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The Brady Bunch

The Brady Bunch is an American television situation comedy based around a large blended family. The show originally aired from September 26, 1969 to March 8, 1974 on the ABC network and was subsequently syndicated around the world.

Overview

Origins

In 1965, following the success of his TV series Gilligan's Island, Sherwood Schwartz conceived the idea for The Brady Bunch after reading an article in the Los Angeles Times that said "40% of marriages [in the United States] had a child or children from [a] previous marriage." He instantly set to work on a pilot script, called Yours and Mine, and passed it around the "big three" television networks of the era. ABC, CBS and NBC all loved the script, but each network wanted changes to it before they would commit to filming it. Schwartz felt that his script was perfect, and although he had the interest of all three networks in America, he decided to shelve it.

Despite the similarities between the series and the 1968 theatrical release Yours, Mine and Ours starring Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball, the original script for The Brady Bunch pre-dated the script for the film. However, the success of the film was likely a factor in ABC's eventually ordering the series.

Plot

Mike Brady (Robert Reed), a widowed architect with sons Greg (Barry Williams), Peter (Christopher Knight) and Bobby (Mike Lookinland), married Carol Martin (née Tyler) (Florence Henderson), whose daughters were Marcia (Maureen McCormick), Jan (Eve Plumb) and Cindy (Susan Olsen). The daughters took the Brady surname. Schwartz wanted Carol to have been a divorcée. The network objected to this, but a compromise was reached whereby no mention was made of the circumstances in which Carol's first marriage ended, but many assume she was widowed. The newly-formed juvenile sextet, parents Carol and Mike, Mike's live-in housekeeper Alice (Ann B. Davis), and the boys' dog Tiger settled into a large, suburban home designed by Mike.

Often erroneously cited as the first series to show a "blended" family (two series which debuted in the 1950s, Make Room For Daddy and Bonanza, had step-siblings and half-siblings respectively), it came at a time when divorce and remarriage in America was seeing a surge. Episodes in the first season chronicled the family learning to adjust to its new circumstances and become a unit, as well as typical childhood problems such as dating, rivalries and family squabbles and the fact that their house had two bedrooms for six children.

Subtle references to larger social problems found their way into the dialogue from time to time. In one social-issue episode, season two's "The Liberation of Marcia Brady," Marcia explores the oppression of the Brady women and sets out to prove a girl can do anything a boy can. The boys find this very upsetting and Peter finds himself joining the Sunflower Girls, Marcia's club, in hopes of making her back down from her 'bad idea'.

Mike did much of his architectural work in an office/design studio within the house, an apparent way of lending some realism to the way in which sitcom dads seem to be almost always at home while nonetheless earning a good living. In the episodes where he was shown in his away-from-home office, he often came home from work about the same time the children got home from school.

The theme song penned by Schwartz quickly communicated to audiences that the Bradys were a blended family, though the situation largely was deemphasized from the second season on with a few exceptions. Two episodes from the third season, "Not So Rose Colored Glasses" and "Jan's Aunt Jenny", mention that Mike and Carol had been married for three years. In "Kelly's Kids," reference was made to the Bradys' adoptions ("Either way, you adopted three boys and you adopted three girls, right?") when their neighbors, the Kellys, adopted three boys of different races.

Original run and subsequent success

In 1971, due to the success of the Brady's ABC Friday night companion show The Partridge Family (about a musical family), some episodes began to feature the Brady Kids as a singing group. Though only a handful of shows actually featured them singing and performing ("Dough-Re-Mi" in the third season, "Amateur Nite" in the fourth and "Adios, Johnny Bravo" in the fifth), the Brady Bunch began to release albums. Though they never charted as high as the Partridges, the cast began touring the United States during the summer hiatus from the show, headlining as The Kids from the Brady Bunch. Although only Barry Williams and Maureen McCormick stayed in the music business as adults, Christopher Knight readily admits he felt he could not sing and recalls having great anxiety about performing live on stage with the cast.

The Brady Bunch never achieved high ratings during its primetime run (never placing in the top 25 during the five years it aired) and was canceled in 1974 when Greg graduated from high school and was about to enroll in college. Despite its less-than-stellar primetime ratings and having won no awards, the show would become a true cultural phenomenon, enduring in the minds of Americans and in syndication for decades. The series has spawned several sequel series on the "big 3" U.S. networks, two made-for-theater and three made-for-TV movies, a touring stage show and countless specials and documentaries on both network and cable TV.

