Inside the saga of ‘The Brady Bunch’ and all the drama behind the scenes


Inside the saga of ‘The Brady Bunch’ and all the drama behind the scenes

ABC show The Brady Bunch was determined to show people the ideal American family – harmonious, loving, and squeaky-clean. However, things are rarely so simple in real life, and behind the scenes The Brady Bunch had its fair share of feuds, accidents, and questionable decisions.

There’s nose business like shows business

In one episode of The Brady Bunch, Marcia is unfortunate enough to be hit in the face with a football, resulting in a pretty nasty swelling and the ruination of a highly anticipated date.

There’s nose business like shows business

In truth, the damage to Maureen McCormick’s nose was real, and had been sustained in a car accident she’d been involved in a few days earlier. The football to the nose was devised as a way of working around the pretty noticeable injury.

Hair today, gone tomorrow

One of the most recognizable traits of the Brady siblings is the blonde hair shared by all three sisters. However, in real life, Susan Olsen – who played Cindy Brady – did not have what the show’s producers deemed the right shade of blonde for the show, leading to efforts by the show’s hairdressers to dye it the correct shade.

Hair today, gone tomorrow

This caused Olsen’s hair to start falling out, which was understandably distressing for her. She was fortunate enough to have it grow back, and her hair was left untampered with after that.

Robert Reed your lines and leave

Although The Brady Bunch was certainly a fun show, it’s fair to say that it wasn’t necessarily the most challenging material. Robert Reed, who played Mike Brady, had a particular gripe with this aspect of the show, as he felt it was material unfitting for a Shakespearean actor such as himself.

Robert Reed your lines and leave

Reed would constantly provide notes to the show’s creator, Sherwood Schwartz, that he felt would improve plots, but was consistently ignored – although he was allowed to direct some episodes of the show as a peace offering.

Wipeout

Greg Brady was the archetypal “cool dude” of American TV families, being a musician, football player, and keen surfer. Barry Williams was also something of an adrenaline chaser, performing his own stunts during the episodes in which the family takes a trip to Hawaii.

Wipeout

This proved to be very risky move, as when it came time to film the scene in which Greg wipes out while surfing, Williams ended up wiping out for real, injuring himself badly enough to need several weeks off filming to recover.

Sister sister

The Brady Bunch was about a family that, despite disagreements, was as close-knit and loving as could be – and for a lot of the cast this was also the situation behind the scenes. For Maureen McCormick (Marcia) and Eve Plumb (Jan), however, things were far from rosy.

Sister sister

The actresses are said to have had several arguments on set, and an extremely tense off-camera relationship. Things got so bad that years later when a televised reunion was being planned, it was called off because things were so acrimonious between the two.

Behind the scenes strife

Marcia Brady was a quintessential TV “popular girl” – clever, fashionable, and extremely popular. While it would be easy to assume that things were the same for Maureen McCormick, this was far from the case.

Behind the scenes strife

McCormick found herself struggling with the pressures of fame, feeling as if she had to live up to Marcia Brady’s image as the perfect young American woman. Although McCormick was able to eventually overcome her worries, for a time they got so severe that she considered quitting the show altogether.

Missing mom

Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine someone being dubious about appearing in a show that’s reached such a level of notoriety as The Brady Bunch. Nonetheless, that’s exactly how Florence Henderson felt about it, to the point that she wasn’t even on set all the time at the start of filming.

Missing mom

Henderson was in a musical called Song of Norway at the time, and was unsure whether she wanted to be in a TV series, and whether The Brady Bunch would be successful. We bet she was glad she stuck around!

Couldn’t hack it

The patriarch of the Brady family could have been very different if Sherwood Schwartz had gotten what he wanted, as Robert Reed was actually his second choice. Sherwood wanted Gene Hackman for the role of Mike Brady, but Paramount rejected him because they felt he was inexperienced.

Couldn’t hack it

Luckily you don’t need to feel too bad for Gene Hackman, as he went on to have a hugely illustrious film career – appearing in hit films such as The French Connection, Superman, and The Royal Tenenbaums, to name just a few.

Cutting a record

One of the cheesier aspects of The Brady Bunch was the release of several cast albums, including Merry Christmas From the Brady Bunch and The Kids From the Brady Bunch. Some of the cast also tried their hands at personal projects – with Maureen McCormick and Christopher Knight releasing an EP entitled Chris Knight and Maureen McCormick.

Cutting a record

None of these projects were particularly successful, but it probably didn’t bother the cast too much given their starring roles on a major TV show.

