What Happens Behind the Scenes In The Iconic Sitcom, The Brady BunchBy Jennifer Snow
Growing up in the early 70s would probably make you an avid fan of the American hit sitcom The Brady Bunch, which ran from 1969 to 1974. Many people who watched the show have shared their memories of the iconic sitcom and have talked about how that simple show about a blended family of eight living in their large two-story house is something they still love today.
The Bradys are no longer on TV, but their legacy lives on through reruns and in the hearts of people everywhere. People loved watching the fictional family’s crazy antics and observing their life lessons. However, what you might not know is that there were things going on behind the scenes that were stranger than fiction.
Finding The Best Kids To Play The Brady Children
Casting actors for a TV show can be a difficult task. Thousands come to the auditions, and it can be hard to choose who you like best. The creator of The Brady Bunch, Sherwood Schwartz, certainly had his work cut out for him. He wanted the cast to look like real siblings and was particular in his choices.
To find suitable actors, producer Sherwood Schwartz auditioned over 464 boys and girls. It wasn’t easy for Schwartz to find kids who were patient enough to handle the challenges of spending long hours on set and filming, yet also energetic and outgoing enough to handle the role. During auditions, he placed toys on his desk. The children who became distracted by the toys were filtered out.
Divorce Was Taboo Back Then
Divorce was still socially unacceptable during the 70s, or so the television network believed. When the show’s creator, Schwartz, wanted to cast Carol as a former divorcée, the network rejected the idea. So throughout the series, it was never explicitly stated what her status was.
Viewers never learned what had become of Carol’s former husband, similar to Mike, who was never shown talking about his deceased wife. Schwartz was unhappy about the network’s decision, so the subject of Carol’s former husband during the series never came up.
A Little Unrealistic
The Brady Bunch followed the blended family of widower Mike Brady and Carol Martin, with whom he had three children. Unlike other American family sitcoms, the set-up was sometimes criticized for being unrealistic.
The Brady Bunch was odd in that all the kids accepted one another as part of the family, and resentment was replaced with love. Although the children were initially reluctant, once they saw how much Carol and Mike loved each other and how nice they were, they soon accepted both of their parents.
Cutting Reed Out of the Show
Despite the Brady Bunch’s healthy dose of heart-warming comedy, there was constant behind-the-scenes drama between the cast and crew. The show’s star, Robert Reed, often caused problems on set with his acting and mood swings, which may have been partially due to his feelings that the show had gotten out of line as it progressed.
Although Reed played a good father on the show, Sherwood Schwartz, the show’s creator, had some less than positive things to say about him. The two often butted heads, so much that Schwartz didn’t even feature him in the final episode. Schwartz simply cut him out of it. Instead of acknowledging the issue, Reed showed up for filming anyway, but Schwartz told him not to bother attending.
Greatest TV Dad of All Time
Though Robert Reed wasn’t always on good terms with show creator Sherwood Schwartz, his acting skills were always evident. Reed’s talent shone through in his parental role on-screen. His acting abilities were even recognized by TV Guide.
The publication ranked him number 14 on its “Greatest TV Dads of All Time” list in 2004. The list also included Cliff Huxtable from The Cosby Show (yikes), Howard Cunningham from Happy Days,” and Steve Douglas from My Three Sons, who were all placed above him.
Robert Reed’s Acting Background
Reed, who was trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, didn’t always treat the crew well, possibly because he wanted to direct the show the way he wanted. However, his acting background was not a valid reason for his rude behavior towards his co-actors.
Actor Robert Reed got his start in acting after starring in Shakespearean productions. He then moved to Hollywood in pursuit of a film career, where he first guest-starred in Father Knows Best before landing the role of Mike Brady on The Brady Bunch.
Henderson’s Mother Was A Superwoman
Henderson’s background, although different from Carol’s, is a rather interesting story. Henderson was born into a low-income family of ten children and was the youngest of the group. She also had to work before she could pursue her acting career.
Florence Henderson credited her success in life to her mother—and with good reason. Her mother had given her children as good a life as possible, and after battling an alcoholic husband, she still encouraged them to be successful.
His Best Kept Secret
Although he did not disclose his sexuality to fans or his co-workers, Reed was gay. Henderson, who played Carol Brady on the show, shared her thoughts: “Here he was, this perfect father of this wonderful little family, and a married man. Off-camera, I think his career was a facade that made him unhappy. And I didn’t ask him about it. I wasn’t the type of person to do that. But I knew that he was very troubled about keeping his secret a secret.”
After contracting HIV, Robert Reed lived with feelings of resentment and self-deprecation. He died in 1992 of complications of AIDS at age 59. His death certificate claimed that his colon cancer killed him, but this was proven false when it was later revealed that he had AIDS.
The Marcia You Didn’t Know
If you were a Brady Bunch fan, you might have been jealous of Marcia, the pretty eldest daughter. But Marcia’s on-screen perfection was inconsistent with Maureen McCormick’s real-life struggles. After the show ended, it was revealed that she had been battling a cocaine addiction.
When she couldn’t pay her dealer, she turned to sleeping with him. McCormick later admitted that she did it “only a few times” but that she had struggled with addiction to cocaine and quaaludes for years, a habit that hurt her reputation as an actress.
The Greg You Didn’t Know
From the dawn of the 1970s to the Brady Bunch/Osmond era, a drug epidemic was sweeping across America. In many ways, it was a troubled time for the country, and amid all the experimentation of that era, drug use was becoming a common pastime.
Actor Barry Williams, who played Greg Brady on the show, often smoked marijuana during filming and showed up high on set, but he wasn’t the only star of the hit show who had experimented with drugs. His co-star and off-screen girlfriend Maureen McCormick, who played his sister Marcia, also dabbled in smoking pot.
Her Personal Life Was Totally Different
While on the show,” Florence Henderson was known for her cheerful persona, which was in stark contrast to her life off-screen. In real life, she suffered from depression and had an unhappy marriage that ended in divorce. Henderson eventually remarried and made several television appearances into her late 70s. She passed away at the age of 82.
Child actress Eve Plumb, who played middle sister Jan on The Brady Bunch, said of the beloved TV star Florence Henderson: “Florence was such an amazing role model for me and all the kids. She taught us how to be professionals by showing up prepared and respecting our fellow cast and crew members.”
When Maureen McCormick and Eve Plumb were on The Brady Bunch, Plumb played Marcia, and McCormick played Jan. After their time on the show was up, one of the actresses decided to break her silence about their rivalry.
She admitted that there was some ugly competition between them. Eve Plumb revealed that she was jealous of McCormick’s looks. In an article by RadorOnline.com, given that the former sisters weren’t actually getting along well, a reunion appearance for the show’s cast was canceled.
Cindy Opened A Pot Farm
Remember Cindy from The Brady Bunch? We can’t forget her! She was adorable, wasn’t she? Well, she retired from acting to open a pot farm. Susan, one of the other Brady kids, didn’t like to smoke herself because it made her feel paranoid. But she did apparently like to make truffles and chocolate bars with it.
However, this was back in the days when pot wasn’t widely legal. On a side note—apparently, she had a radio show, but she was fired in 2016 after she had a feud with another actor, Leon Acord Whiting. Nobody knows if her chocolate bars were involved in the incident.
Admiring Mom From Afar
Apparently, Barry Williams, the actor who played Greg Brady on the show, had a crush on Florence Henderson, his actress mother. While he was not her son in real life, there was still quite an age difference between them.
Unfortunately, Williams did not have a chance with Henderson, who was 23 years his senior. Even though they were not blood relatives, this would have been scandalous. Luckily for us and their fans—and the success of the show—Henderson turned him down.
