Usually the days after New Year's is when you put the wreath and decorations away. The tree finds its way to the curb. Valentine's Day sneaks in the back door with singing porcupines saying "I'm a Hunka Hunka Burning Love." But wait! There's one more holiday we must celebrate. You might be scratching your head, thinking what if Jennifer talking about? Today darling readers, is Fake Jan Day.
You're probably thinking right now what is Fake Jan day? Ah, that means you have a life. So read on! You will learn something! And for those of you who know what I'm talking about, read on as well!
(Note: much of the following was taken from Love To Love You Bradys: The Bizarre Story of The Brady Bunch Variety Hour written by Susan Olsen, Lisa Sutton and Ted Nichelson)
Let's go back to 1977: Jimmy Carter just became president. A peanut farmer from Georgia was president, so there was a feeling in the air that anything could happen. Disco was becoming more and more popular.However, some things were on their way out, including the staple variety shows. Everyone had variety shows back in the day: Sonny and Cher. Then when they broke up, Sonny had a show, Cher had a show. Joey Heatherton had a show. My favorite was Donny and Marie. I loved the singing and they had so many brothers and sisters, I thought they were Catholic (the Osmonds and the public service annoucements LDS put out is how I learned about Mormon). Of course there was the queen of them all, Carol Burnett. So Sid and Marty Krofft, the geniuses behind H.R. Pufinstuf and The Bugaloos, decided to create a variety show focusing on the Bradys. After getting permission from Bradys creator Sherwood Schwartz, they started working.
However, there was a teeny tiny problem: Eve Plumb (Jan) didn't want to go back. She was trying to get out of the Brady Bunch image. She took the title role of Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway, and decided not to sign on the variety hour.Hence, they needed another Jan. It's not a bunch with five children! They needed six!
Enter Geri Reischl. A young actress the same age as Plumb, Reischl had worked for years for Matel commericals plus sitcoms. She had a Brady trademark: hair fair and golden. She looked a bit like the older sister Marcia (Maureen McCormick) She also could sing. Perfect for a variety hour. You're hired! Bunch, meet the new Jan! Not the same Jan!
The show made its debut and oh man, it's bad. I must say it's fun bad, because all of it was hard to believe. For instance Barry Williams singing "Pinball Wizard" or Rip Taylor as Ann B. Davis' love interest. Or the fact Robert Reed couldn't sing a lick. God bless him he tried, but mostly he went for the Rex Harrison speaking/singing type of deal. And here's the ironic part of it: Geri Reischl was the only one that could sing. Barry Williams and Maureen McCormick were good, but Geri Reischl had a great voice. During a solo of Elton John's "Your Song" her face is lit up, and brings a certain energy that is definitely lacking in the show itself.
Needless to say the show didn't last very long. The cast probably gave a big sigh of relief that it would never be seen again. But in 1995 Nick at Nite started showing The Brady Bunch Variety Hour to celebrate the Brady Bunch movie coming out. Then the show came out on DVD (which had Lorelai and Rory Gilmore enthralled one morning until Rory got her Harvard application) and now it's on YouTube.
As for Geri Reischl? She is a great sport about being in the same group as Sarah Chalke, Dick Sargent, Karen Cellini, Robert Wrightman, Donna Reed and Betsy von Fustenberg (google these people when you get a chance). So much so that five years ago, Fake Jan day was created. On January 2, people are encouraged to dress up like Reischl did on the Variety Hour, or your favorite Jan/Janet. Could be Janet Jackson, Janet Leigh, what have you. Eating fake cheese balls is a must. Then one must watch The Brady Bunch Variety Hour, or The Simpsons episode when they have a variety hour and behold, there's a new Lisa!
But the most important thing about Fake Jan day is to remember the Robert Wrightmans, the Karen Cellinis. It's hard to step in the shoes of a popular character, but you have to give them credit for trying. Hail thee, Fake Jan!
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries