Table of Contents
- Florence Henderson
- Nelson Price: Florence Henderson’s dark childhood
- MORE STORIES FROM BIOGRAPHY
- Henderson had a risqué sense of humor
- Williams took Henderson on a date
- Williams and McCormick dated while playing brother and sister
- McCormick turned to drugs when the series ended
- Williams filmed an episode high
- Olsen and Lookinland would ‘make out in the doghouse’
- Reed was a homosexual in real life and kept his sexuality a secret
- Reed disagreed with many of the storylines and didn’t appear in the final episode
- 16 Things You Might Not Know About The Brady Bunch
- 1. THE CONCEPT ORIGINATED WITH A NEWSPAPER STATISTIC.
- 2. HAIR COLOR PLAYED A FACTOR IN CASTING THE BRADY KIDS.
- 3. YES, CINDY’S LISP WAS REAL.
- 4. GENE HACKMAN WAS IN CONTENTION TO PLAY MIKE BRADY.
- 5. FLORENCE HENDERSON WASN’T THE FIRST MRS. BRADY.
- 6. HENDERSON WASN’T AROUND WHEN FILMING BEGAN ON THE FIRST SIX EPISODES.
- 7. BARRY WILLIAMS “WENT THROUGH A STAGE OF EXPERIMENTATION.”
- 8. THERE WAS SOME ROMANCE ON THE SET.
- 9. CHRISTOPHER KNIGHT WASN’T BLESSED WITH MUSICAL ABILITY.
- 10. SIX KIDS SHARED ONE BATHROOM WITH NO TOILET.
- 11. CAROL BRADY WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A DIVORCEE.
- 12. MARCIA REALLY DID TAKE A FOOTBALL TO THE NOSE.
- 13. TIGER MET A TRAGIC ENDING.
- 14. THE SHOW WAS NEVER A HUGE HIT.
- 15. MANY FLUBS WERE NEVER CORRECTED.
- 16. THE SHOW ATTEMPTED A BACKDOOR PILOT.
- Bonus Fact: Christopher Knight digs mental_floss!
- The ‘Brady Bunch’ Cast Reveals Who They Were Closest To On The Show
- Being a Brady in real life
- Lasting bonds
- Carrying on a name
- Greg Brady Sliders – Picture of Billy Jack’s Shack, Harrisonburg
- How ‘The Brady Bunch’ cast remembered Florence Henderson and Robert Reed in HGTV renovation series
Florence Agnes Henderson (February 14, 1934 – November 24, 2016) was an American actress and singer with a career spanning six decades. She is best remembered for her starring role as matriarch Carol Brady on the ABC sitcom The Brady Bunch from 1969 to 1974. Henderson also appeared in film as well as on stage and hosted several long-running cooking and variety shows over the years. She appeared as a guest on many scripted and nonscripted (talk and reality show) television programs and as a panelist on numerous game shows. She was a contestant on Dancing with the Stars in 2010. On November 21, 2016, three days before her death, Florence appeared again on Dancing With The Stars giving moral support to her eldest Brady Bunch daughter Maureen McCormick, who played the popular Marcia Brady. Henderson hosted her own talk show, The Florence Henderson Show, and cooking show, Who’s Cooking with Florence Henderson, on Retirement Living TV (RLTV), in the years leading up to her sudden death from heart failure.
Henderson, the youngest of ten children, was born in Dale, Indiana, a small town in the southwest region of the state. Henderson is a daughter of Elizabeth (née Elder), a homemaker, and Joseph Henderson, a tobacco sharecropper. She is Irish Catholic. Henderson graduated from St. Francis Academy in Owensboro, Kentucky, in 1951; shortly thereafter, she went to New York City, enrolling in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She is an Alumna Initiate of the Alpha Chi chapter of Delta Zeta sorority.
Henderson started her career on the stage, performing in musicals, such as the touring production of Oklahoma! and South Pacific at Lincoln Center. She debuted on Broadway in the musical Wish You Were Here in 1952, and later starred on Broadway in the long-running 1954 musical, Fanny (888 performances) in which she originated the title role. Henderson along with Bill Hayes did the Oldsmobile commercials from 1958 through 1961 on The Patti Page Show which Oldsmobile was the sponsor. Henderson also appeared on Broadway in The Girl Who Came to Supper (1963). In 1962, she won the Sarah Siddons Award for her work in Chicago theatre, and the same year became the first woman to guest host The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. She also joined the ranks of what was then called “The Today Girl” on NBC’s long running morning show, doing weather and light news, a position also once held by Barbara Walters.
Her most widely seen role was as Carol Brady in The Brady Bunch which aired on ABC from 1969 until 1974. Henderson’s best friend, Shirley Jones, had previously turned down the role as at the time she wasn’t ready to do a TV series and she needed to spend more time with her family.
Primarily owing to her role in The Brady Bunch, Henderson was ranked by TV Land and Entertainment Weekly as No. 54 on their list of the 100 Greatest TV Icons.
Henderson was a frequent panelist on the original version of the television game show Hollywood Squares and made occasional appearances on The $25,000 Pyramid.
Henderson was the spokeswoman for Wesson cooking oil from 1976 to 1996. During that time, she hosted a cooking show on TNN called Country Kitchen, and also did ads for Prange’s, a former Wisconsin department store chain. Henderson co-hosted the talk show Later Today on NBC (1999–2000) with co-hosts Jodi Applegate and Asha Blake. In the 2000s, she was the spokeswoman for Polident denture cleanser. In 2003, Henderson seemed to poke fun at her wholesome image by appearing in a Pepsi Twist television commercial with Ozzy Osbourne.
Henderson has also appeared with her TV children, as with Christopher Knight on the reality television series My Fair Brady. She is also in the sixth season of VH1’s The Surreal Life.
In most years since the mid-1990s, the song “God Bless America” has been performed by Henderson at the Indianapolis 500 accompanied by the Purdue All-American Marching Band, at the request of the Hulman-George family, the owners of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and friends of Henderson’s.
She appeared in the “Weird Al” Yankovic video for “Amish Paradise” and co-hosted the daily talk show Living Live with former Designing Women star Meshach Taylor on Retirement Living TV. The show was reworked to focus on her and was renamed The Florence Henderson Show. In 2002, she made a memorable guest appearance on improvisational comedy show Whose Line Is It Anyway?, participating in on-screen kisses with Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie.
Since 2008, Henderson has been the host of her own television series, The Florence Henderson Show, which airs on RLTV (Retirement Living TV). The show was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2010. In May 2010, Henderson did a series of promotional radio ads for Fox. On the July 12, 2010 edition of WWE Raw, Henderson appeared as the night’s guest host.
Henderson was one of twelve celebrities competing on the eleventh season of Dancing with the Stars which premiered on September 20, 2010. Her professional partner was Corky Ballas. On October 19, 2010, she was voted off the show.
Henderson made a special appearance on May 11, 2012 in a special Mother’s Day episode on The Price Is Right with Drew Carey, displaying prizes as well as one of the showcases.
In February 2013, Henderson began hosting her own cooking show, Who’s Cooking with Florence Henderson, on RLTV.
In the mid-1950s, Henderson was diagnosed with a bone deformation of the middle ear, and she had to have surgery to prevent deafness (later she was made an honorary member of the Delta Zeta sorority, which does a lot of work for the House Ear Institute and the hearing impaired).
Henderson married Ira Bernstein in January 1956, and the couple had four children, Barbara, Joseph, Robert, and Elizabeth. During the filming of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles, Henderson returned to the family’s New York home each weekend to spend time with her children. In her autobiography Life Is Not A Stage, she acknowledges her occasional infidelity during her marriage to Bernstein, including an affair with then-New York City Mayor, John Lindsay, who the actress claims gave her crab lice. She divorced Bernstein in 1985 after almost 29 years of marriage. She later married John Kappas, a hypnotherapist and founder of the Hypnosis Motivation Institute, whom she met while battling depression in the mid-1980s; Kappas died in 2002. Henderson studied hypnotherapy and is a certified hypnotherapist.
Since the 2000s she has been a more public benefactor of the Sisters of St. Benedict in Ferdinand, Indiana; some of the Nuns were her teachers during her early education. She has appeared in a number of their promotional videos and has helped in fund-raising efforts. She has won money for the Sisters on the game show Weakest Link and on a classic-television-themed episode of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire in 2001, winning $32,000 in their name. On the show Henderson used her son Joseph as a Phone-a-Friend lifeline for the $64,000 question on a question about laser colors and answered correctly; she got the $125,000 question wrong, however, and lost $32,000. When Henderson appeared on the The Surreal Life, she made a point of showing respect for the Catholic Church and the Sisters of St. Benedict by refusing to dress in a nun’s costume for a comedy skit.
2008 : Gracie Awards
2012 : Gracie Awards
- Reference: Biographical Summaries of Notable People – SmartCopy: Nov 25 2016, 13:26:06 UTC
Nelson Price: Florence Henderson’s dark childhood
Imagine being asked if your childhood chores ever involved picking worms and other critters off the sticky underside of tobacco leaves. Now imagine if the unappetizing question was posed over dinner at an upscale Indianapolis restaurant – and the inquisitor was a cheerful performer known as “America’s favorite mom.”
That attention-grabbing query was posed to me by Florence Henderson during one of our countless interviews during her visits to her home state. For nearly a dozen years, our talks regularly included interviews at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where Henderson sang patriotic songs, often “The Star-Spangled Banner” or America the Beautiful,” during pre-Indy 500 festivities.
At a dinner interview away from the racetrack, she had a purpose for bringing up the de-worming task, her assignment as the youngest of 10 children of sharecroppers on tobacco farms in southern Indiana. Henderson wanted to set the scene for the grinding poverty her family endured as transient sharecroppers, moving among various farms near her hometown of Dale and, sometimes, across the Ohio River into Kentucky.
The childhood challenges that confronted Henderson, who died Thursday, would have been much too disturbing to serve as fodder for an episode of “The Brady Bunch.”
Her father was an alcoholic. Her Christmas gift one year was her textbook for the Catholic schools she attended; the Hendersons couldn’t afford anything else. As a parochial school student, young Florence was required to wear a uniform. She had only one or two of the outfits, meaning they frequently became torn and filthy.
“I used to make up stories about ‘accidents’ that involved falling down and ripping the uniform,” Henderson recalled, explaining she hoped to hide the extent of her family’s poverty from classmates.
Her trademark smile disappeared and she choked back emotion as she added, “I will always be grateful to the nuns (teachers). They let me retain my dignity. They were aware of my family circumstances and knew I wasn’t repeatedly having ‘accidents’, but they never contradicted me in front of my friends.”
It got worse, though. Henderson’s overwhelmed mother left the family when Florence was 12 years old. She primarily was raised by an older sister.
“I used to go to the corner store as a little girl, sit on the counter and sing my heart out for coins,” Henderson told me before a pre-race performance. “I guess I’m still singing for my supper.”
So how do you get from southern Indiana tobacco fields to Broadway, where Henderson became a musical comedy star before her years as a TV icon?
Thanks, in part, to an unidentified Hoosier married couple who were affluent, at least compared to sharecroppers. The couple heard Henderson sing. Impressed by her talent, they financed her move to New York City to study voice and dramatics. Henderson began landing parts in shows, but always stuck to a promise not to reveal the names of her benefactors.
That’s an indicator of other traits I invariably noticed in Henderson: humanity and sincerity. Because her default disposition was so sunny, it was tempting for some TV viewers or on-lookers at events to wonder about the sincerity part. To me and others, though, she demonstrated authenticity with a series of unexpected acts of kindness over the years.
Maybe the cheerfulness began early on as a way of charging through circumstances that would have embittered many others. She once told me, “I always had hope.”
Price is the author of “Indiana Legends: Famous Hoosiers from Johnny Appleseed to David Letterman”, “Indianapolis Then and Now” and other books. He is the host of “Hoosier History Live” on WICR-FM (88.7).
Florence Henderson, an Indiana native who died Thursday, starred in “The Brady Bunch” from 1969 to 1974. IndyStar file photo Florence Henderson worked on NBC’s “Today Show” in 1959 and 1960. She was billed as “The Today Girl.” AP photo In this 1967 photo, composer Richard Rodgers, left, poses with stars Florence Henderson and Giorgio Tozzi on opening night of a New York revival of “South Pacific.” AP photo Florence Henderson was immortalized on this “Brady Bunch” lunchbox. Bob Gwaltney / The Evansville Courier Florence Henderson, right, is seen on the set of “The Brady Bunch” with Ann B. Davis, who portrayed Alice on the sitcom. Gannett News Service “The Brady Bunch” made a series of episodes at the Grand Canyon in 1971. Photo provided by ABC Hairstylist Sharleen Walsh, left, goes over a few last details before Florence Henderson shoots a 1973 scene of “The Brady Bunch” at Ohio’s Kings Island amusement park. Cincinnati Enquirer file photo Florence Henderson poses outside a Los Angeles restaurant in this 1988 photo. AP photo Musician Larry Gatlin, left, samples tortilla soup on the set of Nashville Network series “Country Kitchen,” hosted by Florence Henderson in the late 1980s. Kathleen Smith / The Tennessean In this 1999 photo, Florence Henderson poses with fellow TV moms Doris Roberts (“Everybody Loves Raymond”), Estelle Harris (“Seinfeld”) and Michael Learned (“The Waltons”). AP photo Florence Henderson poses with ‘Brady Bunch” creator Sherwood Schwartz in 2008. AP photo Florence Henderson, right, poses with “Brady Bunch” cast members Christopher Knight, Maureen McCormick, Ann B. Davis, Susan Olsen and Barry Williams in 2003. Photo provided by ABC Florence Henderson competed on the 11th season of “Dancing with the Stars” in 2010. AP photo Florence Henderson competed on the 11th season of “Dancing with the Stars” in 2010. AP photo TV viewers saw Florence Henderson as Carol Brady in a new context in 2015, when Snickers inserted action star Danny Trejo into a vintage sitcom scene for a new candy-bar commercial that debuted during the Super Bowl. AP photo
Interested in this topic? You may also want to view these photo galleries:
MORE STORIES FROM BIOGRAPHY
On television, they were the epitome of the wholesome family. Even when the blended clan of six children that made up the majority of The Brady Bunch did something wrong, it resulted in teachable lessons often delivered by squeaky-clean, caring parents Carol and Mike.
Like many of Hollywood’s classic small-screen series of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the behind-the-scenes goings-on and cast relationships made for far juicier stories than ever appeared on air. For all the sweet-natured shenanigans of the Bradys, off-screen there was drug use, intimate relationships between the cast, hidden sexuality and disputes over storylines.
The Brady Bunch aired from September 1969 through March 1974 on ABC and was created and produced by Sherwood Schwartz. The series went into syndication in 1975 and has become a rerun staple of cable television. The show followed the day-to-day lives of the Bradys, a blended family of six children thanks to the marriage of Mike Brady (Robert Reed) to Carol Martin (Florence Henderson). Mike’s children were three boys: Greg (Barry Williams), Peter (Christopher Knight) and Bobby (Mike Lookinland), and Carol’s three daughters were Marcia (Maureen McCormick), Jan (Eve Plumb) and Cindy (Susan Olsen).
Mike was a widowed architect and the story of Carol’s first marriage was never fully explained, but the blended group took up residence in a sprawling two-story house – designed by Mike – in a suburb of Los Angeles. Also ensconced in the shag-carpeted abode was Alice Nelson (Ann B. Davis), Mike’s live-in housekeeper, and the boy’s dog, Tiger.
Henderson had a risqué sense of humor
The role of Carol would be something Henderson, who passed away in 2016, would be associated with for the remainder of her life. The archetypal mother figure, Carol was ingrained in the imaginations of millions of viewers. In real life, Henderson was described as fun-loving and having a bawdy sense of humor. “She knew the respect that people had for that character,” Lloyd Schwartz, son of Sherwood, said to Variety following Henderson’s death. “Whenever anybody came up to her to say anything about the show, she was as warm as could be – I saw it a million times.”
Williams took Henderson on a date
One particular rumor from her time on set would haunt Henderson throughout later life: That she and Williams dated and had an affair. Williams, as eldest son Greg, was 16 at the time and Henderson was 36. In his 1992 memoir, Growing Up Brady, Williams recalled having a crush on his onscreen mom. “When those little things called hormones start kicking in, you get excited by even inanimate objects. It wasn’t that I sought to bed her,” he writes. “I just wanted to spend time with her.”
Henderson, a happily-married mother of four at the time, humored her young co-star but ensured things never progressed beyond being work colleagues. They did once go out for dinner but were driven by Williams’ older brother as Williams was still without a driver’s license. “That whole thing with Barry got blown way out of proportion,” Henderson wrote on her website of the rumor/date. “I guess in a sense it was a date, because Barry thought it was. But of course, I had no idea that his intentions were to ‘date’ me. It has made for a good story though!”
‘The Brady Bunch’ opening credits
Photo: CBS via Getty Images
Williams and McCormick dated while playing brother and sister
Williams had more luck with onscreen sister Marcia. In her 2008 memoir, Here’s the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice, McCormick wrote of dating Williams during filming, noting that at the time she said to herself, “Oh my God! I’m kissing my brother. What am I doing?”
McCormick turned to drugs when the series ended
Only 14 when the series began airing, McCormick said she battled anxiety and personal insecurities due to playing sweet and wholesome Marcia. “As a teenager, I had no idea that few people are everything they present to the outside world,” McCormick writes. “Yet there I was, hiding the reality of my life behind the unreal perfection of Marcia Brady. … No one suspected the fear that gnawed at me.”
Following the end of the series, McCormick’s fear was still there, resulting in cocaine and Quaalude abuse and depression. McCormick recalls drug binges at the Playboy Mansion, and even being so out of it she blew an audition with Steven Spielberg for a role in Raiders of the Lost Ark. After getting clean in the mid-eighties, she says she has come to terms with and even feels acceptance of her Brady character.
Williams filmed an episode high
Williams, like many teens in the 1970s, admits to experimenting with drugs. Except unlike most teens, the results didn’t end up on television. Enjoying a day off from the set with friends, Williams says they smoked some marijuana. “Then called in the middle of this high to go into work,” Williams recounted during a Brady Bunch convention talk in 2014. Though he regrets it, Williams said the results can be seen in the 1973 episode “Law and Disorder”: “I’m a much better actor when I am completely sober than when I’m high!”
Olsen and Lookinland would ‘make out in the doghouse’
Cindy, the youngest member of the Bradys, was often chided for being a tattletale on the show. In real life, Olsen spilled the beans to News.com.au in 2015 about life on the Brady set. When asked whether any of the kids “hooked up” during filming, Olsen replied that she believed “all of us did … We led a sheltered life for part of the year so if there was anybody to crush on or try to date, it would be our counterparts.”
According to Olsen, each young actor paired up with their opposite cast member on the show. “So, I had Mike and we used to make out in the doghouse when we were nine. Eve always had a crush on Chris, they did kind of hook up later on. And, of course, there was Maureen and Barry.”
The cast of ‘The Brady Bunch’
Photo: Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images
Reed was a homosexual in real life and kept his sexuality a secret
As Mike, Reed was the level-headed patriarch of the Brady family, doling out words of wisdom with a kindly tone and fatherly hugs at the ready. In real life, Reed, a classically-trained actor, was a homosexual who kept his private life under wraps, a not uncommon occurrence at the time due to fears the revelation would impact ongoing career success.
“Here he was, the perfect father of this wonderful little family, a perfect husband,” Henderson told ABC News in 2000. “He was an unhappy person. … I think had Bob not been forced to live this double life, I think it would have dissipated a lot of that anger and frustration.” While many on set knew of Reed’s life away from the set, it was never discussed openly. “I had a lot of compassion for him because I knew how he was suffering,” Henderson said of Reed, adding that she believed coming out was not a possibility due to the era they were in. “I don’t think The Brady Bunch could have existed at that time with the public knowing that Robert Reed was gay. I just don’t think they would have bought it.”
Reed disagreed with many of the storylines and didn’t appear in the final episode
Reed, who passed away in 1992, also clashed with producer Schwartz over storylines, and especially the visual gags written into each episode. Shakespearean-trained Reed preferred a more serious approach to the storylines, Schwartz told ABC News. Though Schwartz believed Reed to be “a good actor,” he also felt he “wound up on a show that he didn’t want to do in the first place, and it became more and more difficult for him.”
Reed’s displeasure with the scripts would continue throughout the entire series, culminating in his character being written out of what ultimately became the last episode of the original five-season run. The storyline dealt with Greg’s impending graduation from high school and a prank that left his hair orange ahead of the big day. Reed believed the story to be under par and reportedly demanded the episode be rewritten or he would not appear. The powers-that-be called his bluff and Mike’s lines were divided between Carol and Alice, resulting in Reed’s complete absence from the finale.
16 Things You Might Not Know About The Brady Bunch
Here’s the story of a lovely lady, a man named Brady who could’ve been played by Gene Hackman, six kids, a wacky housekeeper, and how a series that started as a typical formulaic sitcom grew into a syndicated monster. Here are 16 things you might not know about The Brady Bunch.
1. THE CONCEPT ORIGINATED WITH A NEWSPAPER STATISTIC.
“It’s very rare that a writer knows exactly where his ideas come from,” producer Sherwood Schwartz once said. “However, in the case of The Brady Bunch, I know exactly what inspired that show. It was just a four-line filler piece in the Los Angeles Times. Just a statistic. It said that year, 1965, 31 percent of all marriages involved people who had a child or children from a previous marriage. It was just a statistic, but to me it indicated a remarkable sociological change in our country. Thirty-one percent is approximately one-third of all marriages. That’s a huge statistic.”