Quite Different From His Role
Greg Brady, the oldest son of the Bunch, is portrayed as the charming stud with great sports skills who steals the hearts of many girls. However, he never actually got a single on-screen kiss for the entire duration of the show.
And ironically enough, Bobby, the youngest of the Brady Bunch, was the only child to get a kiss from one of his on-screen girlfriends. Greg would probably have never heard the end of it if he’d found out or if he wasn’t a character being played by an actor.
What Really Happened In Hawaii
Although Barry Williams didn’t have a kissing scene on-screen, you shouldn’t feel too bad for him. His romantic life was anything but dry. In fact, Williams was romancing his on-screen sister, Maureen McCormick, while the two filmed episodes in Hawaii. McCormick described her first kiss with Williams in her memoir, Here’s the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice.
The actress recalled in her memoir that the first kiss she shared with Williams was a long, passionate, deep one. She also said that it was wonderful, and that they were so close together that they could feel each other’s body heat. Kind of strange to hear, isn’t it?
Sleeping in the Same Bed
When The Brady Bunch hit the airwaves in the late 1960s, it was considered highly taboo for couples to be seen sleeping in the same bed on television. Many people believe that Mike and Carol Brady were the first on-screen couple to be seen doing so.
In reality, they weren’t actually the first ones. The first on-screen couple to share a bed was actually Mary Kay and Johnny Stearns, who played newlyweds on an all-but-forgotten sitcom called ‘Mary Kay and Johnny’ from 1949 to 1954.
Its Ratings Were Not That High
The Brady Bunch was not always the massively successful TV show that it would eventually become. It was a low-rated show when it was first released, and only picked up high ratings during the final season and after the show went off the air.
The Brady Bunch didn’t gain its true popularity until years later when reruns began airing during the afternoon and prime-time hours—a time when more kids could tune in. The show’s director says that it became iconic despite low ratings because it resonated with children of the era, who could relate to its themes of family and overcoming life’s challenges.
The Show’s Savior
In the 1970s, the show’s ratings started to plummet, and ABC was desperate for creator Sherwood Schwartz to save the show. Deciding that it needed a young character, Schwartz introduced the bespeckled, blonde-haired “cousin Oliver” during the last season.
The term “cousin Oliver” became a popular trope (or meme) in the television industry. It refers to a character who has been added to a show without having any real significance. Unfortunately, Ollie wasn’t an honorable member of the Brady clan, and he didn’t do anything to help the series. Fans felt that Ollie was unnecessary and even annoying, but clearly, there wasn’t much else the producers could have done at that point.
No Digestive Systems
Jokes about a lack of bathrooms have been made about The Brady Bunch. Many joked that the family didn’t have digestive systems. But, of course, they would have needed to use the bathroom from time to time! ABC obviously just didn’t want to capture these unwholesome activities on film.
It would have, of course, violated broadcasting regulations. This was the early 70s, remember—a time when censorship was much stricter than it is now. On a side note, the eight-member Brady family shared one bathroom. So maybe they just had finely tuned digestive systems.
Tiger, the Family Dog
When the beloved family dog, Tiger, was unfortunately killed off in a car accident, producers decided to keep his doghouse in the Brady’s backyard. Perhaps they hoped that many of the show’s young fans would remember Tiger.
But the doghouse wasn’t just there as a sweet easter egg for viewers to find. The doghouse was placed on a spot on the Astroturf where a studio light had fallen and burned a hole in the ground and was used to cover the set blemish.
The Matriarch of the Family
Carol Brady, the mother of the Brady Bunch and the one who kept the household running smoothly, was considered “bossy” by many people in her day, although this was years before the unfortunate term became prevalent. Carol was the only character not to have an episode named after her or based on her personality.
Despite being the matriarch of the Brady family, it seems that Carol was given the short end of the stick. This seems strange, considering Carol was such a central component of the show. But Florence Henderson did not seem bitter over this, and happily reprised her role many times following the end of The Brady Bunch—and we’re all grateful for it!
