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'The Brady Bunch:' Little Known Facts About The Family Sitcom

Culture | December 26, 2017

Left: Greg Brady tries on his 'Johnny Bravo' identity. Right: Maureen McCormic circa 1976, on 'The Brady Bunch Variety Hour.' Source: bradybunchreviewed.blogspot.com; ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images

Few TV shows are as beloved as this quirky ABC family-oriented sitcom that ran for five seasons, from 1969-74: The Brady Bunch. Facts and trivia about the show abound, from little-known details about the action on-screen to the intrigue and romance that happened off camera. With so many stars -- two parents, six kids, and a scene-stealing maid -- and such longevity in syndication, the stories and history behind The Brady Bunch have provided fodder for numerous memoirs and tell-alls.

The Brady Bunch kids were always commenting that this or that was "groovy" -- a remark we've taken to heart on this website. But sayings like "Mom always said don't play ball in the house," "pork chops and applesauce," and "Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!" have become part of the American pop-culture dialogue as well. We call clothes that are stripey and rich in earth tones "very Brady Bunch." The show's opening credits, in which the family (and Alice, the housekeeper) are displayed in a 9-panel grid, has been endlessly parodied. In fact, The Brady Bunch was such a strong institution that it inspired a theatrical film adaptation -- 20 years later, with a completely different cast. And that movie -- The Brady Bunch Movie (1995) -- even merited a sequel.

Will we ever escape The Brady Bunch? Would we ever want to?

'The Brady Bunch' Was Not A Hit

Barry Williams and Christopher Knight on The Brady Bunch, 1972. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Brady Bunch aired as a primetime sitcom for 117 episodes on ABC from 1969-74. During that run, it was never a popular show -- in fact, it never broke into the top 30 in the Nielsen ratings. It wasn't until The Brady Bunch went into syndication -- reruns, shown by local TV stations -- that it found its audience. Stations chose to show The Brady Bunch in an after-school time slot, rather than prime time, where it had failed to wow adult viewers. Airing five days a week, the show found an enthusiastic following with a young demographic who'd been too young to see the episodes the first time they'd aired -- for these kids, they weren't even reruns.

Mike And Carol Might Have Been Very Different

Today, we know Mike and Carol Brady as portrayed by Robert Reed and Florence Henderson. But it could have been quite different -- show creator Sherwood Schwartz wanted a little-known actor named Gene Hackman to play the patriarch. Paramount (the show's production company) wouldn't consider Hackman on the grounds that TV audiences had no idea who he was. Hackman's career as a name actor didn't get going until 1971, when he portrayed New York cop Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle in The French Connection, for which he won the Oscar for Best Actor.

Florence Henderson, meanwhile, was a last-minute replacement. Actress Joyce Bulifant was all but set to play the role, and had participated in screen tests with young actors hoping to play the Brady offspring. Bulifant's Carol Brady would have been much zanier than Henderson's -- but when Ann B. Davis was enlisted to play Alice, the housekeeper, that presented a problem. Alice was definitely going to be wacky, and Davis, an Emmy-winning actress, was a catch. Producers went looking for an actress who could give a more sober portrayal of Carol Brady -- and Henderson was their choice.

Casting the kids was a longer and more complex process -- in all, 464 boys and girls auditioned to play Marcia, Jan, Cindy, Greg, Peter, and Bobby. 

Cindy Brady's Hair Began To Fall Out

For plausibility, Schwartz wanted each of the children to have hair that matched that of their TV parent. This meant each of the girls would be blonde, and each of the boys, brunette. Susan Olsen, who played Cindy Brady, apparently did not have hair blonde enough for Schwartz. Her hair was regularly bleached until it started falling out during the second season.

The Brady children each had their own behind-the-scenes secrets as well. The actors who portrayed the kids were not happy with their wardrobe choices and often requested more fashionable clothes for the characters they played. In the end, Schwartz refused to provide anything different, as he wanted the show to be seen as “timeless”. 

Meet The Brace Face Bunch

Most of the children wore braces while filming the show, specifically Susan Olsen (Cindy Brady), Eve Plumb (Jan Brady), Maureen McCormick (Marcia Brady), and Mike Lookinland (Bobby Brady). Barry Williams (Greg Brady) actually did his own surfing for a few episodes that were filmed in Hawaii. Cindy Brady, played by Susan Olsen, had a lisp in real life. She saw a speech therapist until she was 19 and eventually had corrective surgery for her lazy “s”.

Get A Job, Carol Brady

Reed and Henderson played the ideal husband and wife as Mike and Carol Brady. But at the time, Henderson objected to her character's traditional domesticity -- after all, there was Alice the maid to keep the household running, wasn't there? Henderson felt Carol Brady should be employed, but, alas, it was not to be -- during the show's five-year run, Carol never did get a job outside the home. The producers worried that a blended family with two working parents might be too progressive for TV audiences of the time. 

Robert Reed Was A Troublemaker

Robert Reed attended Northwestern University in Chicago. During one of his semesters there, he traveled to London where he studied at the Royal Academy of the Dramatic Arts. He was also quite the rabble-rouser when it came to his relationship with Schwartz. They often argued about scripts and story-lines; so much, in fact, that Reed was written out of the very last episode of the series. 

Reed remained on set for the last episode, as Schwartz did not want to kick him off for the sake of the children.

'The Brady Bunch' Will Live Forever

The Brady Bunch debuted almost 50 years ago and still remains one of the most loved and enduring family sitcoms to this day. The success of the show can be attributed to the approachable characters, invaluable lessons and funny antics of a blended family who loved each other no matter what.

Tags: Barry Williams | Behind The Scenes | Eve Plumb | Greg Brady | Maureen McCormick | Rare Facts And Stories About History | Robert Reed | Susan Olsen | The 1960s | The 1970s | The Brady Bunch | TV In The 1960s | TV In The 1970s

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Cyn Felthousen-Post

Writer

Cyn loves history, music, Irish dancing, college football and nature. Social media is also her thing, keeping up with trends and celebrities with positive news. She can be found outside walking or hiking with her son when she's not working. Carpe diem is her fave quote, get out there and seize the day!