It gave him an idea for a TV series called Yours and Mine. He shopped his script to the three major networks but was turned down each time. Three years later, United Artists released a film called Yours, Mine and Ours, starring Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda, which told the story of a widow with eight children who married a father of 10. The film did well at the box office, and suddenly ABC was interested in Schwartz’s script, which was then called The Bradley Brood.
2. HAIR COLOR PLAYED A FACTOR IN CASTING THE BRADY KIDS.
When casting the six Brady kids, Schwartz wasn’t yet sure what the parents would look like (as those actors hadn’t yet been hired), so his goal was to have a total of 12 child actors in reserve: three blonde girls, three blonde boys, three brunette girls, and three dark-haired boys. (It was presumed from the get-go that the parents would have contrasting hair colors, and that their offspring’s locks would correspond likewise.) “As a consequence, to this day, there are three dark-haired girls and three blonde boys about 45 to 50 years old somewhere in the world who might have been The Brady Bunch kids,” Schwartz said in Brady, Brady, Brady: The Complete Story of the Brady Bunch As Told by the Father/Son Team Who Really Know. “And they are just finding that out if they’re reading this book.”
Naturally strawberry blonde Mike Lookinland was Schwartz’s first choice for the role of youngest son Bobby, but when brown-haired Robert Reed was cast as the dad, Lookinland had to endure his hair being dyed a variety of colors so that it looked appropriately dark under the harsh studio lights. Susan Olsen, who played Cindy, was naturally blonde, but not light enough to suit the producers. Olsen’s hair was regularly bleached to give her that adorable towhead look on-camera. Unfortunately, the process eventually caused clumps of Susan’s hair to fall out during season two. She tearfully presented her case to head honcho Schwartz, who immediately ordered the staff to leave Cindy’s hair alone.
3. YES, CINDY’S LISP WAS REAL.
Susan Olsen’s endearing real-life lisp was incorporated into the episode “A Fistful of Reasons,” in which mean ol’ Buddy Hinton teased her with that age-old playground taunt “Baby talk, baby talk, it’s a wonder you can walk.” Olsen worked regularly with a speech therapist until the age of 19 and ultimately underwent surgery to help correct her “lazy S.”
4. GENE HACKMAN WAS IN CONTENTION TO PLAY MIKE BRADY.
For the role of Mike Brady (the family’s surname had changed by this time), “there were a number of men I wanted to interview, including Gene Hackman,” recalled Schwartz in Brady, Brady, Brady. “Paramount wouldn’t even okay Gene Hackman for an interview because he had a very low TVQ. (TVQ is a survey that executives use to determine the audience’s familiarity with performances. TV executives have don’t admit to the existence of TVQs, but it is commonly employed in casting.)”
They finally chose Reed because he was already under contract to Paramount, and he had a certain amount of marquee value because of his co-starring role on the popular legal drama series The Defenders. “The year after The Brady Bunch debuted, unknown Gene Hackman with no TVQ starred in The French Connection and won the Academy Award for Best Actor, and has been a major star ever since,” added Schwartz.
5. FLORENCE HENDERSON WASN’T THE FIRST MRS. BRADY.
Comedic actress Joyce Bulifant was so close to inking a contract to play Mrs. Brady that she was used in most of the screen tests with the various child actors for their auditions. In fact, one of the reasons Eve Plumb landed the role of Jan was because of her physical resemblance to Bulifant. Originally, Schwartz envisioned Mrs. Brady as a wacky mom-type, much like Lucille Ball in Yours, Mine and Ours. But the cast dynamics changed when Emmy Award-winning actress Ann B. Davis signed on to play housekeeper Alice. Davis’ Alice would more than fulfill the wackiness quotient, and a more grounded, down-to-earth mother was required to maintain a balance. Texas-born musical theater star Florence Henderson got the job, and Joyce Bulifant went on to a successful career of her own, including playing Murray’s wife on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
6. HENDERSON WASN’T AROUND WHEN FILMING BEGAN ON THE FIRST SIX EPISODES.
Florence Henderson, who wore a wig during the first season of the show because her hair had been cropped short for her recent starring role in an off-Broadway revival of South Pacific, was wrapping up filming on Song of Norway in Denmark when she received word that The Brady Bunch pilot had sold. “And so they started the show without me,” Henderson told NPR in 2014. “They did six episodes without me and then I filled in when I got back to the States.”
7. BARRY WILLIAMS “WENT THROUGH A STAGE OF EXPERIMENTATION.”
Like many teens in the 1970s, Williams—who played eldest brother Greg—was known to occasionally partake in some illegal substances while hanging out with his friends. After sparking up one afternoon on his day off, Williams received a call from the studio that certain scenes of the “Law and Disorder” episode needed to be re-shot. Barry dutifully reported to the set, but it became obvious to all present that something was not quite right with Greg Brady. Aside from his stumbling over nothing in the driveway, there was a glazed look in his eyes and a stilted delivery of his few lines regarding Dad’s purchase of a boat that tipped the producers off and caused furious rewrites to reduce Greg’s part in this episode. “I went through a stage of experimentation as a kid,” Williams wrote on his blog. “I certainly never went to the set high again but I don’t like weed. It makes me feel dumb, paranoid, and hungry.”
8. THERE WAS SOME ROMANCE ON THE SET.
In his book, Growing Up Brady, Barry Williams wrote that he and Maureen McCormick shared their first kiss while in Hawaii filming a three-episode story arc during the show’s fourth season. Their relationship was at its hottest and heaviest around the time they filmed the final episode of that season, “A Room at the Top.” The scene where Marcia and Greg were sitting on her bed together arguing over who should get the attic room took hours to film, as the director kept having to yell “cut” due to the actors getting too cozy on camera. Lloyd Schwartz finally had each actor make a fist and place it between them as they sat on the bed and instructed them to maintain that amount of distance from each other at all times during the scene.
In Brady, Brady, Brady, Lloyd Schwartz mentions that he tried to cool things down between Barry and Maureen mainly because on-the-job romances rarely worked, especially between teenagers. If they had a traumatic breakup, how would they be able to continue to work together? Part of his strategy was to appeal to Barry’s vanity and flatter him, telling him that he was too young and too good-looking to limit himself to one girl.
9. CHRISTOPHER KNIGHT WASN’T BLESSED WITH MUSICAL ABILITY.
Barry Williams, Mike Lookinland, and Maureen McCormick were all excellent vocalists, while Eve Plumb and Susan Olsen could both carry a reasonable tune. Christopher Knight, on the other hand, is the first to admit that his pipes were a bit on the rusty side. When asked to cite the most embarrassing thing he ever did on the show by The Improper Bostonian, Knight didn’t hesitate in responding: “Singing, by far. It was traumatic.” Knight was encouraged to lip-synch while the other kids sang in the musical episodes. It was decided, however, that his lack of vocal prowess could be played for laughs in the “Dough-Re-Mi” episode; Peter’s voice had begun to change, and Greg incorporated his cracking and squeaking into the song “Time to Change.” But poor Chris couldn’t even manage to hit the wrong notes properly, and his lines in the song were actually dubbed by producer Howard Leeds. “That whole episode where my voice changing was them just pointing out that I couldn’t sing,” said Knight. “My first experience with depression was that week.”
