Brady Bunch, The


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

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About

When it premiered on ABC in 1969 The Brady Bunch garnered mostly negative reviews. From that date until 1974, its entire network run, the series never reached the top ten ranks of the Nielsen ratings. Yet, the program stands as one of the most important sitcoms of American 1970s television programming, spawning numerous other series on all three major networks, as well as records, lunch boxes, a cookbook, and even a stage show and feature film.

In an era in which situation comedies emphasized how social climes were changing, The Brady Bunch was one of the few series that hearkened back to the traditional family values seen in such sitcoms as Leave It to Beaver and Father Knows Best. Executive producer Sherwood Schwartz conceived of the premise: a widower, father of three boys, marries a widow, mother of three girls. The concept worked as a springboard for dramatizations of an array of childhood and adolescent traumas. The cluster of children--Greg (Barry Williams), Marcia (Maureen McCormick), Peter (Christopher Knight), Jan (Eve Plumb), Bobby (Mike Lookinland) and Cindy (Susan Olsen)--provided a male and female version for three separate stages of youth. With this group the show managed to portray the typical crises of orthodonture, first crushes, neighborhood bullies and school plays, as well such homebound issues as sibling rivalry and problems with parental restrictions. Father Mike Brady (Robert Reed) was always there with a weekly homily that would explain to the children the lessons they had learned. Although mother Carol Brady (Florence Henderson) was initially written as a divorcee, and episodes of the first season did deal with the problems of children getting used to a new mother or father, the half-hour show repeatedly and firmly upheld the family as a tight unit of support, love and understanding.

Unlike All in the Family or even Julia, The Brady Bunch tried to steer clear of the political and social issues of the day. Rarely were non-white characters introduced into the series. Women's liberation and gender equality were boiled down to brother-sister in-fighting. The counterculture of the 1960s was represented in random minor characters portrayed as buffoons--or in Greg trying to impress a girl with hippie jargon.

The representation of childhood in the series as a time of blissful innocence was in marked contrast to what was happening off camera. Many of the boys and girls playing the Brady children dated each other secretly, making out in their trailers or in the doghouse of the Brady's pet, Tiger. Oldest boy Barry Williams attempted to date Florence Henderson and filmed at least one episode while high on marijuana. All these incidents (as well as Robert Reed's homosexuality) occurred behind closed doors, coming to light only a decade after the series originally aired.

The decided emphasis of the series on the Brady children made it very popular among younger audiences. ABC capitalized on this appeal, programming the show early on Friday evenings. This popularity also resulted in various attempts to create other profitable spin-off products: "The Brady Kids," a pop rock group (patterned on "The Archies" and "The Partridge Family"), a Saturday morning cartoon called The Brady Kids (1972-74), and regular appearances of the young actors and actresses (particularly Maureen McCormick and Christopher Knight), in teen fan magazines.

Following its initial network run, The Brady Bunch became inordinately popular in rerun syndication. This success can be attributed in part to children's afternoon-viewing patterns. Often programmed as a daily "strip" in after-school time periods, the show found new viewers who had not previously seen the series. The age distribution of the cast may have created appeal among a range of young viewers, and as they aged they were able to take a more ironic viewing stance toward the entertainment of their childhood.

The ongoing success of the Brady characters has continually brought them back to television. The Brady Bunch Hour, produced by Sid and Marty Krofft from 1976-1977 on ABC, had the family hosting a vividly-colored disco-oriented variety series. The Brady Brides, on NBC in 1981, was a half-hour sitcom about Marcia and Jan as they dealt with their new husbands and the trials of being married. In December 1988, CBS aired the TV-movie A Very Brady Christmas, which became CBS' highest-rated TV-movie that season. This led in 1990 to a short-lived hour-long dramatic series called simply The Bradys.

Although the dramatic series faded quickly, a live stage parody of the original series quickly became a national sensation after its debut in Chicago in 1990. Playing the original scripts as camp performance, "The Real Live Brady Bunch" seemed to tap into viewers' simultaneous love for and cynicism towards the values presented by the series. The stage show and the subsequent film The Brady Bunch Movie (1995) reveled in the kitsch taste of 1970s culture, complete with "groovy" bell bottoms and day-glo orange and lime green color schemes. Yet, although the stage production and the film gleefully deconstructed the absurdity of the wholesomeness of the Brady family, an admiration remained. Many children who grew up with the show came from families of divorce, or were "latch-key" children with both parents working. Consequently, some of those amused at the naiveté of the series also admittedly envy the ideal nuclear family that they never had and that the Bradys represent.