Since its first airing in syndication in September 1975, an episode of the show has been broadcast somewhere in the United States and abroad every single day of every single year through at least 2007. Reruns were also shown on ABC in the daytime from July 9, 1973 to August 29, 1975, at 11:30 a.m. Eastern/10:30 Central. The run was interrupted only once, between April 21 and June 27, 1975, when ABC ran a short-lived game show, Blankety Blanks, in that time slot.

When the episodes were repeated in syndication, they usually appeared every weekday in late-afternoon or early-evening slots on local stations. This enabled children to watch the episodes when they came home from school, making the program widely popular and giving it iconic status among those who were too young to have seen the series during its prime time run. The show's longevity in the public mind largely owes to that phenomenon, which was a unique aberration from the traditional norm of a previously-run network program being sold to stations as schedule filler between network programming blocs.

According to Schwartz, the reason the show has become a part of Americana despite the fact that there have been other shows that ran longer, rated higher and were critically acclaimed is that the episodes were written from the standpoint of the children and addressed situations that children could understand (such as girl trouble, sibling rivalry and meeting famous people such as a rock star or baseball player). The Bradys also comprised a harmonious family (compared to the likes of the Bunkers, the Bundys, the Simpsons, etc...), though they did run into problems occasionally when one of the children did not cooperate with his or her parents or the other children. In fact, anticipating the likelihood that some children might "act out" some plotlines, the producers had a form letter they sent to children who wrote stating their desires to run away from their own families and live with the Bradys. It has also been noted that the Bradys, while not wealthy, lived well by the middle-class standards of the early 1970s, having a live-in housekeeper and taking frequent trips.

Cast

The regular cast appeared in an opening title sequence in which video head shots were arranged in a three-by-three grid, with each cast member appearing to look at the other cast members. The sequence has been widely imitated and lampooned since.

Marcia Brady
Maureen McCormick
Carol Brady
Florence Henderson
Greg Brady
Barry Williams
Jan Brady
Eve Plumb
Alice Nelson
Ann B. Davis
Peter Brady
Christopher Knight
Cindy Brady
Susan Olsen
Mike Brady
Robert Reed
Bobby Brady
Mike Lookinland

A recurring character was Alice's boyfriend, Sam Franklin (Allan Melvin), the owner of a local butcher shop. (By the time of The Brady Girls Get Married, a made-for-TV movie in 1981, Alice and Sam were married.) Sam is incorrectly perceived to have appeared in many of the show's episodes. While he is frequently mentioned in dialogue and Alice occasionally went out on dates with him when she wasn't needed around the house, Sam actually appears in only eight episodes, although his appearances span the show's five seasons.

Although many actors who become type-cast into the roles they played on a particular series sometimes resent this, it is exactly the opposite with the actors and actresses who played on the Brady Bunch series. Recently on a TV Land documentary, the actors revealed that they all remain close friends, and most have remained in regular contact with one another. On several episodes of Christopher Knight's reality show series, My Fair Brady, Florence Henderson made guest appearances, and gave advice on Chris' ongoing relationship issues. Knight also invited Barry Williams, Susan Olsen, and Mike Lookinland to a wedding party, during which most of his time was spent hanging out with them, away from the party, and he stated that it was important that his fiance accept that his Brady Bunch friends are an important part of his life.

Cousin Oliver

In 1974 during the show's final season, the producers decided to add a younger character, Cousin Oliver (Robbie Rist), since the Brady children were now older (Barry Williams was 19 during the show's final season) and a lot of the fifth season was aimed towards Greg going to college.

The Bradys' dog, Tiger

The dog that played Tiger was hit by a car and killed early in the first season. When a replacement dog proved problematic, the producers decided the dog would only appear when essential to the plot. Tiger appeared in about half the episodes in the first season and about half a dozen episodes in the second season. The dog last appeared in "The Impractical Joker," which aired in 1971, and was not shown or mentioned again.

According to Barry Williams, the doghouse remained visible in the backyard set because it was used to cover holes in the artificial turf caused by a falling stage light.