10. SIX KIDS SHARED ONE BATHROOM WITH NO TOILET.
Eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed something odd about the Jack and Jill bathroom the Brady kids shared: It was missing a toilet. Television networks still had strict rules about showing a porcelain toilet bowl onscreen during the Brady years. In order to avoid costly tricky camera angles, the producers opted to forego a commode altogether in the bathroom shared by the kids. (The tank portion of the toilet was acceptable, as seen on the “Captain Jack” episode of Leave It To Beaver in 1957.)
11. CAROL BRADY WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A DIVORCEE.
While Mike Brady was painted as a widower, Carol’s pre-Brady marital status was a bit of a mystery. Sherwood Schwartz has said in several interviews that his intention was for Carol to have been a divorcee (her maiden name was “Tyler” and her married name was “Martin,” as revealed in the pilot episode). But divorce was still considered to be taboo for primetime television (especially for a family-friendly show), so the fate of Mr. Martin was always left a mystery … until recently. After nearly five decades of being asked what happened to Carol Brady’s first husband, Florence Henderson now prefers to tell interviewers (jokingly, we hope) that she killed him.
12. MARCIA REALLY DID TAKE A FOOTBALL TO THE NOSE.
According to Lloyd Schwartz, Christopher Knight was unable to hit his target when filming the crucial football-tossing scene in “The Subject Was Noses” (a.k.a. the “Oh, my nose!” episode). So Schwartz stepped in off-screen, threw a perfect spiral, and pegged Maureen’s nose with the pigskin in one take.
13. TIGER MET A TRAGIC ENDING.
One evening after filming had finished for the day of the episode entitled “Katchoo” (in which Jan appears to be allergic to the family dog), Tiger’s trainer let the pooch out on the Paramount lot for his daily exercise. Unfortunately, a careless driver didn’t see the dog and Tiger was hit and killed. The frantic trainer spent the rest of the night scouring animal shelters looking for a reasonable facsimile of the shaggy canine, since he still had several scenes left to film. The replacement dog looked enough like Tiger to fool the cast and production staff, but the jig was up when he wouldn’t follow directions and was frightened by the noise and lights. The only way the director got Fake Tiger to hold stay in place during the emotional scene where the boys were bidding him a tearful farewell was to nail his collar to the floor.
14. THE SHOW WAS NEVER A HUGE HIT.
The Brady Bunch was never a huge Nielsen hit during its original run; in fact, it never managed to crack the Top 30 shows. But it did well enough to run for five seasons, which gave Paramount enough episodes to sell as a package for syndication. The syndicated reruns were often shown in the late afternoon, which gave it more exposure to a younger audience. As a result, the show’s fan base grew exponentially after it had ceased production, and continues to grow today as each younger generation discovers it.
15. MANY FLUBS WERE NEVER CORRECTED.
Like most shows of that era, no one who worked on The Brady Bunch thought that the show would still be airing regularly over 40 years later after it had been cancelled. So sometimes little mistakes were left unfixed in the name of finishing an episode on schedule. After all, the show aired in the days before every home had a VCR, so who would notice something like the family leaving the house in a convertible and returning from the same errand in a station wagon? Or Jan’s hair mysteriously switching from a ponytail to loose around her shoulders repeatedly while the kids were building a house of cards? Those flubs and others—like a tired Susan Olsen sticking her tongue out as she exited a scene, thinking it was still a rehearsal—have become part of the show’s legend thanks to syndication, DVRs, and viewers with too much time on their hands.
16. THE SHOW ATTEMPTED A BACKDOOR PILOT.
During the final season of The Brady Bunch, the Brady family generously relinquished most of a 30-minute episode in order to introduce their neighbors, Ken and Kathy Kelly (portrayed by Ken Berry and Brooke Bundy). The Kellys had adopted three boys—Matt, Dwayne, and Steve—who’d been best friends at the local orphanage. The twist was that one of the boys was white (and was also Mike Lookinland’s real-life brother), one was African-American, and one was Asian-American. Sherwood Schwartz had hoped that this backdoor pilot would be picked up as a series, since the networks had recently announced that they were pushing “prime time” forward half an hour to begin at 7:30 p.m. and they would be in need of some family-friendly programs. But Kelly’s Kids didn’t happen.
Bonus Fact: Christopher Knight digs mental_floss!
Photo by Sandy Wood
The ‘Brady Bunch’ Cast Reveals Who They Were Closest To On The Show
There are very few people who don’t know the words to the infamous theme song that starts with “Here’s the story… of a man named Brady…” The iconic sitcom The Brady Bunch brought America’s now most famous blended family into everyone’s living room.
Single parents Mike (Robert Reed) and Carol (Florence Henderson), with the help of comedic sidekick housekeeper Alice (Ann B. Davis) were watched by millions as they raised their six kids from 1969 to 1974. Greg (Barry Williams), Marcia (Maureen McCormick), Peter (Christopher Knight), Jan (Eve Plumb), Bobby (Mike Lookinland), and Cindy (Susan Olsen) entertained viewers with their squabbles, teamwork, and adolescent issues for five seasons, and continue to live in infamy thanks to syndication.
“The Brady Bunch’s” Barry Williams, Maureen McCormick, Christopher Knight, Eve Plumb, Mike Lookinland, and Susan Olsen | Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
The kids of the cast have been working on HGTV’s A Very Brady Renovation, where the show’s legendary home is getting a makeover. The series also recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, where cast members commented on a myriad of topics related to their time on the sitcom.
Being a Brady in real life
The six actors and actresses who played the roles of the kids on the show have shared the sitcom’s impact on their personal lives, where their fame stretched to all walks of life. “I think first time I realized ‘The Brady Bunch’ was cool was when I met the singer from the Black Crowes, who came running up to me and said, ‘Oh my gosh, our drummer would be crying if he was here because he has an ‘I Saw The Brady Bunch Live in Concert’ picture on his wall.’ Suddenly being cool with rock stars made a whole difference to me,” Olsen shared, according to the New York Post.
Knight saw that his role as a solid family member carried over into real life in the eyes of viewers. “It became this thing that I owe everything to… what is really has provided is this wholeness with this community that’s huge. I’m a member of everyone’s family and that engenders this great outpouring of brotherhood and love.”
‘Big brother’ Williams also was grateful for playing a part that gave him a long-lasting career. “I realized some people would or would not cast me because I was Greg Brady. The good news for me was that Greg could conceivably grow up to become anything,” the actor said. “I’ve had a thriving career over the last 54 years.”
View this post on Instagram
We couldn’t wrap up this renovation without a big celebration… and of course, all the feels. Stroll down memory lane tonight at 9|8c. #verybradyreno
For decades, the cast has publicly proclaimed the close bonds they have formed with each other. Some cast members discussed who they share particular close ties with from the show. “It was Mike ,” Knight said. “I’m a little Huck Finn-ish and was looking to explore, and he was my little explorer buddy, although he always fashioned himself to be an adult. Only later in the show or even after did we the show we become closer and closer friends. He always cracked me up and was always great company. I would consider him my closest buddy. If I got into a little bit of trouble, it’s probably because I was trying to drag him into a little bit of trouble.”
Knight also revealed he could take on the role of ‘annoying’ big brother to McCormick. “I teased Maureen mercilessly. She couldn’t be more different from me — she was so prissy and nice and clean, and I needed to dirty her up.”