Much like Star Trek, another Paramount-produced television series of the late 1960s, The Brady Bunch was underappreciated by critics and network executives, but fan loyalty has made the series a franchise for book deals, memorabilia and feature films. A cultural throwback even in its time, the family led by "a lovely lady" and "a man named Brady" has become celebrated in part precisely for its steadfast obliviousness to societal change.

-Sean Griffin

CAST

Mike Brady............................................. Robert Reed

Carol Brady.................................. Florence Henderson

Alice Nelson........................................... Ann B. Davis

Marcia Brady............................... Maureen McCormick

Jan Brady ..................................................Eve Plumb

Cindy Brady............................................ Susan Olsen

Greg Brady.......................................... Berry Williams

Peter Brady.................................... Christopher Knight

Bobby Brady..................................... Mike Lookinland

PRODUCERS

Sherwood Schwartz, Lloyd J. Schwartz, Howard Leeds

PROGRAMMING HISTORY

117 Episodes

ABC 

September 1969-September 1970   Friday 8:00-8:30

September 1970-September 1971   Friday 7:30-8:00

September 1971-August 1974   Friday 8:00-8:30

FURTHER READING

Bellafante, Gina. "The Inventor of Bad TV: What Would the '70s Have Been Without Sherwood Schwartz? (interview)." Time (New York), 13 March 1995.

Briller, Bert. "Will the Real Live Brady Bunch Stand Up?" Television Quarterly (New York), Spring 1992.

Steele, Scott. "Bringing Up Brady." Maclean's (Toronto, Canada), 7 February 1994.

Williams, Barry, with Chris Kreski. Growing Up Brady: I Was A Teenage Greg. New York: Harper Perennial, 1992.

Zeman, Ned. "Seventies Something; The Era that Gave Us Bell-Bottoms, Abba and The Brady Bunch Is Coming Back. Have a Nice Decade." Newsweek (New York), 10 June 1991.

Highlights
Florence Henderson on the development of "Carol Brady" on The Brady Bunch
04:36
Ann B. Davis on getting the part of "Alice" while doing a nightclub act in Seattle
01:41
Sherwood Schwartz on the genesis of The Brady Bunch
15:09
Hal Cooper on directing "Jan's Aunt Jenny" and "Law and Disorder" episodes of The Brady Bunch
03:15
John Rich on directing the first six episodes of The Brady Bunch; on working with the cast; on casting
08:02
Who talked about this show

Howard Anderson, Jr.

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Howard Anderson Jr. on creating the opening titles for The Brady Bunch
05:52

Ken Berry

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Ken Berry on appearing on The Brady Bunch in a backdoor pilot for "Kelly's Kids"
03:38

Bruce Bilson

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Bruce Bilson on directing four episodes (including one which guest starred Joe Namath) of The Brady Bunch
04:47

Vince Calandra

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Vince Calandra on coming up with the idea to make a Brady Bunch record
00:27

Henry Colman

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Henry Colman on working as a Paramount production executive on The Brady Bunch
01:42

Hal Cooper

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Hal Cooper on directing "Jan's Aunt Jenny" and "Law and Disorder" episodes of The Brady Bunch
03:15

Douglas S. Cramer

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Douglas S. Cramer on developing The Brady Bunch
05:54

Ann B. Davis

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Ann B. Davis on getting the part of "Alice" while doing a nightclub act in Seattle
01:41
Ann B. Davis on the talent of Florence Henderson
00:44
Ann B. Davis on the introduction of "Sam" on The Brady Bunch
01:05
Ann B. Davis on naming the show -- The Brady Brood or Bunch ?
00:32
Ann B. Davis on figuring out the hair color of the show's characters
01:22
Ann B. Davis on creating backstory for "Alice," based on her own life
01:04
Ann B. Davis on working with Robert Reed
02:10
Ann B. Davis on working with the child actors on The Brady Bunch
08:21
Ann B. Davis on Brady Bunch episodes including "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" and "Cousin Emma"
02:24
Ann B. Davis on the ending of The Brady Bunch and on the longevity of the series' popularity
02:34
Ann B. Davis on The Brady Bunch Movie
01:16

Vince Gilligan

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Vince Gilligan on an episode of The X-Files for which they had to reconstruct the entire house from the Brady Bunch set - they had to get permission from the show's creator, Sherwood Schwartz, to build the set
04:18

