Home, sweet, riotous home
What do you do when you see the television waves wash over the island that has long been your home?
You go back to the mainland, build a spanking-new home-screen-home, staff it with a zany maid, two grown-ups, six kids, a dog and a cat.
You do, that is, if you’re Sherwood Schwartz, creator and producer of ABC’s Friday night half-hour comedy, “The Brady Bunch.”
Schwartz, whose “Gilligan’s Island” left ’em laughing for three years, began his career in 1939 on the Bob Hope radio program. He was involved in the launching of the legendary “Ozzie and Harriet” programs, and earned an Emmy for writing during the six years he spent with the Red Skelton series.
The present series, says Schwartz, is a direct outgrowth of a schoolday happening related to him by his young daughter.
She told of her girl friend’s problem of having only one ticket to the school play and not knowing which parent to give it to.
“Her mother had recently remarried and the youngster wasn’t sure whether she should invite ‘her mother’ or ‘her stepfather,'” Schwartz explained. “In 30 percent of today’s marriages, one or both parties have been married before,” Schwartz says.
For the new series, he created the character of Mike Brady, the father of three boys, played (by Robert Reed). Next, he brought to life the very feminine Carol (Florence Henderson), mother of three girls. All together they comprise “The Brady Bunch.”
To complicate the situation, he added Alice, the housekeeper (Ann B Davis), and a dog named Tiger. There is a cat, too.
“I refer to the series as a ‘people’ comedy, rather than a situation comedy,” Schwartz says. “It’s because the show is so real. Old comedy shows relied on jokes and gimmicks, but family life today produces its own complexities and need only be captured by the writers.”
For the stars of his show, Sherwood picked top performers. “First there is Robert Reed, who won critical acclaim for his portrayal as the lawyer-partner son of E.G. Marshall on the highly successful “The Defenders,” which ran four years on network TV.
Though Robert has done comedy on Broadway — in “Barefoot in the Park” for a year — this is the first time television audiences have been exposed to his comedic talents.
Florence Henderson, who gained fame as a variety show performer on television and as star of musical comedy on Broadway, makes her television bow in a series. She recently completed the theatrical film, “Song of Norway.”
Only Ann B. Davis is established as a television comedy actress. She won two Emmys for her portrayal of Schultzy on “The Bob Cummings Show.”
To find the right youngsters to play the six Brady kids, Schwartz interviewed 480 children. He called back 100 of these, and finally tested 25.
Maureen McCormick, 13, plays Marcia, the oldest of Carol’s three girls. In real life, Maureen is a member of the student council at her school and her home room president. She sings, dances and swims. She has already appeared in several television shows, including “Bewitched,” “I Dream of Jeannie,” “My Three Sons” and “The Farmer’s Daughter.”
Jan, the second oldest of the girls, is played by Eve Plumb, 11. Eve has been acting since she was 6, and has such television credits as “It Takes a Thief,” “Mannix” and “Family Affair.” She sings and plays the guitar; collects pets, and has a dog, a cat and two turtles.
Susan Olsen, who plays Cindy, is a “natural” for a juvenile comedy role. Some of her off-camera sallies have been known to break up seasoned comedians.
The three youngsters who play the Brady boys are as follows:
Barry Williams, who plays Greg, is 14 and has had a running role in the ABC daytime serial, “General Hospital.” Among other television show spots for him: “The FBI,” “That Girl” and “The Mod Squad.” A sports enthusiast, Barry is on a championship swimming team. He water skis, plays baseball, tennis and football.
Peter is played by Christopher Knight, an 11-year-old, second generation actor. His father, Edward Knight, appears on television. Chris raises pigeons with his brother and has a dog, two cats and 35 tropical fish.
The youngest Brady boy, Bobby, is played by Mike Lookinland, 8, a regular boy with torn pants, a pocketful of junk and skinned knees. He won a soap-box race the day that the series went into production. For pets, he has a rabbit named Bun Bun, a turtle named Myrtle and a rat named Rat.
The last member of the Brady family is the boys’ dog, Tiger. “You might say that he’s just a mutt who hangs around the house,” Ann B Davis says. A cat gets into the act, too.
The Brady house is a bit more than four walls. The house set, which takes up all of Stage 5 at Paramount Studios, would be the dream house of any family.
“The set is something to see. I’m the maid, but I couldn’t keep this house clean,” Ann Davis says.
In the $50,000-$80,000 price range, in the Real estate market, the Brady house is all-electric and practical. The rooms are done in brick, stone, wood and glass. There are indoor and outdoor barbecues and all kinds of built-ins. There are two fireplaces — one in the living room and another in the den. There are also sliding glass doors opening into the patio from the kitchen, family room and dining room.
The two-story home has three bathrooms and four bedrooms. One bathroom is neutral ground — located between the boys’ and the girls’ rooms.
Florence Henderson stars as Carol and Robert Reed as Mike Brady in “The Brady’Bunch.” The comedy series concerns a widow with three daughters and a widower with three sons who merge their respective families in marriage.