In The Brady Bunch Movie, after Carol tells Mike "Go get 'em, tiger" she remarks to herself, "Tiger... Tiger... whatever happened to that dog?"

At the end of A Very Brady Sequel, a dog runs through the yard where a party is occurring. Cindy and Bobby turn to each other and say "Tiger?" Cousin Oliver chases the dog offscreen, which is followed by the sound of an unseen car crash. Cindy and Bobby seem unfazed.

The series pilot contained the only appearance of Fluffy, a cat that belonged to Carol's girls prior to her marriage to Mike. No explanation was given for the cat's absence in subsequent episodes.

The Brady house

The house used in exterior shots, which bears little relation to the interior design of the Bradys' home, is located in North Hollywood, within the city limits of Los Angeles, California. According to a 1994 article in the Los Angeles Times, the San Fernando Valley house was built in 1959 and selected as the Brady residence because series creator Schwartz felt it looked like a home where an architect would live.

The real house is a small single-story ranch home. A false window was attached to the front's A-frame section to give the illusion it had two full stories during filming of the series' many establishing shots, all of which took place before the program debuted.

The address of the house in the series was given as 4222 Clinton Way (or Avenue). Although no city ever was specified, it was presumed from references to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Los Angeles Rams, and a Hollywood movie studio, among many others, that the Bradys lived in Southern California, most likely Los Angeles or one of its suburbs. In the 2002 TV movie The Brady Bunch in the White House, Cindy's map and Mike's speech state that the family lived in Santa Monica, California.

In the years since the show first aired, those who have owned the house have had problems with visitors who trespassed on the property to peep into the windows, or who came to the front door asking to see the fictional Bradys. As a result, the property has been extensively re-landscaped, so someone casually driving by most likely would not recognize it as the house shown in the TV show. For many fans, however, it is indeed still recognizable as the Brady house.

Contemporary establishing shots of the house were filmed with the owner's permission for the 1990 TV series The Bradys. The owner refused to restore the property to its 1969 look for The Brady Bunch Movie in 1995, so a façade resembling the original home was built around an existing house.

Spin-offs and sequels

Several spin-offs and sequels to the original series were made, featuring all or most of the original cast.

Kelly's Kids

A final-season Brady Bunch episode, "Kelly's Kids", was intended as a pilot for a prospective spinoff series of the same name. Ken Berry starred as Ken Kelly, a friend and neighbor of the Bradys', who with his wife adopted three orphaned boys of different racial backgrounds (to the consternation of another, bigoted neighbor). While Kelly's Kids was not subsequently picked up as a full series, producer Sherwood Schwartz would rework the basic premise for the short-lived 1980s sitcom Together We Stand.

The Brady Bunch Hour

A variety show called The Brady Bunch Hour was spun-off in 1977. It was canceled after only nine episodes. Eve Plumb was the only regular cast member from the series who declined to be in the series and the role of Jan was recast with Geri Reischl. Produced by Sid and Marty Krofft, the sibling team behind H.R. Pufnstuf, Donny and Marie and other glitzy variety shows and children's series of the era, the show was intended to air every fifth week in the same slot as The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, but ended up scheduled sporadically throughout the season, leading to very inconsistent ratings.

The Brady Girls Get Married / The Brady Brides

A TV reunion movie called The Brady Girls Get Married and a spin-off sitcom were produced in 1981 and aired on NBC. The reunion movie featured the entire original cast; this would prove to be the only time the entire cast worked together on a single project following the cancellation of the original series. The ensuing series (titled The Brady Brides) featured Maureen McCormick (Marcia) and Eve Plumb (Jan) in regular roles. The series had Marcia and Jan both married and both couples living together. The clashes between Jan's uptight husband, Phillip Covington III (a college professor who was several years older than Jan), and Marcia's slob of a partner, Wally Logan (a salesman who could never seem to keep a job, played by Jerry Houser), were the pivot on which many of the stories were based, not unlike The Odd Couple. Ten episodes were aired before the sitcom was canceled.

Bob Eubanks guest starred in this show as himself in the episode where the two couples appear on The Newlywed Game.

