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"Growing Up Brady" and "The Linda McCartney Story"

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I am about to recommend Growing Up Brady (Sunday, May 21; 9 to 11 p.m.; NBC). You should know that this recommendation is not ironic. In fact, I have forsworn irony for the foreseeable future. Just as in the seventies, when men were supposed to have feelings, I was briefly sensitive until being so did nothing for my career, so in the nineties I was mostly ironic, which was a supercilious sellout to the status quo. So, for awhile, I will be fiercely sincere.

Based on the autobiography of Barry Williams, who played Greg on the sitcom, Growing Up Brady tells us what really went on while one family, on television, did things together, while another family, our own at home, pretended to by watching them. Daniel Hugh Kelly is Robert Reed/Mike Brady; Rebeccah Bush is Florence Henderson/Carol; Adam Brody is Barry Williams/Greg; Kaley Cuoco is Maureen McCormick/Marcia; and so on unto Suanne Spoke as Ann B. Davis/Alice and Michael Tucker as executive producer Sherwood Schwartz. The resemblances are eerie and the rumors true. Greg did go out on a date with his own mother, though he really wanted Marcia. Dad, meanwhile, thought sitcoms were beneath him, and maybe you would, too, if earlier you'd co-starred with E. G. Marshall in The Defenders. But his real problem was the closet. (Reed would die of AIDS.) And when all the little greedheads banded together, after a taste of Las Vegas, to insist on bigger salaries, they got themselves canceled. It should happen to Friends.

Anyway, what's instructive about Growing Up Brady is that, even on television, all families are unhappy in their own way, proving Tolstoy's point. Whereas the problem with The Linda McCartney Story (Sunday, May 21; 9 to 11 p.m.; CBS) is that her marriage to Paul was as wonderful as everybody said it was, and she's still dead. So while Elizabeth Mitchell is uncanny as Linda, there are no prurient details for a TV movie to divulge. She got him through the defection of John to Yoko; indulged his need for her onstage with Wings; turned him into a vegetarian; and then got cancer like his mother. Gary Bakewell plays Paul, looking like a chipmunk. Tim Piper is a creepy John, as if hexed. George Segal is Linda's father, who knows why. There's not enough music; but then, there never is.


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