model!). Yes, I dropped it and ruined my chances for a Division I scholarship, but the pass was a little high. It’s not like the guy is a Hall of Famer. Honestly, I wasn’t even qualified for a Division II or Division III scholarship. OK, so I wasn’t even allowed to fill the water bottles at the local community college, but that doesn’t mean I sucked. The recruiters just overlooked my bulimic physique and turtle-like speed. But I digress.

I kept waiting for Robbie Rist, the actor who played Oliver, to show up on an E! True Hollywood Story to tell how the Brady experience warped him and led him to a life of sniffing glue and transvestite whoring. But nothing. Barry Williams (Greg Brady) showed up on Celebrity Boxing to fight Danny Bonaduce (Partridge), but no sign of Robbie reprising his role for a cage fight against Chris from the Partridge Family. Then Christopher Knight (Peter) showed up on The Surreal Life to dispel any myths that his life might have turned out normal. I kept waiting for a Robbie Rist arrest and subsequent mugshot on The Smoking Gun. No luck. I was starting to get pissed, so I decided to do some research. I was expecting to have to dig my Peter Brady detective kit out of the attic (the same one used in The Great Earring Caper episode), but Robbie made it rather easy for me with his website.

It appears the guy is doing well. He’s done some voice-over work and is now working on his music career (both playing and producing). Personally I think the Marty Casey & Lovehammers should have had Robbie produce the new album. His Brady experience might have related well to Marty who, with his own five siblings, might have participated in a potato sack race or two.

In any case, drop by Robbie’s site and check out his work. He hasn’t updated his home page in a while, but if activity on the message board picks up maybe it will help expedite the site re-design he’s talking about. There is some more activity and pictures on his myspace page if you’re curious. If you like his music, maybe we can hire his band to play Leperpalooza. What could be more fun?


L A Ray said...

Holiday pickles!

keysunset said...

ooooh, a whip-crème pie fight at Leperpalooza! And potato sack races.

Sounds like a winner!

BTW, out at his myspace he says about his influences:
Elvis Costello, Queen, Junior Brown, Louis Prima, The Beach Boys, Harry Belafonte.....oh hell, if I think it's good, it influenced me. :-D

del901 said...

Hot rumour: Robbie has tried out for Rockstar: Supernova!

Everyone else might as well go home!

Sid F'er said...

Are you the only three reading this blog anymore?

keysunset said...

I don't think so, Sid, dear. I've had some friends comment on how funny they thought this post was, but obviously didn't leave a comment.

Chin up, darlin'

Anonymous said...

I met Cousin Oliver back in the early 90s. He was in a band. He had the exact same face but on a rocker's bod complete with leather clad too skinny legs. I have not been the same since....


HillMama said...

Are you the only three reading this blog anymore?

I read, but I typically don't post. I am a non-posting reader. I do laugh and enjoy the blogs. So that makes me a laughing, enjoying non-posting reader. Yet here I am posting. I've gone and destroyed the identity that I had carved out for myself. Now I'm all confused about who I am. Damn.

Sid F'er said...

OK, thanks. I was just being needy.

HM - go back to your little niche identity and I'll pretend I never read this.

LeperLover said...

I came, I read, and I laughed!

HR said...

Oh, me too. I'm here. I honestly think I've run out of things to, yeah, I have.