A Very Brady Christmas

A second TV reunion movie, A Very Brady Christmas, featured all the regular cast (except Susan Olsen; the role of Cindy was played by Jennifer Runyon), as well as three grandchildren, Peter's girlfriend, and the spouses of Greg, Marcia and Jan (Nora, Wally and Phillip, respectively).

Mike is still an architect and Jan has followed in his footsteps to become one herself; Carol is a realtor; Greg is a physician; Marcia is a stay-at-home mom; Peter works in an office; Cindy is in her last year of college; Bobby was in graduate school studying for business but dropped out to drive race cars.

After a series of pratfalls to get the family together, everyone comes home harboring various secrets (e.g., Jan and Phillip are considering separation; Wally is out of work again, having lost his job in a merger at his toy company; Greg's wife Nora wants to spend Christmas with her family; Cindy felt pressured to come home in lieu of a skiing trip with her college friends; Peter feels inferior to his girlfriend, who is also his boss; and Bobby hasn't revealed his leaving graduate school for a racing career). Alice, meanwhile, temporarily moves back in with Mike and Carol after her husband, Sam, runs off with another woman. (Allan Melvin did not reprise the role; he had retired from acting and was replaced in a single scene by Lewis Arquette.)

Even Mike has problems: Contractor Ted Roberts, wanting to save money on a downtown office complex project (at 34th Street and Oak) where Mike is the architect, demands that he redesign the building to omit important safety specifications. Mike advises against it and causes his firm to lose Roberts' services. On Christmas Day, the building crumbles, and Roberts, unable to contact anyone at the new firm he hired, must rely on Mike to find what caused the building's structure to become unstable. While inside, the building continues to crumble, trapping Mike and two security guards inside. Of course, everyone turns out to be okay, and Alice and Sam reunite.

The movie, which aired on CBS in December 1988 to high ratings, renewed interest in the Brady clan and set out the current careers and family situations which were continued in The Bradys.

The fact that this movie aired on CBS gave the Bradys a rare feat: the original show and reunions aired on all of the "big 3" networks — ABC, CBS and NBC.

The Bradys

The dramedy series The Bradys was produced in 1989 and premiered on February 6, 1990. Maureen McCormick was pregnant at the time and decided not to participate in this series; the role of Marcia was filled by Leah Ayres. CBS was struggling at this time and decided that the original "Brady 500" tv-movie be the first episode of an hour-long series.

With this short-lived series came a brand new opening sequence and theme song. The visual still featured the familiar blue squares of the original series and reunions (with the exception of the variety hour); then they all divide and move off-screen in different directions, with current episodic clips with the actors' names on the box they contain and a clip (from the Brady Bunch 1969 opening) of each actor superimposed in the back of a colored backdrop as a full clip opens up afterwards. Florence Henderson and Robert Reed appear side to side, the rest of the cast appear solo. After the last cast member (which is Mike Lookinland's "Bobby") is seen the familiar squares move back on screen with Ann B. Davis appearing in her spot; her clip blinks out and the squares divide staying on screen this time with the title appearing in the familiar title area (Alice's space).

The theme music used an instrumental version for the (CBS) network run and a lyrical version for reruns. The theme lyrics no longer featured the "That's the way we all became The Brady Bunch" lyrics, and the theme was no longer sung by The Brady Kids — it was performed by the Brady mom Florence Henderson.

TV critics dubbed this thirtysomething-style dramedy "Bradysomething".

Specials, documentaries, and other revivals

The Brady Bunch has met with a remarkable amount of television coverage, although most of this did not happen until the series had been off the network for more than 20 years.

