CTP Episode of the Day - 07.20.06

Today's Cherished Episode: Sunshine Days (9x18)
Original Air Date: May 12, 2002
Written By: Vince Gilligan
Directed By: Vince Gilligan

One man's obsession with a 1970s sitcom combined with his remarkable telekinetic ability lead the agents to believe that they have discovered proof for the ultimate X-File.

(Thanks to chrisnu for today's episode pics.)

"I've been working this unit for nine years now. I ... I've investigated nearly 200 paranormal cases. We are due for some incontrovertible proof. I want vindication, for ... for Mulder and ... for all of us."

Some "Sunshine Days" Tidbits and Musings:

-- This episode is about an obsessed fan of The Brady Bunch. In case you've been living under a rock, The Brady Bunch premiered on ABC on September 26, 1969. The show was created by Sherwood Schwartz, who also created Gilligan's Island five years earlier. It's the story of a lovely lady ... Carol Ann Tyler Martin (played by Florence Henderson) who was bringing up three very lovely girls (Marcia, Jan, and Cindy) and the story of a man named Brady ... Michael Paul Brady (played by Robert Reed) who was busy with three boys of his own (Greg, Peter, and Bobby) ... yada, yada, yada. Mike and Carol married in the pilot episode and that's the way they all became the Brady Bunch.

-- This episode's title comes from the song "It's a Sunshine Day" that was first performed in Brady Bunch Episode No. 88 called "Amateur Night." In the episode, Mike and Carol's wedding anniversary is coming up and the kids all chip in to get a silver platter for them. Jan thinks it would be nice to have it engraved, but gets mixed up on the price of the engraving. So the kids try to raise an additional $56.23 for the engraver. This leads them to put together a musical act and try out for a TV amateur contest; "It's a Sunshine Day" is the song they sing for their audition. The kids also performed the song "Keep On" in the episode.

-- This was Vince Gilligan's second directing effort. His directorial debut was in another episode he wrote, "Je Souhaite."

-- The main character in this episode, Anthony Fogelman, changed his name to "Oliver Martin" in reference to Carol Brady's tow-headed jinx of a cousin (played by Robbie Rist), a character who joined the Brady Bunch in its failing final season. Many Brady Bunch fans consider the episode when Cousin Oliver joined the show to be the point when the Brady Bunch "jumped the shark."

-- Monica states that the real Brady Bunch house was on a studio backlot, but that wasn't entirely true. The exterior of the Brady House was a real split level suburban home in the San Fernando Valley. The original owner of the house, Louise Weddington Carson, was newly widowed, living alone in the two-bedroom house that her husband had designed and built for the couple 10 years earlier on a sprawling lot in the Valley, when producers of the show came calling in 1969 looking for a dwelling that Mike and Carol Brady and their new family would call home. The house's middle-class appearance is what attracted producers to the structure, as they didn't want it to be too affluent nor too blue-collar. "It had a good look and symbolized California living," said the show's creator. There was only one problem: the real house was a modest split level while the interior set already under construction at Paramount Studios was that of a roomy two-story structure. Hollywood set designers came to the rescue, attaching a phony window atop Carson's house to give the appearance of a full second story. Louise Carson sold the house to the McCallister family in 1973 during the show's fourth season. The McCallisters built a fence around the front yard a few years later to discourage fans who kept trespassing to sneak a peek into the Brady's living room -- which existed only on the Paramount sound stage.

-- The XF set designers and dressers get kudos for creating an excellent Brady copy. From the staircase to the fabrics to the color scheme, you feel like you are in the Brady house.

-- Vince provides us with his final "Holly" reference in this episode. The date mentioned on the videotape of Anthony/Oliver and Dr. Reitz that Scully, Doggett, and Reyes watch is April 4th, 1970. April 4th is the birthday of Vince Gilligan's girlfriend, Holly Rice.

-- Oopsie! When Oliver changes the house to the landscape, Doggett and Reyes stand up from the table and walk around. While doing so, they cast shadows both above and beneath the table (impossible in itself), while the table casts no shadows at all.

-- One quibble: Oliver may have been sympathetic and may have provided proof of the paranormal and the vindication that Scully was looking for, but he still killed two people. From what we see, as soon as his powers are discovered, the murder investigation is forgotten, and that doesn't seem quite right.

-- John Aylward (Dr. John Reitz) is perhaps best known for playing another doctor -- for more than 10 years he has played Dr. Donald Anspaugh on ER.