One Second Screen Time
You get to know your neighbors really well when you live in the suburbs. In the show, the Bradys lived next door to the Ditmeyer family. Although their dad was mentioned a lot, he wasn’t seen very much throughout the entire run of the show.
Although Mr. Ditmeyer is often mentioned, he makes only one brief appearance once, in episode 12, season 1, where he is shown for no more than a few seconds. If you blinked while watching this episode, then you might have missed him.
Glass Door Without A Glass?
The Brady Bunch house was actually filmed inside a home located in the San Fernando Valley. The sliding glass door that made the house so famous for its open concept wasn’t actually glass at all but wood with a wood-grained plastic surface.
It was made this way to keep any glares from the bright studio lights from showing up on camera. Since its creation, the house is said to be the most photographed private residence in America, second only to the White House.
Growing Up Overnight
When the Brady Bunch kids appeared in the show’s second episode, it seemed like they had grown up and were now mature beyond their years. That’s because a whole year had passed between the airing of the pilot episode and their second episode.
This happens a lot on TV. The second episode is often filmed a long time after the pilot gets made. So no, they didn’t just grow up overnight. The kids actually had a full 365 days to grow up and get themselves ready to step into the limelight.
The Iconic Theme Song
As a fan of the television show, you probably remember the opening credits. They featured a song performed by an off-camera adult choir. The producers decided to change things up a year later and let the children sing the song themselves.
By the second season of The Brady Bunch, creator Sherwood Schwartz had made a few changes to the classic theme song. The tune has become a household favorite with lyrics such as “We’re the Brady bunch” and “That’s how we became the Brady bunch.” The tune became a popular household favorite.
Still A Win, Anyway
Prior to Robert Reed’s casting as Mike Brady, Gene Hackman was originally considered for the part. However, since Hackman didn’t hold a major position in show business yet at that time, producer Sherwood Schwartz decided to cast Reed instead.
Since Hackman was thought to be too old to play Mike Brady, Robert Reed landed the role instead. Although he might have been disappointed at first, Reed worked on some big projects and won two Academy Awards since the show.
The Brady’s House Today
Although the exact city in which The Brady Bunch was based has never been revealed, the address of the home used for exterior shots is well documented. The house is located at 11222 Dilling Street in Studio City, California. After the filming of the show, this house was sold, and the new owners added a fence for privacy.
But these owners eventually got tired of living in the house. They sold it to HGTV, which used the house to revive the show with one last season called A Very Brady Renovation, in which the actors who played the Brady children asked fans to help restore their TV home by finding items that were used on the set of the show.
Testing the Waters
When casting director Bernard Schwartz was creating the series, he needed to hire child actors who he felt would be able to power their way through multiple takes, be patient while they waited for their scenes, and not forget their lines or get giggling fits.
In order to narrow down his search for the Brady kids, Schwartz brought toys into his interview room. Each child was asked to demonstrate their ability to focus on him and not get distracted by the toys, and only those children who succeeded were brought back for additional auditions.
My Fair Brady
In the show, Peter Brady was played by Christopher Knight. Years later, Adrianna Curry—the first winner of America’s Next Top Model—appeared on My Fair Brady, a reality show that documented her courtship with Knight. Toward the end of the show’s run, they got engaged.
But the love affair was not meant to be. After divorcing Adrianna, he then married the actress Cara Kokenes. Knight and Kokenes have been together for over a decade, and Knight has since pursued a career in business.
Blonde to Brunette
Typically, everyone goes for blonde hair, but you don’t often see people turning brunette. Well, before he was on The Brady Bunch, Mike Lookinland started out as a blonde. Show director Sherwood Schwartz wanted to maintain the authenticity of the show.
Mike had to dye his hair to match the cast’s hair color. And with that, the siblings’ resemblances were complete. Imagine the sacrifice he had to make just to pursue his dream of being an actor. Years later, he returned to his natural blonde color.
