Surprising things ‘Brady Bunch’ producers hid from fans
Easily one of the most iconic TV shows of all time, the beloved five-season sitcom “The Brady Bunch” was commonplace in many family households. But unbeknownst to many, there were plenty of secrets about the cast, ranging from romance to embarrassing facts. Here are 30 unknown facts about the show you simply cannot afford to miss — for casual and die-hard fans alike.
The search for the perfect children
That’s right, your acting may not be up to Meryl Streep standards, but hey, if you have the right hair color, you perhaps could have landed on one of the most memorable TV shows in history. This is what happens when the producer, in this case, Sherwood Schwartz, had no idea what the parents would look like before casting.
To make up for this, he wanted to have a little bit of everything for casting the child actors: three dark-haired boys, three blonde girls, three blonde boys, and three brunette girls. The rest, as they say, is history…
A sneaky name-change
In one episode, it was revealed that Carol’s maiden name was Carol Tyler. If you paid close attention, you may have noticed that her name was Carol Martin just before marrying Mike Brady. Most viewers didn’t think anything of it, but producers found this sneaky way to give Carol an interesting past.
This sneaky tactic was likely done deliberately to help support the idea that Carol was actually divorced, not widowed. At the time, it was a taboo subject, so they felt it was best to skirt around the truth rather than meeting it head-on.
Divorce was a very taboo thing during the decade when the show aired. Even the network pushed back against the idea of Schwartz making Carol’s character a divorcee. Instead, producers led viewers to believe she was a widow, similar to Mike whose wife passed away.
The show’s writers weren’t as accepting of the network’s decision as one might’ve expected. In an effort to get back at the network, they never mentioned Carol’s ‘deceased’ husband throughout the series.
Marcia and Greg had a fiery romance on-set
Apparently, things got steamy during a scene between Barry Williams and Maureen McCormick. In the final episode of season four, the director had to constantly yell “cut” because the two lovebirds were getting too close to each other.
In the scene, Greg and Marcia are seen arguing over who should get the attic room. However, their disagreement didn’t resemble their real-life attraction. Their romance was apparently so obvious that Lloyd Schwartz instructed the actors to measure the appropriate distance between them using their fists when they weren’t filming.
McCormick’s nose injury was real
Sometimes, taking one for the team might involve taking a football to the face (depending on the situation of course). And in this case, the scenario was all-too-real. In the infamous scene where Marcia got hit by a football, her injury was actually crafted around the fact that she suffered an injury via a car accident sometime before filming.
To make matters more hilarious, the thrower — Christopher Knight — wasn’t exactly hand-eye coordinated. Since he couldn’t land the throw, Lloyd Schwartz allegedly stepped in and hit the bulls-eye (her nose) in one try with a perfect spiral.
Robert Reed often clashed with management
You would think everything on-and-off-set worked seamlessly, but that simply wasn’t the case. Robert Reed (Mike Brady) frequently protested how the show was written. Apparently, it got so bad that he was actually asked to leave the set during filming at one point.
This didn’t affect Reed’s career or his standing with Hollywood at all, however, as he went on to be nominated for an Emmy and appeared in numerous TV shows and movies, including Roots, Rich Man Poor Man, and Scruples. But Reed wasn’t the only one who got a little chipper when the cameras turned off…
A Family Affair
From what you may have ascertained, Mr. Williams certainly knew how to ask out the ladies, and with some success, too. But he didn’t stop at McCormick. So who else could have been on his list? Yep, you may have guessed it: Florence Henderson.
Right? His character’s mother, really? But apparently this didn’t factor into Williams’s thought process at all. Although Henderson ended up turning down his request for a date, Williams replied that he just wanted to get to know her better. Hey, you can’t fault him for trying, right?
The hairdressers almost destroyed Cindy’s hair
It’s quite possibly everyone’s worst nightmare: Having their hair irreparably damaged or unwillingly tampered with in some way. Well, for Susan Olsen, this nightmare had come true. For the producer, it was important to have three blonde girls in the show.
One would think Olsen had already fulfilled these criteria since she was a natural blondie. However, it wasn’t quite blonde enough, so the hairdressers attempted to dye her hair an extra shade of blonde, which resulted in parts of her hair falling out. Luckily, it grew back, and she was allowed to keep her natural color for the show.
Greg was the daredevil of the group (sort of)
During filming for one of the surfing scenes in Hawaii, Barry Williams was basically the self-appointed stuntman. After his infamous wipeout while playing Greg, filming had to be suspended until after he fully recovered from his injury. Perhaps there was something to that “Tiki’s Curse” theme in the episode after all.
While there weren’t any other reported scenes of his stunt-making, the eldest Brady brother was definitely one of the more adventurous ones. He was also a great role model and very protective of his sisters — certainly a good influence for all the older brothers out there.
Yes, not all relationships on the show were all fluffy and glamorous. This is especially true of the bond — or lack thereof — between Maureen McCormick (Marcia) and Eve Plumb (Jan). While their characters were constantly at odds on set, they had issues off-camera as well.
One televised reunion of the cast members had to be canceled because the two couldn’t get along, refusing to be on the same set together. Since then, Susan Olsen (Cindy) has tried to get them to reunite but said they simply refuse to talk to each other.
Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!
It seemed like Marcia had it good during the show: looks, fashion, popularity, etc. But in real life, she had to cope with her own problems like everyone else. In her book, she described a “gnawing fear” that constantly haunted her throughout filming due to the unrealistic expectations of her character.
Unfortunately, this transitioned into real-life problems. She eventually spiraled downwards, leading to binge on poor habits to cope with her stress. Her example perhaps serves as a good reminder there is no such thing as the “perfect person.”