Florence Henderson

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Florence Henderson on the development of "Carol Brady" on The Brady Bunch
04:36
Florence Henderson on how she got cast as "Carol Brady" on The Brady Bunch
03:26
Florence Henderson on the success of The Brady Bunch and why the show appealed to her
02:31
Florence Henderson on The Brady Bunch creator Sherwood Schwartz
00:44
Florence Henderson on auditioning for The Brady Bunch
01:40
Florence Henderson on shooting the pilot of The Brady Bunch and production on the show
04:23
Florence Henderson on working with The Brady Bunch director John Rich
01:25
Florence Henderson on why The Brady Bunch was not filmed in multi-cam in front of an audience
01:09
Florence Henderson on a typical work week on The Brady Bunch
01:36
Florence Henderson on Robert Reed not getting along with show creator Sherwood Schwartz on The Brady Bunch
04:47
Florence Henderson on working with Ann B. Davis ("Alice") on The Brady Bunch  
01:25
Florence Henderson on how the kids were cast on The Brady Bunch  
02:48
Florence Henderson on "Carol Brady" on The Brady Bunch
00:32
Florence Henderson on the children and their real-life parents on the set of The Brady Bunch
02:39
Florence Henderson on the premise of The Brady Bunch
03:11
Florence Henderson on what she brought to the role of "Carol Brady" on The Brady Bunch; on "Carol's" look
02:20
Florence Henderson on memorable episodes of The Brady Bunch
01:47
Florence Henderson on shooting The Brady Bunch in Hawaii and King's Island
02:51
Florence Henderson on shooting The Brady Bunch at the Grand Canyon
00:57
Florence Henderson on the song and dance numbers on The Brady Bunch
01:00
Florence Henderson on her own children appearing on The Brady Bunch and how they dealt with having a famous TV mom
02:54
Florence Henderson on her favorite episodes of The Brady Bunch
00:59
Florence Henderson on the end of The Brady Bunch
00:56
Florence Henderson on not feeling typecast as "Carol Brady" after the conclusion of The Brady Bunch
01:26
Florence Henderson on a possible spin-off of The Brady Bunch
00:43
Florence Henderson on teaching morality on The Brady Bunch
00:54
Florence Henderson on child stars on The Brady Bunch
02:10
Florence Henderson on her Brady Bunch co-star Robert Reed
00:58
Florence Henderson on guest stars and production of The Brady Bunch on the Paramount lot
06:14
Florence Henderson on working with child actors on The Brady Bunch
11:02
Florence Henderson on the cancellation of The Brady Bunch and the reunion specials
06:06

Leslie H. Martinson

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Leslie H. Martinson on directing The Brady Bunch and Gilligan's Island
03:29

Carroll Pratt

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Carroll Pratt on providing a laugh track for The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, The Brady Bunch, Gilligan's Island, My Favorite Martian, Happy Days, and The Andy Griffith Show
05:16

Larry Rhine

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Larry Rhine on writing episodes of The Brady Bunch
05:18

John Rich

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John Rich on directing the first six episodes of The Brady Bunch; on working with the cast; on casting
08:02

Marion Ross

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Marion Ross on appearing on The Brady Bunch
00:47

Lloyd J. Schwartz

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Lloyd Schwartz on being hired as dialogue coach for The Brady Bunch
01:31
Lloyd J. Schwartz on the production of The Brady Bunch
Lloyd J. Schwartz on working with the cast and crew of The Brady Bunch
Lloyd J. Schwartz on working with Brady Bunch directors; ibmemorable episodes of The Brady Bunch
Lloyd Schwartz on spinoffs, movies and other Brady Bunch projects; on the legacy of the series
18:37

Sherwood Schwartz

View Interview
Sherwood Schwartz on the genesis of The Brady Bunch
15:09
Sherwood Schwartz on Ann B. Davis, Florence Henderson and Robert Reed
07:40
Sherwood Schwartz on the last episode of The Brady Bunch and the reunion specials and movies that followed it
14:38
Sherwood Schwartz on the fate of "Tiger" on The Brady Bunch
02:57

Ben Starr

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Ben Starr on writing the episode of the Brady Bunch ("The Personality Kid") which includes the famous line "pork chops and apple sauce"
03:34
Ben Starr on writing two episodes of the Brady Bunch and the legacy of "The Personality Kid" episode
03:07

Matthew Weiner

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Matthew Weiner on being influenced by style of 70's shows such as The Brady Bunch
01:03

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