We recently ran a piece about several kinds of shows you just don’t see on TV anymore. The recent release of the Veronica Mars movie—eight years after the TV show was cancelled—reminded us of one we forgot: made-for-TV movies that served as reunions for beloved old TV shows.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show ushered in a new era of TV in 1970—literally. It was among the urbane, metropolitan-set shows CBS put on the air after jettisoning Hee-Haw, Petticoat Junction and other shows in a “rural purge.” MTM was enormously popular, landing in the top 20 for six of its seven seasons and spawning the hit spinoffs Rhoda, Phyllis, and Lou Grant. In February 2000, ABC aired Mary and Rhoda, a look at what the characters, portrayed by Moore and Valerie Harper, had been up to in the past 25 years or so. In short, they’re single again and balancing dating and careers, although Mary’s husband died in a rock climbing accident and Rhoda divorced her second husband. The reunion brought in 18 million viewers, so many that ABC briefly considered making Mary and Rhoda a regular weekly series.
Gilligan’s Island ran for just three seasons in the ‘60s to middling ratings, but it became an endless juggernaut in reruns. (Turn on your TV—it’s probably on somewhere.) The series ended without the castaways getting rescued, so producers decided to answer the question in 1978 with Rescue from Gilligan’s Island. Gilligan, the Skipper, too, the Millionaire, and his wife, the movie star, the Professor, and Mary Ann are all still trapped on the island in 1978 when a satellite crashes into the lagoon. The Professor makes a barometer out of a piece of space junk and predicts a tsunami. A tidal wave carries them all, in their huts, to Hawaii, where they’re rescued by the Coast Guard. The castaways become celebrities.
Have you ever wondered what all those kids from The Brady Bunch did when they became adults? Don’t ask—it’s kind of depressing. The 1988 special A Very Brady Christmas concerned Mike and Carol Brady getting all of their children (and their children) under one house for Christmas. They also bring their emotional baggage: Jan is in the middle of a divorce; Peter is having an affair with his boss; Bobby has dropped out of college; and Marcia and her husband are facing foreclosure. But all that pales to the movie’s big dramatic moment, when architect Mike Brady gets stuck under a collapsed building, only to be freed by emergency workers and his six kids singing Christmas carols.