  • The Brady Kids, animated 22-episode series, aired 1972–74, about the Brady kids living in a tree house without any adults but with various pets. The first 17 episodes feature the voices of all six Brady kids, but Barry Williams and Christopher Knight are replaced for the last five episodes due to a contract dispute.
  • The World of Sid & Marty Krofft at the Hollywood Bowl, 1973. Aired on Saturday morning on ABC. The kids sing in the famous Los Angeles venue, while Robert Reed and Ann B. Davis watch from box seats.
  • Donny and Marie Show, ABC, October 1, 1976. Florence Henderson, Maureen McCormick, Mike Lookinland, and Susan Olsen appear as their Brady characters on an episode of Donny and Marie Osmond's variety show, without permission of the copyright owners of The Brady Bunch. They appear in several comedy sketches and the kids sing Cole Porter's We Open in Venice.
  • The Brady Bunch Variety Hour, ABC, November 28, 1976. From the producers of Donny and Marie comes this special. It leads to The Brady Bunch Hour as a series on ABC.
  • The Brady Bunch Hour, ABC, January–May 1977 (8 episodes). Details above.
  • The Brady Girls Get Married, NBC, January–February 1981 (made for TV movie shown in three parts). Details above.
  • The Brady Brides, NBC, February–April 1981 (7 episodes). Details above.
  • The Love Boat, ABC, circa 1984. Although the name 'Brady' is not mentioned, Robert Reed and Florence Henderson appear in a cameo and talk about how they can take a cruise since the kids are all grown up. Other famous TV couples appear in the episode.
  • A Very Brady Christmas, CBS, December 18, 1988. The highest-rated TV movie of the 1988–89 television season.
  • Day by Day: A Very Brady Episode, NBC, February 5, 1989. Robert Reed and Florence Henderson reprise their roles as Mike and Carol in this episode of a short-lived sitcom starring Linda Kelsey and Courtney Thorne-Smith. Other Brady veterans appear, including (a then pregnant) Maureen McCormick. In the episode, a teenage boy in the family (Christopher Daniel Barnes) dreams he's Chuck Brady and escapes to the Bradys' world after he's yelled at for his poor scholastic habits (he was watching a Brady marathon); however, Chuck's dream comes apart when various Bradys begin repeating comments made only a few minutes earlier. Art came to imitate life when Barnes was cast as the new Greg Brady in the theatrical Brady Bunch movies in 1995 and 1996.
  • Free Spirit: The New Secretary, ABC, December 10, 1989. Although the name Brady is never mentioned, Robert Reed and Florence Henderson play a couple seeking a divorce in an episode of this short-lived sitcom about a witch (Corinne Bohrer) working as a nanny to a widowed lawyer.
  • The Real Live Brady Bunch stage show in the early 1990s featured re-enactments of series episodes. Andy Richter played Mike Brady, and appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on November 9, 1992 almost a year before becoming the sidekick on Late Night with Conan O' Brien.
  • The Bradys, CBS, February–March 1990 (six episodes). Details above.
  • The Brady 500, CBS, February 9, 1990. Bobby is injured in a car race and is paralyzed from the waist down. All original cast except for Maureen McCormick. This is actually the first two episodes of The Bradys and are also known as Start Your Engines. Most of the cast, except Robert Reed, promoted their new series on the Sally Jesse Raphael series. Their live Florida broadcast was interrupted by rain.
  • Bradymania: A Very Brady Special, 1993. Based loosely on Elizabeth Moran's book Bradymania, this special was hosted by Florence Henderson and include clips comparing Brady behavior with that on other sitcoms.
  • The Brady Bunch Movie, 1995. Theatrical release. A parody of the original series. Most Brady veterans appear in cameos, except for deceased Robert Reed. Scenes with Mike Lookinland and Susan Olsen were shot, but were cut from the final film.
  • A Very Brady Sequel, 1996. Theatrical release. Same cast as previous but with Tim Matheson playing a villain impersonating Carol's first husband. At the end of this film, Cousin Oliver is run over by a car.
  • Brady Bunch Home Movies, May 23, 1995. During the original series run, Robert Reed gave each of the juvenile cast members an 8 mm movie camera. This special includes footage the Brady kids shot in those days and is their tribute to Reed. Susan Olsen was executive producer.
  • Groovin' with the Bradys, a 1998 special produced by VH1.
  • Attack of the Bradys, 1998. Another VH1 special.
  • E! True Hollywood Story: The Brady Bunch, June 6, 1999. Members of the cast retell their anecdotes for the benefit of this E! Network series, including an extensive discussion of Robert Reed's homosexuality.
  • Unauthorized Brady Bunch: The Final Days, May 16, 2000. A made for TV movie looking at the making of The Brady Bunch focusing on the final season which was marred by dissension among the cast pertaining to their business arrangements and the creative direction of the show.
  • Growing Up Brady, May 21, 2000. A made-for-TV movie of Barry Williams's hit 1992 book.
  • Pop-Up Brady, VH-1, July 18, 2001. Several episodes of The Brady Bunch with textual commentary added in the form of on-screen balloons.
  • The Weakest Link, NBC, September 24, 2001. All members of the Brady cast, except Reed and Davis, compete on this game show, including Robbie Rist, who joked during introductions, "I hope I don't kill this show, too!" Topics included Brady trivia.
  • The Brady Bunch in the White House, November 29, 2002. Made-for-TV movie parody in the mould of The Brady Bunch Movie but with a mostly new cast.
  • The Brady Bunch 35th Anniversary Reunion Special: Still Brady after All These Years, September 29, 2004. Reunion special featuring entire surviving cast, hosted by Jenny McCarthy.
  • My Fair Brady, 2005. A reality TV series starring Christopher Knight and Adrianne Curry (The first America's Next Top Model Winner) and their relationship post a stint on VH1's The Surreal Life. Barry Williams, Florence Henderson, Susan Olsen and Mike Looklinland all appear in the series as well.
  • Coming Together under One Roof, 2005. Sherwood Schwartz narrates this documentary about the creation of The Brady Bunch for the DVD release of the first season.
  • Biography: The Brady Bunch, A&E Network, June 24, 2005. A&E's popular documentary program, having earlier profiled both Florence Henderson and Robert Reed, devotes an episode to the series.
  • The Brady Bunch Cast Back in Hawaii, 2005. Florence Henderson, Barry Williams, Christopher Knight, Mike Lookinland, and Susan Olsen go back to Hawaii and meet up with Don Ho.
  • On June 6, 2008, a stage musical debuted in Los Angeles called A Very Brady Musical. The show was written by the Sherwood Schwartz's son Lloyd J. Schwartz and daughter Hope Juber (who also appeared in four episodes of the original series as Rachel, Greg's girlfriend). The music was written by Hope and Laurence Juber. Lloyd Schwartz directed the production.
  • A Very Brady Reunion August 31 2008. Barry Williams, Susan Olsen, and Mike Lookinland return to Kings Island for a 4 show special of song, dance, and Brady Bunch stories.