Speaking of McCormick, Williams disclosed his previous crush on his former co-star. “I was romantically interested in Maureen,” he shared, adding that he felt a bond with his onscreen parents and middle brother. “I’d say I was closest to Robert Reed and Florence Henderson, and through the years I’d say Chris Knight. We’ve probably shared the most mutual experiences — weddings, dates, camping, hanging out. Just being together.”
Turns out Bobby and Peter really were close, since Lookinland returned the accolades to Knight, while also giving a shout out to Olsen. “No question it was Chris Knight. We had sleepovers at each other’s houses,” Lookinland said. “Susan and I were very buddy-buddy and hung out together. She has a real sick sense of humor and I thought, ‘She’s a little off’ and I thought it was my duty to keep her laughing. So we hit it off on that basis.”
Happy 50th Anniversary to all my Brady siblings and to ALL the wonderful fans of the #BradyBunch! #50Years #50thAnniversary pic.twitter.com/4HSTREjlWy
— Barry Williams (@MrBarryWilliams) September 26, 2019
Carrying on a name
Olsen clearly has a special bond with Lookinland, giving him a special honor in her own family. “It was Mike. He’s my favorite. I named my son after him.”
And though Jan always had to live with ‘Marcia, Marcia, Marcia,’ it turns out Cindy had a special place in her heart for the middle sister. “And also Eve, because I looked up to her and I already had a sister who was the same age as Maureen, so that was covered. Eve was closer to my age so it was easier for me to look up to her and I did — because she was very, very cool.”
A Very Brady Renovation can be seen on HGTV.
The Brady Bunch was a television situation comedy that originally aired on ABC from 1969-1974, starring Robert Reed and Florence Henderson. The premise of this show was two single parents – each with three children – get married and form a new, blended family. Joined by their housekeeper Alice Nelson, the series focuses on the Bradys as they adjust to their new life and, later on in the series, deal with issues typical of teenagers and preteen children.
In “Death Has a Shadow”, the series opens with a gag is based on the 1971 episode “Where There’s Smoke”, where Greg (Barry Williams) experiments with smoking, decides he doesn’t like it, then has a dilemma on his hands when he finds a pack of cigarettes in what turns out to be his friend’s jacket. On Family Guy, Jan catches Greg smoking and reports this to Mike; an angry Mike punishes Greg by placing him in a snake pit. Jan is also punished for tattling and placed in a fire pit. Mike was voiced by Seth MacFarlane, Greg by Seth Green, and Jan by Lacey Chabert.
In “Road to Rhode Island”, Stewie Griffin asks Brian to tape the episode of the show where Bobby saved Greg’s life and Greg became his slave as repayment for Stewie’s accompaniment on the journey. The episode he’s referring to is “My Brother’s Keeper”, although Bobby saved Peter’s life, not Greg’s.
In “Holy Crap”, when Peter Griffin hires a band, his dog, Brian, asks the musicians if they can “do that fluttery thing, like when the Brady kids run down the stairs.” The Brady kids are then seen running down the Griffins’ stairs. Cindy however stops to say something. Olivia Hack who voiced Cindy had previously played Cindy in the Brady Bunch films and would make other voice appearances on Family Guy.
A political roundtable discussion in “E. Peterbus Unum” becomes the grid from The Brady Bunch, complete with Alice in the center and a similar musical cue.
In “Emission Impossible”, Stewie recalls what happened when cousin Oliver replaced Bobby on The Brady Bunch. When Bobby shows up, he is forced back into the garage by Mike Brady.
In “PTV”, the show is the first to be seen after the heavy censorship by the Federal Communications Commission was lifted. The episode depicts the family standing around the toilet, Cindy showing them her defecation. This is a nod to the fact that the toilet was never seen in episodes with scenes in the bathroom. The gag ends with the signature show-ending of each of the squares containing a family member placed on the screen, one-by-one, with a musical cue from the series.
Pontius Pilate and Judas Iscariot plan to crucify Jesus as they skip away to “Sunshine Day” by The Brady Bunch in “Believe It or Not, Joe’s Walking on Air”.
In “Spies Reminiscent of Us”, Mike Brady apparently kills his first wife after a domestic dispute, and Alice as a witness. Mike intimidates Alice into silence by asking if she saw anything; the housekeeper says that all she knows is that she’s “getting a raise”. Gary Cole voiced Mike while Henriette Mantel provides the voice of Alice, both having previously played the roles in the Brady Bunch films.
In “Excellence in Broadcasting”, widescreen television is explained, it shows how Mike and Carol would look in bed, with three black guys flanking them on both sides. The traditional Brady Bunch grid is also shown expanded with the additional six black men. Cole and Shelley Long reprised their roles from the Brady Bunch films.
In “Livin’ on a Prayer”, Peter watches the first post-Roe V. Wade episode of The Brady Bunch where the kids have been replaced by animals and upscale material possessions.
Maureen McCormick, the original Marcia Brady of The Brady Bunch, turns up at the Griffin house looking to score some meth in “Farmer Guy”.
Mike Brady provides advice in the 1960s when Meg tattles on Chris for running away to Woodstock in “”Family Guy” Through the Years”. A pair of the kids from the show also appear during Peter’s introduction.
Chris tries to spin a story about getting his jacket confused with a friend’s like in an episode of The Brady Bunch in “Dead Dog Walking”.
Greg Brady Sliders – Picture of Billy Jack’s Shack, Harrisonburg
- Harrisonburg Tourism
- Harrisonburg Hotels
- Harrisonburg Bed and Breakfast
- Harrisonburg Vacation Rentals
- Harrisonburg Vacation Packages
- Flights to Harrisonburg
- Harrisonburg Restaurants
- Things to Do in Harrisonburg
- Harrisonburg Travel Forum
- Harrisonburg Photos
- Harrisonburg Map
- Harrisonburg Travel Guide
- All Harrisonburg Hotels
- Harrisonburg Hotel Deals
- Last Minute Hotels in Harrisonburg
- By Hotel Type
- Harrisonburg Motels
- Harrisonburg Business Hotels
- Harrisonburg Family Hotels
- Harrisonburg Green Hotels
- Harrisonburg Spa Resorts
- By Hotel Class
- 5-stars Hotels in Harrisonburg
- 3-stars Hotels in Harrisonburg
- By Hotel Brand
- Wyndham Hotels in Harrisonburg
- InterContinental (IHG) Hotels in Harrisonburg
- Marriott Hotels in Harrisonburg
- Choice Hotels in Harrisonburg
- Hilton Hotels in Harrisonburg
- Popular Amenities
- Harrisonburg Hotels with Pools
- Pet Friendly Hotels in Harrisonburg
- Popular Harrisonburg Categories
- Harrisonburg Safe Hotels
- Harrisonburg Hotels with Smoking Rooms
- Harrisonburg Hotels with Hot Tubs
- Harrisonburg Hotels With Indoor Pools
- Hotels with Complimentary Breakfast in Harrisonburg
- Harrisonburg Clean Hotels
- Harrisonburg Hotels with Restaurants
- Quiet Hotels in Harrisonburg
- Harrisonburg Hot Tub Suite Hotels
- Harrisonburg Pet Friendly Motels
- Near Landmarks
- Hotels near White Oak Lavender Farm & The Purple WOLF Vineyard
- Hotels near Edith J. Carrier Arboretum
- Hotels near Hardesty-Higgins House Visitor Center
- Hotels near Virginia Quilt Museum
- Hotels near Explore More Discovery Museum
- Hotels near A Dream Come True Playground
- Hotels near James Madison University
- Hotels near Brethren & Mennonite Heritage Center
- Hotels near Back Home on the Farm
- Hotels near Museum of American Jewelry Design and Manufacturing
- Hotels near Harrisonburg Fire Department Museum
- Hotels near Rocktown Trails at Hillandale Park
- Hotels near Mineral Museum
- Hotels near Larkin Arts
How ‘The Brady Bunch’ cast remembered Florence Henderson and Robert Reed in HGTV renovation series
- TV Show
It’s been 45 years since The Brady Bunch aired its final episode, and the six actors — who were just children when the popular series debuted in 1969 — have reunited with a very special mission: to renovate the inside of the Los Angeles home whose facade was used to represent the Brady home on TV.