Leaving the set

Not all child stars go on to have extensive careers, and this was certainly the case for Mike Lookinland, who played Bobby Brady. After his time on The Brady Bunch, Lookinland made sporadic appearances in TV and film, appearing in the 1974 film Towering Inferno and TV series such as Little House on the Prairie and The Stand.

Leaving the set

Lookinland did spend a few more years in TV but as a camera operator, before eventually setting up a business for decorative concrete.

Braidy bunch

When casting for a part, you might think that the most important criteria are acting ability, passion for the role, and work ethic. On The Brady Bunch, however, follicular similarity took priority, to make sure that the Brady family resembled each other as much as was possible.

Braidy bunch

However, at the very start of casting, Schwartz wasn’t sure what the parents would look like, which meant he had to find both three children that were blondes and three that were brunettes for each set of Brady siblings.

Rated highly?

Nowadays, The Brady Bunch has gotten pretty deep into the popular consciousness – millions of people know about the saccharine family, and their exploits have been referenced and parodied to the ends of the Earth and back again.

Rated highly?

However, on its original run, the show was not one of the big hits of the day, rarely ever breaking into the top 30 for ratings. What made the show so successful in the end was the near-permanent place in syndication that it managed to garner.

Family fashion

The Brady family were meant to be a sweet, all-American family, and their clothing often reflected this – being very bright and often having a distinctly homely vibe. However, the actors who played the Brady kids were deeply unhappy with the direction the outfits took…

Family fashion

And asked several times to wear better outfits on the show. Unfortunately for them, their requests were either ignored or rejected flat-out – so it was back to flared collars and floral patterns for them.

Casting a wide net

Trying to cast the perfect American family is no easy feat, and it took Sherwood Schwartz a long time to find just the right people to play the Bradys. The audition process for the Brady children was particularly exhaustive, with over 260 children being interviewed for the parts.

Casting a wide net

We don’t know how Sherwood Schwartz managed to sift through such a huge pool of applicants – but he did an exemplary job when it came to picking the actors and actresses that would play the Brady siblings.

Rolling the dye

Susan Olsen wasn’t the only Brady child that had to undergo follicular changes so as to be right for their role. Mike Lookinland’s hair was too different from Barry Williams’ and Christopher Knight’s, so it had to be dyed and straightened for the show.

Rolling the dye

This led to moments during filming in which the hair dye that had been used would start to run down Lookinland’s face, due to prolonged exposure to the heat of the studio lights. Eventually, Lookinland was allowed to keep his natural hair for the later seasons.

Wigging out

Despite such extreme methods of hair correction for Susan Olsen and Mike Lookinland, one of the older actors was lucky enough to undergo much less severe changes. Florence Henderson had to keep her hair short for a time during the filming of the first season…

Wigging out

Which is no doubt confusing to learn for anyone who’s seen her perfectly coiffed hair from the time. In order to give Carol Brady the perfect homely hair, Florence Henderson was fitted with a wig for the entirety of the first season.

Toying with people

Acting with children can be quite a mixed bag. It’s one thing to expect an adult to show up for 10 hours on set with their lines perfectly memorized – it’s almost impossible to ask the same of child actors.

Toying with people

During the audition process, Sherwood Schwartz came up with a pretty ingenious way of making sure that the child actors would be capable of focusing enough to learn their lines properly – sticking toys in front of the kids during auditions to see if they would focus on them, or on him.

The blooper bunch

You don’t film an ensemble TV show for five years without accruing your fair share of bloopers along the way – and The Brady Bunch is no exception. For instance, in one episode the Bradys drive to the store in a convertible, but return to their home in a station wagon.

The blooper bunch

In another scene, we see Jan with her hair tied in a ponytail, only for it to be resting on her shoulders moments later. Nonetheless, we can probably forgive the show for such minor mistakes over years of filming.

Last episode

We’ve noted Robert Reed’s dissatisfaction with The Brady Bunch’s writing already, but at one point it got so bad that he refused to be in the episode altogether. The final episode of season 5, The Hair-Brained Scheme, was so abhorred by Reed that he wrote an extensive memo to Schwartz detailing its problems and demanding changes be made.

Last episode

This memo made it to Schwartz too late for changes to be made, and Reed refused to appear in the episode – he was fired shortly after this incident.

Making strides

Carol Brady is a classic TV stay-at-home mom – kind, good-natured, and always happy to help and provide for her family. However, Florence Henderson pushed for a progressive move to have Carol enter into the world of work, and repeatedly requested that the producers introduce a storyline in which she got a job.

