Over the weekend, Ann B. Davis, a giant of classic TV, died in San Antonio. While the 88-year-old actress had won two Emmys in her career for the NBC sitcom “The Bob Cummings Show,” it was her work as Alice, the Brady family housekeeper on “The Brady Bunch,” that cemented her name and face in the hearts of loyal TV viewers around the world.
“Brady Bunch” fans all seem to have their favorite characters -- there are the Greg fans, the Marcia fans and the Jan fans, among others -- but Alice was a unifier. Who didn’t love Alice?
But through five seasons, through Alice’s (almost) unwavering devotion to the Brady family, through countless family vacations and basketball games, what were Alice’s truly stand-out moments?
The Inspiration Network is running a marathon of six great Alice episodes of “The Brady Bunch” on Thursday. Here are three of those not to be missed.
Perhaps the best way to appreciate Alice is to see her through the eyes of someone who truly loved her, Alice’s boyfriend Sam the butcher (Allan Melvin). Sam was mentioned frequently in the series, but appeared in only eight episodes. Their scenes together depicted a sweet kind of mid-life love affair, in contrast to the silly teenage flirtations of the Brady kids. Though the Sam-Alice romance was not without complications, as seen in the Season 2 episode “Alice’s September Song.” In that episode, Alice’s former flame, Mark, re-entered her life, causing friction with Sam. Another reminder that Alice wasn’t just Brady family wallpaper, but a living, breathing person, with wants, desires (and a past) of her own.
On the opposite end, in the Season 4 episode “Goodbye, Alice, Hello,” Alice developed a rift with the Brady kids and actually quit working for the family. She instead went to work at a local restaurant, replaced with the much less charming Kay (played by Mary Treen). Since Alice almost always wore the same sky-blue dress in every episode of the series, it was shocking to see her dressed in pink and disheartening to see another face doing the work in the Brady house. Just like Cinderella, the Bradys didn’t know what they had till it was gone.
But an actor’s skill can perhaps best be measured by how well they take on multiple roles. And Davis handled it marvelously in the Season 3 episode “Sergeant Emma,” in which she served double duty as Alice and Alice’s cousin Emma, an Army officer whose strict no-nonsense way with the kids was at complete odds with Alice’s more easy-going style. While “The Brady Bunch” did not have any Zemeckis-level visual effects to put Davis on screen with herself, she provided all the special effects necessary with her acting.