Robert Reed vs. the producers

Robert Reed became increasingly jaded about appearing in the series, as he felt that his Shakespearean training would mean nothing if he became typecast in the "Mr. Brady" role. He frequently fought with producers to make changes in the show's scripts in order to remove what he felt were unbelievable scenes or dialogue. Despite his battles, he was allowed to direct several episodes, "The Winner" and "The Big Little Man" (1971), "How To Succeed In Business" and "Getting Greg's Goat" (1973).

Reed did not appear in a 1972 episode, "Goodbye Alice Hello," although his absence from this episode was never explained. By the final season, his arguments with the producers led to his absence from the series finale, "The Hair-Brained Scheme", because he believed a key plot point - a boy selling hair tonic and his older brother getting orange hair when he uses what turns out to be a non-FDA approved substance - was too implausible to be believed. In addition to "The Hair-Brained Scheme," Barry Williams' autobiography, Growing Up Brady, contains two of Reed's negative critiques of the episodes "The Impractical Joker" and "And Now a Word From Our Sponsor" (1971). Williams cites in his autobiography the likelihood that Reed's character would have been killed off had The Brady Bunch been renewed for a sixth season.

Episodes

Season Ep # First Airdate Last Airdate
Season 1 25 September 26, 1969 March 20, 1970
Season 2 24 September 27, 1970 March 20, 1971
Season 3 23 September 17, 1971 March 10, 1972
Season 4 23 September 22, 1972 March 23, 1973
Season 5 22 September 14, 1973 March 8, 1974

DVD releases

Paramount Home Entertainment released all five seasons (and a complete collection of the series) of The Brady Bunch on DVD in Region 1 from 2005 to 2007. The DVDs have since been released in other countries.

DVD name Number of
episodes
Release date
The Complete First Season 25 March 1, 2005
The Complete Second Season 24 July 26, 2005
The Complete Third Season 23 September 13, 2005
The Complete Fourth Season 23 November 1, 2005
The Complete Fifth Season 22 March 7, 2006
The Complete Series 117 (with extras) April 3, 2007

See also

Notes

External links

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