Making strides

Although it took some time, Henderson eventually got her wish, and Carol set up her own realty business from home – becoming a fairly progressive character for a show so traditional as The Brady Bunch.

Brady brothers

When you work with someone day-in-day-out on a TV show, it’s more likely than not that you’ll form a pretty good connection. This was absolutely the case for Barry Williams and Christopher Knight, who became extremely close throughout their time working together, becoming best friends outside the show as well as on set.

Brady brothers

In fact, when Christopher Knight was getting married, he asked Williams to be his best man. It’s nice to know that somebody was getting along on that set!

Making a lisp, checking it twice

The presence of a lisp could be seen as quite a barrier for an actor – especially back in the 60s – but for Susan Olsen it actually ended up being quite a boon. Although Olsen went through speech therapy to correct her lisp, it won her the part of Cindy Brady.

Making a lisp, checking it twice

This is because Sherwood found her lisp extremely endearing, casting her soon after. Olsen’s lisp was also the center of an episode, with writing of a plot in which Cindy is taunted at school for her lisp, before learning to embrace it.

Starring role

Throughout its run, The Brady Bunch managed to nab some pretty high-profile guest stars, as well as featuring some actors who would go on to be pretty famous later in life. Some of the big names that appeared on the show included singer of teen-idol band The Monkees, Davy Jones.

Starring role

Along with acclaimed actor of horror cinema Vincent Price and quarterback for the New York Jets, Joe Namath. The show also featured Melissa Sue Anderson in a guest role, before she found fame playing Mary Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie.

Unwanted addition

It’s a tale as old as time – a sitcom brings in a new character in an attempt to freshen things up and keep viewers interested, but it inevitably has the opposite effect. This was the case when Brady Bunch producers brought in Robbie Rist to play Oliver, a cousin of the Bradys.

Unwanted addition

This was done to reintroduce a young child to the increasingly old set of Brady siblings – but the decision proved to be incredibly unpopular, as fans did not enjoy suddenly having a new character imposed upon them.

Parody pals

While the saccharine, goody-two-shoes vibe of ‘The Brady Bunch’ may have been palatable in the 70s, such an outlook became ripe for parody as the years passed. As such, 1995 saw the release of ‘The Brady Bunch Movie.’

Parody pals

This was a parody with an entirely new cast, that featured the Brady family and the way that their sensibilities clashed disastrously with the world of the 90s. The film also spawned a sequel, titled ‘A Very Brady Sequel’, which was released in 1996.

Changing things up

Before the show’s cancellation, creator Sherwood Schwartz had some major changes that he wanted to make. The biggest of all was that Robert Reed was to be replaced as Mike Brady. The disagreements between he and Sherwood had become too frequent and fraught…

Changing things up

And as such he would have been axed after the 5th season. In addition, Schwartz had a plan to solve the problem of an aging cast – by having Carol become pregnant with twins. Unfortunately, the show was canceled before we could see how these changes panned out.

Professional relationship

A common feature of the acting industry is actors developing romances with their co-stars, as they spend almost all of their time together – for years if they film a TV show. ‘The Brady Bunch’ was no exception to this rule, and while working together Maureen McCormick and Barry Williams began a relationship with one another.

Professional relationship

The relationship carried on for several years, although it did not last beyond the show. In addition, it’s said that Eve Plumb had a fairly serious crush on her counterpart Christopher Knight.

A vague explanation

Given that ‘The Brady Bunch’ was originally on from 1969 to 1974, there were rules it had to adhere to as a result of contemporary sensibilities. For instance, the show never explains how Carol’s marriage ended.

A vague explanation

While Mike was a widower, it was originally intended for Carol to be a divorcee – but the ABC network was not willing to have a woman that was divorce on a show so traditional. It might seem ridiculous now, but an explanation was never given across the entire run of the show.

That’s news to me

Inspiration is something that can strike at any time from any place, and this was definitely the case with ‘The Brady Bunch’. The idea for the show developed in Sherwood Schwartz’s head when he read an article in the newspaper.

That’s news to me

The article was about the increase in married couples wherein one or more partners had children from a previous marriage. After that, Schwartz knew that he wanted to create a sitcom about one such blended family – and the rest is history.

Bathroom break

The unwillingness to reveal how Carol’s marriage ended was far from the only restriction placed on the show by the network – and wasn’t even the most ridiculous. Over the years it’s been noted by fans of the show that, while the Brady family has a bathroom, there doesn’t seem to be a toilet anywhere in their house.

Bathroom break

This is because ABC were unwilling to have a toilet appear on screen, considering it indecent. We sure hope there was still a toilet on set!

