The Brady Bunch: Home, sweet, riotous home (1969)
Oxnard Press Courier (California) October 26, 1969
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 (Robert Reed), the father of three boys. Next, he brought to life the very feminine Carol (Florence Henderson), mother of three girls. Altogether 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.”
Finding the right bunch
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 homeroom 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’s home
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.
Stars of “The Brady Bunch”
Robert Reed as Mike Brady
Florence Henderson as Carol Brady
Ann B. Davis as Alice Nelson
Barry Williams as Greg Brady
Maureen McCormick as Marcia Brady
Christopher Knight as Peter Brady
Eve Plumb as Jan Brady
Mike Lookinland as Bobby Brady
Susan Olsen as Cindy Brady
The Brady Bunch: The family-friendly TV series that sold quickly and became a hit (1971)
By Lawrence Laurent – Akron Beacon Journal (Ohio) Nov 7, 1971
No one has ever been guilty of calling The Brady Bunch an original idea. It is a situation comedy about a widowed man with three sons who marries a widow with three daughters. Even when Paramount Studios first tried to sell this series, its sales brochure trumpeted it as the kind of comedy that had proved so appealing in films like “Yours, Mine and Ours” and “With Six You Get Eggroll.”
The Brady Bunch sold quickly, proving once again that imitation — in addition to being the sincerest form of flattery — is also the most certain path to landing a series on a television network.
NOT ONLY did this series find a permanent home (Fridays, ABC), but it is now in its third season. This means all original costs have been amortized by accountants and that profits and salaries will be huge this season.
The man who unblushingly takes credit for having “created” this show is Sherwood Schwartz, a specialist in comedy. He was one of Bob Hope’s radio writers, won an Emmy Award for his work on Red Skelton’s TV series and is responsible for the world’s getting to see a series about Gilligan’s Island. (He also furnished standup comedians with the material for that joke that begins, “I’m thinking about doing a comedy version of Gilligan’s Island.”)
SHERWOOD Schwartz’ bankroll, however, is big enough to absorb such shocks, and he’s clearly entitled to be proud of the ratings for The Brady Bunch. Last year the show was No. 1 with very young viewers, and in the early ratings reports this season, it is in first place in its time period.
Its share of the audience at 8pm Fridays started at 30 percent, went up in the second report to 34 percent, and climbed again in the third report to 37 percent.
This series arrived as a slapstick comedy with a first program that included a wedding cake in the face of Robert Reed. It has since settled down into a kind of continuing family drama of little family problems that are solved by wise, understanding and soft-spoken parents.
The comedy, what little is available, comes from comedienne Ann B Davis. She plays the family’s live-in cook and maid (and please don’t ask how a man with six children can afford a full-time servant).
THIS SHOW’S success, then, lies in the ability of the performers to create an idealized family life of likable people. It is also the most unlikely pairing of performers in all television.
Robert Reed, at 39, is not quite certain just how he landed in such a series. He is a dedicated professional actor, and not the kind you expect to find in a frothy, warm-till-it burns series. Reed is a brooding loner who lives by himself in Pasadena, California, the least swinging section of Southern California.
REED first turned up in TV a dozen years ago in an episode of “Father Knows Best.” His performance earned him a place in the prestigious series, The Defenders, with E. G. Marshall. The series ran four seasons and won four Emmy Awards.
Reed appeared on Broadway, appeared in off-Broadway productions and appeared in two motion pictures. He wasn’t exactly enthused to be cast in The Brady Bunch, but he accepted the role with the stoicism that one expects from a professional actor.
Work was — and is — hard to find. Along with the Brady Bunch, he manages to work in a number of episodes of Mannix. He plays Lt. Adam Tobias in about eight episodes of that series.
THE OTHER unlikely half of the TV marriage is Florence Henderson, she of the formidable will, the overpowering ambition and boundless determination.
She learned determination early in life as the youngest of 10 children in an Irish family in Dale, Indiana. She was singing by the time she was 2, dancing by the time she was 4, and working in New York by the time she was 17.
She married theatrical manager-producer Ira Bernstein, produced four children, and learned to manage homes on both coasts. The Bernsteins live on a 32d floor apartment in New York City, and in a rented house in Beverly Hills, Calif. The children are Barbara, 14; Joseph, 10; Robert, 7, and Elizabeth, 5.
ON The Brady Bunch, Florence, as Carol Brady, has three daughters. They are played by Maureen McCormick, 15; Eve Plumb, 13, and Susan Olsen, 10. The sons of this family are played by Barry Williams, 17; Christopher Knight, 14, and Mike Lookinland, 11. Then there’s the laugh track, recorded and raucous. It comes from tape recordings.
THROUGH the Summer and the early part of this season, A B C – TV carefully spread a rumor that The Brady Bunch would be increased this season from six children to seven. That would take this creative series to its fullest.
It would move from and imitation of “With Six You Get Eggroll” to an imitation of the married couple that looks at the children and describes them as “Yours, Mine and Ours.” And that ought to mean even bigger ratings. Creativity pays off, after all, in television.
Video: Vintage Brady Bunch theme song & opening titles (1969)
Brady Bunch theme song lyrics (1969)
Note: The original lyrics said “they became the Brady Bunch.” Starting in season 2, the kids sang the theme and the lyrics were changed to “we became the Brady Bunch.”
Here’s a story of a lovely lady
who was bringing up three very lovely girls
All of them had hair of gold, like their mother
the youngest one in curls
Here’s a story of a man named Brady
who was busy with three boys of his own
They were four men living all together
yet they were all alone
Till the one day when the lady met this fellow
and they knew it was much more than a hunch
that this group must somehow form a family
That’s the way they became the Brady Bunch
The Brady Bunch, the Brady Bunch
That’s the way they became the Brady Bunch
Brady Bunch theme song (Season 4 – 1973/1974)
Get the Brady Bunch TV series on videocassette (Vintage offer from 1994)
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