HGTV bought the residence in 2018 and later announced they’d be gutting it and renovating it for a new series, A Very Brady Renovation, with a little help from Maureen McCormick, Barry Williams, Eve Plumb, Christopher Knight, Susan Olsen, and Mike Lookinland.
“Our audience always had this idea that we worked at the real house while shooting the series,” Knight, who played middle son Peter Brady, told EW at the A Very Brady Renovation premiere. “I never realized that. They didn’t know that the inside of the house was built out on a set. We only used a picture of this house on the show. But I learned through this process how this house was a portal to our audience. Now we’ve been able to bring it all into complete focus.”
Image zoom Mark Von Holden/HGTV
It was an emotional experience for the small-screen siblings to make the Brady Bunch home into something tangible, especially since the actors who portrayed their on-screen parents, Florence Henderson and Robert Reed, died in 2016 and 1992, respectively.
Ann B. Davis, who played their live-in housekeeper Alice, also passed away in 2014.
“We remembered them every day,” Plumb, who played Jan Brady, said. “We had scenes with them in every room. As we went back and forth during the remodel looking at old scenes, they were there with us.”
Knight added, “We couldn’t sit at the dining room table without recognizing there are a few people missing. Standing on those famous stairs to take a photo, you could just feel those who were missing. Even just walking into the front door of the house, we remembered Bob walking in saying, ‘Hi honey, I’m home.’ I think we all rationalized that they were there with us in their own way.”
Image zoom Gilles Mingasson/Getty Images
McCormick, who played oldest daughter Marcia, loved getting her hands dirty throughout the process. Williams, who brought oldest son Greg to life, admired McCormick’s handling of a jackhammer.
“I’m so grateful we got to be part of the actual process,” Williams said. “We picked up hammers, a Skilsaw, and in Maureen’s case, a jackhammer. She chased me all around the living room with it!”
McCormick added, “This was really a dream come true for so many reasons. I love demo and after this, I should be called the demo queen. In my real life, I work with my hands a lot doing a lot of different things. But mainly, because we all got to get together again after not being together in about 15 years or more, it was emotional for me that not everyone could be here with us for this,” she continued. “These are all people that I love and admire. Florence, Bob, and Annie taught me a lot about life that I carry with me each and every day. Doing this remodel made me miss them so much.”
Working on the show also inspired the cast to think about where their respective characters would be today. And according to Olsen, who played youngest daughter Cindy, they may not even all still be alive!
“Cindy died in a tragic cheerleading accident,” Olsen suggested.
Lookinland, who played young Bobby, said, ” I think he’d be sailing a boat somewhere in the South Pacific today.”
McCormick said of Marcia, “I think she’d be remodeling homes all over the country and doing a lot with her hands like me.”
As for Greg, Williams thought, “He’d be riding down Route 66, where I actually live.”
Plumb stuck with canon when deciding Jan’s fate: “In Brady Brides she became an architect, so I think I’ll stick to that.”
While Knight shared, “I think Peter probably was working in high-tech somewhere like I was.”
Image zoom HGTV
HGTV has yet to decide the fate of the home now that it’s been remodeled to look like the second most famous house in the United States. But the one thing that fans should not expect is for the six actors to move in and star in a spin-off reality series featuring them living under the same roof.
“There was so much joy for us doing the remodel, I don’t think we need to take it there. It could be the portal to hell,” Knight laughed.
Plumb agreed. “That would be a horror show! Living together? No thanks. I love them all, but no.”
A Very Brady Renovation premieres on Sept. 9 with an extended 90-minute episode starting at 9 p.m.
- It took decades for Christopher Knight to find the Brady Bunch house
- The Brady Bunch cast reunites at iconic house ahead of HGTV renovation series
- The Brady Bunch house is up for sale after nearly 50 years
Susan Olsen, who has long since accepted the fact that the world will always know her as the lisping kid sister of the Brady family, says she had never bothered to go look at the house on Dilling Street in North Hollywood. Except for exciting location shoots in Hawaii and the Grand Canyon, her childhood experience of co-starring in the “The Brady Bunch” kept mainly to Stage 5 at the Paramount lot in Los Angeles.
One day, in 2011, something weirdly magical happened. Her friend, the songwriter and artist Allee Willis, called Olsen and said, “I’ve got the Wienermobile tomorrow,” and asked if she wanted to tool around in it with her.
Why not? One thing led to another on their drive, and the famous Oscar Mayer promotional vehicle eventually ended up at the Brady house – so-called because it’s the house originally seen in the exterior establishing shots of the TV show, which premiered 50 years ago this month. Tourists seem to always be there, taking selfies and lurking around.
“Allee says, to her dying day, she will never forget the look on all the tourists’ faces,” Olsen said, “when the Wienermobile pulled up and Cindy Brady got out.”
After hearing Olsen tell that story to a roomful of rapt TV critics in July, I wished for an enormous, gilt-framed, realist painting of this wholly American moment: At the center of the painting is the house that is merely a false representation of what everybody believes it to be; to one side is the Weinermobile, a perfect melding of technology with mass-produced appetite; out of it emerges the one true Cindy; in the background are the faces of startled onlookers. And, maybe, while we’re at it, we could add in the majestic presence of a 10-point buck, and George Washington, and palm trees against a pinky-blue California dusk.
Instead I will settle for a home-renovation show.
Unlike others in their boomer and Generation X cohort – who every day wage the epic family battle of what to do with Mom and Dad’s old house and copious belongings, while split-level suburban ramblers are sold as teardowns and thrift stores bulge with unwanted yet meaningfully meaningless mid-century bric-a-brac – the original actors who played the six stepsiblings on the ultimate ‘70s sitcom “The Brady Bunch” have returned to TV to perform this emotional ritual in reverse.
On the irresistibly nostalgic four-episode miniseries “A Very Brady Renovation” (which premiered Monday on HGTV), the Brady kids reunite to assist some of the network’s stars with a massive, six-month remodeling of the house. To put it back precisely as the audience perceived it. The original “Brady Bunch” ran for five seasons, followed by a permanent loop of reruns, revivals and remakes in the pop-culture consciousness. Those kid actors are now in their late 50s to mid-60s. (Imagine: Marcia on Medicare.) Robert Reed, who played their father, Mike Brady, died in 1992. Florence Henderson, who played their mother, Carol, died in 2016. Ann B. Davis, who played their beloved housekeeper, Alice, died in 2014.
Without having to explicitly say so, “A Very Brady Renovation” works as a curious form of closure, which is slightly more interesting than its more obvious acts of groovy restoration.