Father figure

Robert Reed’s grievances with ‘The Brady Bunch’ were numerous and well-documented. However, despite the fact that he disliked the show and clashed with Schwartz, he had an excellent relationship with the entire cast.

Father figure

Florence Henderson and Reed were great friends on set, with Henderson singing Reed’s praises as a professional and friendly co-star. In addition, several of the actors playing the Brady children spoke about how kind Reed was, coming to see him as a true father figure.

Credit where credit’s due

One of the most enduring elements of ‘The Brady Bunch’ is the opening credits, showing the Brady family arranged in separate squares on the screen. However, what people may not know is that this was actually a recently developed and somewhat revolutionary filming effect.

Credit where credit’s due

The effect, known as the ‘multi-dynamic image technique’ was developed in 1967 by filmmaker Christopher Chapman – who first employed it in his 1967 film ‘A Place to Stand’. Due to its well-known use in the show, the technique became colloquially known as the ‘Brady Bunch Effect’.

Cat-egorical failure

Throughout the show, the Brady’s are seen to have several temporary pets, but the closest they get to a regular pet is a dog called Tiger that got written out after 2 seasons. However, Tiger is hardly the first Brady animal to suddenly disappear.

Cat-egorical failure

That distinction belongs to Fluffy, a cat that belonged to Carol and the Brady girls in the pilot, that was never seen again after the first episode. It’s thought the reason for a lack of Brady pets was an inability to find a sufficiently trained animal.

Spin-off-and-on

One of the fundamental rules of television is that if you have a reasonably successful show, you try and get spin-offs made. ‘The Brady Bunch’ was absolutely subject to this law, producing several spin-offs.

Spin-off-and-on

These included ‘The Brady Kids’ – an animated series about the Brady children and their hijinks, and ‘The Brady Brides’ – a miniseries that aired in 1981 following Marcia and Jan’s marriages. Perhaps the most notorious though is ‘The Brady Bunch Variety Hour’ – a variety show that Eve Plumb refused to appear in, with her part being re-cast.

Reluctant star

Being a child actor is a very unique experience, and the people who were child stars express varied opinions on the positives and negatives of their career. Sometimes it turns out that they never wanted to act at all – as was the case with Christopher Knight, who played Peter Brady.

Reluctant star

Knight revealed that he began acting at the insistence of his parents, who were themselves actors – but that he did not want to go into acting. However, despite his misgivings he looks on his time on ‘The Brady Bunch’ fondly.

1 in 1000

We’ve noted how Sherwood Schwartz auditioned 260 people for the roles of the Brady Children – but this wasn’t even the most exacting audition process he embarked upon. When auditioning people for the role of Marcia Brady, Schwartz saw an unbelievable 1200 people for the part before choosing Maureen McCormick.

1 in 1000

As such, although Maureen McCormick had difficulties with role, she can certainly be proud of having managed to win a part that so many people wanted.

What’s cooking

The role of Alice, the Brady’s housekeeper throughout the show, was played by veteran comedic actress Ann B. Davis – who was well-loved for her portrayal. It seems that Davis was also quite attached to her role, as she ended up publishing a cookbook entitled ‘Alice’s Brady Bunch Cookbook’ in 1994.

What’s cooking

The cookbook featured recipes that were based off of or inspired by dishes that Alice made in the show – and also involved recipes provided by other members of the cast.

A popular home

Given that it would hardly be cost-efficient to build an entirely new set for every new show, there are a lot of sets and locations used across multiple TV shows. The set used for the Brady’s house ‘The Brady Bunch’ was no exception here…

A popular home

Having been used in several shows including ‘Mission: Impossible’. However, in a moment of great coincidence, the set was also used for ‘Mannix’, the detective series that Robert Reed played a recurring character in.

Art imitates life

It can’t be easy trying to write storylines for a family comprised of 8 people, but luckily Sherwood Schwartz had a bit of help. The show’s creator would often use events from his own life as inspiration for plot lines in the show.

Art imitates life

In fact, a large amount of the plot lines that the Brady daughters were involved in came from Schwartz’s experiences with his own daughter Hope, and the tribulations she went through growing up. Hope even appeared in a few episodes across the show’s run!

Conflicting stories

The Brady home is an archetype of the ideal American living space – and certainly would be, were it not fake. In the show, the Brady home is shown to have 2 stories – but the home that was used for exterior shots did not have a second story.

Conflicting stories

As such, the illusion of another floor was added through the use of fake windows that gave the impression that those stairs went anywhere. In reality, the house only had one story – but just as much charm as it did in the show.