O'BRIEN: Alice the maid harkens back to days of better TV

Posted: Jun. 2, 2014 1:45 pm Updated: Aug. 25, 2014 10:15 pm

To be honest, the news of Ann B. Davis' death over the weekend didn't come as a surprise. I had assumed Davis, who played the beloved character of Alice Nelson, the maid in the early 1970s sitcom, "The Brady Bunch," had passed long ago. Davis, 88, slipped in her bathtub in San Antonio, struck her head and died.

For millions of people who grew up as latch-key children in the 1980s, Alice was also a baby sitter of sorts. "The Brady Bunch" was in heavy syndication in the early 1980s. After a rough day of school, you could always count on turning on the TV to see what the bunch of Bradys were up to while you waited for Mom to come home and make dinner.

It didn't matter that you had seen the shows 50 times each. You wanted to see Marcia get hit with a football. You wondered how long it was going to take everybody to find Bobby and Cindy after they got lost in the Grand Canyon. And you wanted to see if Alice was ever going to be able to woo her beloved Sam the butcher, who used to deliver meat to the Brady house.

Sadly, Alice never got her man during the show's run. Here's a great quote by Alice that the New York Times used in Davis' obituary: "I've been digging Sam so long, by the time he proposes I'll be six feet under."

Maybe I sound like a curmudgeon, but they just don't make TV shows like they used back then. Maybe all of the good story lines were used up by people like Sherwood Schwartz, who created shows like "The Brady Bunch" and "Gilligan's Island," and Norman Lear, who produced "All in the Family" and "The Jeffersons," among others. Sure there are some good shows on TV, but the depth of programming wasn't like it was back in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

There were campy family shows like "Diff'rent Strokes," "Happy Days" and "The Love Boat." If you wanted something more serious with some comedy mixed in, you had "M*A*S*H" and "All in The Family." All of those shows were on "free" TV then.

It seems like the best shows these days are on cable TV. Outside of "Modern Family" and "The Simpsons," I'm not sure there are many shows I watch on what is considered "free" TV these days.

Bruce Springsteen once sang about there being 57 channels and nothing on. If you have satellite TV, it's a lot closer to 570 channels and nothing on. There is way too much trash TV on these days. Seems like everything is a reality TV show of some sort. Then again, I might not know what I'm talking about. My favorite show is about a bunch of dudes who fake fight for three hours every Monday night.

Davis' passing is sad for many reasons. It means that another link to our past is gone. If there's ever another "Brady" reunion -- and there darn well should be -- then Alice won't be a part of it. They'll have to talk about her in the past tense. Maybe someone can produce another "Brady" show, complete with two fractured families coming together and being held together with the work of a nanny instead of a maid.

After all, the latch-key kids today need something worth watching.


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