Cheerful and inviting as the show might be, its mission is to put everything back the way it was, the way Mom and Dad had it – a final attempt to see if we can Make Brady America Great Again, down to finding the right pattern for the tastefully garish living room sofa, or using 3D printing technology to restore the horse statuette that sits on a credenza, or hunting for the correct finial knobs that go on the backs of the dining room chairs. A significant part of Monday’s episode is spent debating whether it will be acceptable to rebuild the famous Brady stairway with 11 steps instead of 12.
To bring up the fact that none of it was ever real – that “A Very Brady Renovation” is indeed a costly and pointless attempt to put a layer of new fake on top of the old fake – is to look for logic where it need not exist. As the house comes together, the Brady cast’s faces reflect an almost profound wonder at the passage of time. The show is covertly speaking to us about mortality. It tells us something about the surprising degree to which the past can be retrieved, to say nothing of the lengths that 21st-century TV producers will go to retrieve it.
“It’s a strange kind of place between fiction and reality,” says Christopher Knight (aka middle son Peter Brady), as he gazes around in the house/not-the-house in the first episode.
“It’s the Brady Zone,” Olsen adds.
Much was made of the house’s availability when it went on the market in 2018, as-is, for the first time since 1973. (Asking price: $1.88 million.) The house has for years been a drive-by curiosity; the former owners’ attempts at privacy included painting it pale pink and erecting a decorative, knee-high brick wall on the lawn’s perimeter.
Still, it is unmistakably the house. Hundreds of purchase offers poured in (including one from former boy-band singer Lance Bass), but HGTV prevailed, and set about recruiting the very Brady actors to participate in this very corny effort. Several of them, it turns out, were dutiful yuppies who became savvy real estate investors, gaining some hands-on renovation experience along the way.
With the help of a design chief, a contractor and a construction crew, a grand plan emerges to make the inside of the house conform precisely to “The Brady Bunch” stage interiors – from the orange Formica in the kitchen to the Jack-and-Jill bathroom shared by the six kids, to the groovy attic that a teenage Greg Brady (Barry Williams) claimed for his own, to the resentment of his stepsister Marcia (Maureen McCormick).
Shepherded by HGTV’s favorite camera hogs, “The Property Brothers” (Jonathan and Drew Scott), and with help from the stars of “Restored by the Fords,” “Hidden Potential,” “Flea Market Flip” and “Good Bones,” the project involves turning the one-story house into a two-story house, to add some 2,000 square feet of new living space without changing the essential street view.
“Just know that if any of this is wrong, we’ll be put out to dry,” Drew Scott warns his HGTV colleagues. “All of America will know exactly what this house is supposed to look like.”
In fact, all of America pitched in: The hunt for vintage furnishings became an online group effort, with collectors proudly volunteering their wares – down to the decorative plastic grapes on a coffee table and a curio cabinet that stands between the dining room and kitchen. Other treasures were unearthed in deep storage at Paramount.
And what becomes of the house, once finished? Turning it into a museum won’t work for the neighborhood, which has suffered enough Brady mania. HGTV is giving away a week’s stay at the house as part of a promotional contest, but beyond that, the network’s plans for the property are unknown.
A more interesting question is what becomes of the people. At HGTV’s news conference and a ‘70s-themed cocktail party in Beverly Hills – at which guests could have their picture taken and inserted into the center “Alice” spot on a souvenir 3-by-3 “Brady Bunch” grid – the actors seemed particularly comfortable, mingling cheerfully in the crowd. There is no question or joke or heartfelt sentiment that they have not heard before.
Many of them worked hard to get beyond Bradyness, others used it for what it was. To some degree – remarkable amid known cases of child-actor syndrome – they mostly stayed out of headlines. They stayed out of prison. They stayed alive. They kept working, some in other fields. Mike Lookinland, who played Bobby Brady, has spent the past 14 years running a company that makes concrete countertops. When the group agrees to take a professional Brady gig, he said he has to call Williams or Knight and ask if he can borrow their agent.
While “A Very Brady Renovation” succeeds as a metaphorical exercise in the ersatz, the real fascination lies in that other story, about six people who spent their lives being Brady and Not Brady, and the preservation of one’s truest self.
Welcome to another weekend flashback. Flashback to The Brady Bunch TV show, cancelled in 1974 by ABC, after five moderately successful seasons. It was in syndicated reruns where the series really caught fire. Still, Susan Olsen (Cindy Brady) says the cast has not received any residuals from the series since around 1979. Find out why and learn more about sibling issues and Olsen’s reaction to the end of the popular comedy series.
The Brady Bunch TV series cast includes: Florence Henderson as Carol Brady; Ann B. Davis as Alice Nelson; Robert Reed as Mike Brady; Barry Williams as Greg Brady; Maureen McCormick as Marcia Brady; Eve Plumb as Jan Brady; Susan Olsen as Cindy Brady; Christopher Knight as Peter Brady; and Mike Lookinland as Bobby Brady. Allan Melvin guest starred as Alice’s love interest, bowling butcher Sam Franklin. Robbie Rist (infamously) recurred as Cousin Oliver in the final six episodes. And of course The Monkees‘ Davy Jones famously guest starred but once, as himself.
Watch Susan Olsen on Oprah: Where Are They Now? from OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.
The Brady Bunch: In the Beginning
Olsen says executive producer Sherwood Schwartz told her she was the first Brady kid cast. Up for two other roles at the time, Olsen confided in her grandmother that The Brady Bunch was her first choice,”Because there would be five other kids to play with.”
The Brady Bunch: Sibling Relations Sweet and Sour
What about all those alleged hook-ups between cast members? Olsen admits she and Lookinland used to smooch in Tiger’s doghouse, but debunks rumors that they “made out” saying, “No. We didn’t know how to make out. We would just kiss each other and go, ‘I love you’, ‘I love you’ and hug.”
As for other sibling relations, Olsen says the only thing that comes close to true sibling rivalry was mostly between the two actors viewers would expect — McCormick and Plumb. Olsen says it was the real-life version of “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.” Olsen says, “It was typical girl stuff, but we all love both of them. We just don’t get to see the two of them together.”
The Brady Bunch: Compensation
Because of The Brady Bunch TV series’ success in syndication, people assume the show which made them famous has seen to it that they are equally rich. Nothing could be further from the truth, says Olsen. They weren’t tricked into a bad deal, she explains. It is just that, before 1973, a standard contract only included residuals for the first 10 runs of reruns. Since the first 10 runs of The Brady Bunch were over by probably 1979, the cast members have made no money off it, since then.
The Brady Bunch: The End
Olsen admits that after The Brady Bunch ended, she was relieved. She says she was awkward, didn’t want to go through puberty in front of the nation, and didn’t want to work. She stayed out of the business until she was 18 with the hopes that she could return and not be typecast. Using a “chain-saw murderer” role as an example, Olsen still couldn’t escape being pigeonholed. At auditions she would hear, “Oh, you really surprised us, but we can’t have Cindy doing that.” She finally decided she did not like acting well enough to put up with it.
As a bonus, watch Davy Jones sing “Girl,” and Marcia (Marcia, Marcia) beg for a chance to talk to him, on The Brady Bunch.
Well, how about the flip side?
What do you think? Do you still watch The Brady Bunch TV show reruns? Do you think the six Brady kids will ever reunite on the same stage again?