Keeping A Secret Wasn’t Easy
It’s hard to keep secrets when you spend every waking moment with other cast members, as was the case for Robert Reed and his fellow actors. Henderson, who played his on-screen wife, had a feeling that Reed was uncomfortable being romantic with her, but she just thought he was playing it safe in front of the cameras.
Henderson realized that the strain made their scenes less believable to viewers. When Reed finally came out to her, she asked Reed if they could rehearse a scene together so that their natural chemistry would make the romantic scenes more convincing to audiences.
Florence Henderson fought to make her Brady Bunch character a working mom, but the show’s producers refused. Carol Brady was a stay-at-home mom who did lots of charity work, but her unemployed status was kept in place by the shows’ producers.
As a stay-at-home mom with kids, the studio execs didn’t want her to have a job. It was the 1970s, after all. During that time, many women stayed at home and raised families and did the housework while their husbands went to work, but this was not universally the case.
Making a Cameo
When your friends have the right connections, they can often get you in on some exciting opportunities. Well, when your parents have the right connections, they can pretty much guarantee that you will be included in those opportunities.
Sherwood Schwartz’s daughter Hope Juber was lucky enough to appear in four episodes of the TV series. She made a few appearances in the following episodes: The Slumber Caper (1970), The Big Bet (1972), Greg Gets Grounded (1973), and The Hair-Brained Scheme (1974).
Got Cut Off
Despite its innocent reputation, one season of the Brady Bunch featured an eyebrow-raising episode (Goodbye, Alice, Hello). Certain scenes were edited due to concerns over their graphic nature. One scene, in particular, was cut in which Bobby and Cindy stand in the kitchen wearing only robes.
They ask Alice if they can go to a party and attempt to convince her by saying it will be a “skinny-dipping” party (which they assume is the same as a swimsuit party). Of course, she refuses, saying she won’t allow any Brady kids to attend such an inappropriate endeavor.
Although the members of the Brady Bunch were designed to be a realistic portrayal of a typical white U.S. family, one cast member was noticeably dissimilar from the others: Christopher Knight, who played Peter Brady. He had brown eyes.
Whereas the rest of his family had blue ones (except for his sister Cindy, played by Susan Olsen, who had green eyes), his were brown. It’s a small difference but noticeable by some viewers, we suppose.
If you were a big fan of the TV series The Brady Bunch, or if you saw that one episode entitled, The Bradys: A Very Brady Christmas, then you would know that Cindy Brady’s favorite doll on the show was Kitty Karry-All.
Susan Olsen, who played Cindy on the show, really did have a strong attachment to the doll. She was young when filming the series, so the doll probably acted as some kind of coping mechanism. She didn’t want to take her eyes off the doll and didn’t go anywhere without it.
Most cast members wore braces while on set. We can confirm that the show’s creator didn’t mind this look, as he felt that it added to the show’s authenticity. Mike Lookinland, Susan Olson, Eve Plumb, and Maureen McCormick all wore braces during their time on the show.
And they were all called “Brace Face” at one point or another throughout their time on the show. Marcia even got hers in an episode titled “Brace Yourself,” in which Marcia goes to the dentist to get her braces.
Silence Pie Fight
Reed did not approve of several scenes that Schwartz wrote, particularly one in which characters threw pies at each other. During a food fight scene in which no dialogue was used, Reed said to Schwartz, “I think this is ridiculous.”
Robert disagreed with some of the other scenes, like the silent pie fight, which he considered ridiculous. He even added that the show was supposed to be fun and entertaining and not meant to be a silent slapstick film. As Reed was a classically trained actor, we can see where he’s coming from.
Although Barry Williams has been free from his drug habit for many years, the legal troubles with his ex-girlfriend prove to be ongoing. Most recently, she came forward to say that he owed her $12,000 a month in child support.
That’s no small chunk of change! Hopefully, Williams has managed to save some of the money he made from his high-paying gig as Greg to pay it off and that he won’t turn his back from supporting his child.