-- Does Michael Emerson look more familiar today than he did when he played the Brady Bunch obsessed Oliver Martin in "Sunshine Days"? He probably does -- since this past season he played the very, very, VERY creepy leader of The Others, Henry Gale on Lost.

-- David Faustino (Michael Daley) was best known for the 10 years he spent playing Bud Bundy on Married With Children.

-- Stephanie Herrera joined the show in April 2000 as an assistant to the producer. The first episode she worked on was "all things." In this episode, she stepped in front of the camera for the first time -- playing Jan Brady.

-- Arlene Pileggi (Mitch Pileggi's wife and Gillian Anderson's former photo double) reprised her role as Skinner's assistant -- and I think for the first time (correct me if I'm wrong) Skinner actually called his assistant by name -- "Arlene."

-- The Brady Bunch only ran for five seasons, 117 episodes, and the final episode aired on March 8, 1974, but the show and its legacy became more popular after cancellation. It began airing in syndication almost immediately after it was cancelled and has never gone off the air since. But the story doesn't end there. In 1976, the producers of the Donny and Marie Show created a variety show called The Brady Bunch Variety Hour starring all the original actors except Eve Plumb (Jan). This show had the family singing, dancing, and doing comedic skits and lasted nine episodes. In 1981, the Brady family was resurrected by NBC for what was supposed to be a two-hour movie called The Brady Girls Get Married. NBC liked what they saw and turned the movie into a series called The Brady Brides which ran for 10 episodes. As it turned out, working on this series was the last time the entire original cast would be together.

-- In 1988 the Bradys were back together again on CBS for a holiday celebration, A Very Brady Christmas. Susan Olsen (Cindy) would be missing from this reunion, which was the highest rated TV movie of 1988. Given the success of the TV movie, CBS tried to resurrect the series as a one-hour drama focusing on the now-adult Bradys and their kids, but it was quickly cancelled after six episodes. Maureen McCormick (Marcia) didn't participate in this version of the show.

-- As the original show's appeal continued in syndication, many documentaries and TV specials about the show were produced. The series even spawned a campy stage play called "The Real Live Brady Bunch" in which a touring cast of actors performed the original TV show scripts, exaggerating the lines and mannerisms to create a satirically humorous homage to the show. (Might we ever see The X-Files produced this way?) In 1995 Paramount studios created the very successful The Brady Bunch Movie and in 1996 A Very Brady Sequel both of which lovingly spoofed the show as the wholesome 1970-ish Brady clan lived in the 1990s.

-- The song "It's a Sunshine Day" was also performed in The Brady Bunch Movie as the family made a visit to the local Sears store.

-- As most things do, The Brady Bunch Movie has an X-Files connection! In the movie, the Brady's next-door-neighbor Mr. Dittmeyer is trying to acquire land for a new residential mini-mall and the Brady's are the only hold-outs on selling their land. Mr. Dittmeyer is played by Michael McKean who played Morris Fletcher in Season 6's "Dreamland I & II."

-- Each milestone anniversary of the show inspires a new crop of books, TV specials, documentaries, and other testimonials. The Brady Bunch is the only series ever to be shown in some form on all three major networks (ABC, NBC, CBS) as well as in theatrical and motion picture media. Will the Brady phenomenon ever end? Probably not, as each new generation discovers the show and the happy blended family it portrays. The Brady Bunch is likely to continue its universal appeal long into the 21st century and beyond; we can only hope that the X-Files will have as much staying power!

-- So return with me now to that thrilling day of yesteryear -- May 12, 2002. There we were at the penultimate episode of The X-Files; one episode away from the big two-hour series finale; one episode away from the return of Fox Mulder and the emotional end of a journey that took nine years to complete. And what do we get? Bud Bundy and an episode about The Brady Bunch?

-- Yes, on the surface it looked like just another light-hearted, lightweight episode. But perhaps in the most symbolic way possible, "Sunshine Days" served as an appropriate ending to Season 9, and in many ways, to the entire series. Like most of Vince Gilligan's stories, it had an emotional core and just enough sappy sentimentality. Closure of the larger issues, like the mythology, would happen (or at least attempt to) in "The Truth." So closure of the smaller more emotional issues were left in the capable hands of Vince Gilligan, arguably the show's most talented and dependable writer.

-- The Scully that Gilligan offered up in this episode was a woman who had completed the journey from hardened skeptic to rational believer. She was now able to hypothesize and conjecture as Mulder would, a long way from her half-hearted attempts to *be* Mulder at the beginning of Season 8.

-- Doggett had also made a professional and personal journey during his time on the X-Files, going from complete skeptic to an investigator who was able to accept the evidence presented at face value, rather than letting his skepticism get in the way. Since finding closure in his son's murder in the episode prior to this one, Doggett (like Mulder) was finally free -- and he was like a new man in "Sunshine Days," bounding around this case with enthusiasm, humor, and flexibility. Monica's feelings for Doggett were apparent for much of Season 9; and the final scene suggested that he might finally be ready to reciprocate.

-- In fact, Doggett and Reyes spent a good deal of this episode joking, gazing, smiling, touching, and flirting; and I think this might have been Vince Gilligan's way of saying, "See? It was possible for two agents who work together to carry on their jobs and carry on a romantic relationship without taking away from the investigation, the feel of the show, or the 'scary story'." While Scully was seeking vindication for her work, perhaps Vince was seeking vindication for shippers everywhere!

-- This episode also provided the inevitable comparison between Oliver Martin and his obsession with The Brady Bunch and our obsession with The X-Files. (We insisted that we were "focused," but let's face it -- often we were obsessed.) There is also the inevitable comparison of Oliver's fantasy world he created around him to the wealth of XF fanfic -- our own version of that fantasy world. But I don't think Vince was trying to insult us with these analogies; I think he was tipping his hat and saying that he "got it." The relationship between Oliver and Dr. Reitz represented the fact that although we may be focused ... or obsessed, sharing that world with others can lead to something far greater and longer lasting than the fantasy world could ever be. I can attest to the fact that real friendships were formed from a shared appreciation of The X-Files, and no matter how long my love of the show may last, those friendships will last much longer.

-- One of the faults that many fans (including me) found with this episode at the time it aired was seeing Scully laughing it up just two weeks after giving away her baby; but perhaps time heals all wounds and I'm able to see Scully's attitude a bit differently now. In "Sunshine Days," Scully is given one of those rare opportunities to legitimize her work on the X-Files. This is much like her discovery of the invisible man in "Je Souhaite" (coincidentally, the other episode that Vince Gilligan wrote *and* directed); presented with such a possibility, Scully the Scientist gets that little gleam in her eye and pounces like a pit bull on a pot roast. For Scully, that little gleam was enough to jump-start her out of her complacency, to give her hope of vindication for nine years of work on the X-Files (for Mulder and herself), and perhaps to help convince herself that the choices made (like putting your child up for adoption and the love of your life going on the run) were worth it. (In fact, Scully was literally "shocked" out of her doldrums when the electrical discharge from the first victim zapped her.) Like "Je Souhaite," Scully's joyful discovery doesn't last, but in the end -- just like in an episode of The Brady Bunch -- Scully learns important life lessons: it's the journey, not the destination, that matters; the people, the friendships, the relationships, are all more important than the accolades or the validation.

-- If only the "Absent Center" had gotten this much attention in Season 8 perhaps things might have ended differently for The X-Files. But with "goodbye" just around the corner, Scully made ample references to Mulder throughout the episode and at the end of it, saying that she had found some meaning in the past nine years. She doesn't get the "proof" she hoped for, but she's found other important things; above all, she seems to have found peace. And I think that's what this episode tried to leave us with too; it didn't resolve nine years of questions but it did bring home the fact that we were nearly at the end and we had to find peace with that fact. We were reminded that it had been a long, long journey -- sometimes weird, sometimes frustrating, sometimes wonderful, sometimes magical. We didn't always get what we wanted, but much of the time we got what we needed; and usually that was enough. It's what we saw in the X-Files when we first met, it's what made us follow, and it was why we would do it all over again.

I think I'll go for a walk outside now,
The summer sun's calling my name, I hear it now
I just can't stay inside all day
I've gotta get out, gimme some of those rays

Everybody's smilin' (sunshine day)
Everybody's laughing (sunshine day)
Everybody seems so happy today in the sunshine day

Oooh, can't you dig the sunshine
Feel the sun and the rays
Can't you hear it calling your name?

I think I'll go for a walk outside now,
The summer sun's calling my name, I hear it now
I just can't stay inside all day
I've gotta get out, gimme some of those rays

Everybody's smilin' (sunshine day)
Everybody's laughing (sunshine day)
Everybody seems so happy today in the sunshine day

Please share your first impressions, favorite (or cringe-worthy) moments, classic lines, favorite fanfic, nagging questions, repeating viewing observations, etc., as today we celebrate "Sunshine Days"!