Beating the odds
Florence Henderson, the nurturing and wholesome mother on The Brady Bunch, had a much rockier upbringing than you may have realized. Growing up, Henderson was lived in poverty as the youngest of ten children.
Her father was often detached and quite the drinker, so Florence was lucky to have a nurturing mother who was determined to give her the “American Dream”. Florence later attributed her mother’s drive to her own success.
Florence Henderson was gone for the first six episodes
Playing a pivotal role in a major sitcom like The Brady Bunch would normally demand actually being on set during its crucial stages. Florence Henderson was the exception to this rule.
According to an interview with NPR, Henderson was acting in a lead role for a musical called “Song of Norway,” and wasn’t fully on-board with acting on TV. “Well, it was in 1969, and I thought, wow, you know, I really didn’t want to do a TV series. You know, I had my own act and I was performing in Vegas and doing all of these exciting things.” Little did she know fame was just around the corner…
Gene Hackman was supposed to be the father
Who would’ve thought Superman’s arch-nemesis had a chance at being cast as the patriarchal figure of The Brady Bunch? It would have been quite a different role to say the least. Unfortunately, it didn’t pan out because Hackman wasn’t well-known at the time.
While he didn’t land the role of Mike Brady, Hackman went on to lead a very accomplished acting career. Some of his esteemed roles included the aforementioned Superman, The French Connection, Unforgiven, and much more. Suffice to say, we think Hackman fared quite well later on.
Peter and Marcia started a band … Well, they tried
Add more celebrities to that ever-growing list of attempts to launch their music career. Maureen McCormick and Christopher Knight tried this, albeit with not much success. Although McCormick did find some measure of fame with her single “Little Bird.”
But don’t hate on our friendly Brady’s for trying though. In fact, you could say they’ve found better success than the likes of others who have tried and failed. Some of these include Joaquin Phoenix, Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe, and many more. As they say, you never know whether you will fail until you get out there and take a leap of faith.
Bobby dropped out of the limelight
After the series ended, Mike Lookinland didn’t reach new heights in his acting career, unlike some of his other co-stars. He did, however, land some gigs throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, with a role in The Secrets of Isis and The Towering Inferno. He even reprised his role in a Christmas special called A Very Brady Christmas.
This was all prior to embarking on a career as a camera operator for several years. It seems like the fame and notoriety wasn’t in the cards for our brunette, dark-eyed friend after all. But sometimes, solace is the best answer to a life of fame.
Jan got married first
Just because you’re not the most sought-after Brady sibling doesn’t mean you can’t get life done right. While her portrayal was certainly not the most popular of her siblings, Eve Plumb was the first of the Brady’s to tie the knot.
In an interview with E! News, Plumb fondly recalled her time with America’s favorite family, and how they all see each other after filming. “You know, we’re all grown-up now, obviously, and we all get along like real people,” commented Plumb during an HDTV-sponsored reunion. “Just like any family reunion, having different memories of different events.”
Is anybody watching?
You would think a massive show with iconic scenes, lovable characters and cultural popularity would rule the ratings but think again. In actuality, The Brady Bunch never eclipsed a 34 in the Nielsen ratings. Of course, this wouldn’t always be the case, especially after the show ended in 1974 with later successful reruns.
One reason for this could have been because the majority of their audience may have been younger. Or perhaps most of America wasn’t ready for the sparkling, seemingly perfect family life The Brady Bunch had to offer. Whatever the case, it can be safe to say it became a staple family show.
Let’s be honest, the fashion sense of The Brady Bunch would probably have been considered undesirable by today’s standards. I mean really, turtlenecks and bright colored clothes would be the Achilles heel of any serious clothing trendsetter. And apparently, some of the cast members may have thought the same.
Turns out many of the kids on the show requested better clothes, but their requests would go unanswered. Imagine if they got to wear what they wanted, would the show become a fashionista icon, too? Would it have sparked new trends? Unfortunately, the world will never know…
A relentless pursuit of the perfect cast…
If you are going to aspire to create a hallmark TV show, then you’ll need a great casting crew. This is especially if you want any semblance of longevity with a compelling narrative to the story. Producer and series creator Sherwood Schwartz knew this and made sure that was the case.
Schwartz purportedly interviewed more than 260 children for the casting crew. Talk about going the extra mile! It simply shows how a little hard work – or a lot – despite disagreements with some of the actors, can go a long way indeed.
Bobby wasn’t a natural brunette
You know you could spy those blonde locks poking out from Bobby’s glossy, too-good-to-be-true brunette hair. OK, maybe it wasn’t that obvious. But nevertheless, Bobby’s hair was actually dyed brown to match his counterparts for the show. In the later aired specials, you can actually see his natural blonde hair.
After ending his role as the youngest brother on The Brady Bunch, Mike Lookinland would go on to have two sons–one of whom would play him in the 2000 biographical drama “Growing Up Brady.”
We all harbor are own treasure trove of secrets. In this case, it’s true many of the cast had their fair share of secrets, and Maureen was definitely no exception. During the first season — yes, the entirety of the pilot season — she wore a wig for the entire show.
Her natural hair had to be kept short for another show at the time. It shows that sometimes you may have to make sacrifices in order to elevate your career. And hey, it looks like it didn’t ward off any potential suitors, including Brady Williams as mentioned previously…
The producer went the extra mile when auditioning the child actors
As if Lloyd Schwartz (Sherwood’s son) wasn’t doing enough to ensure the success of the cast, he also employed a little creativity when picking the cast members for the roles of the children. During the auditioning process, Schwartz would handpick toys to put in front of the children in order to test them.
Ultimately, he did this to see whether they could focus enough during the interview — and not on the toys — so they could eventually remember their lines for their respective roles. And the results definitely showed! Looks like when you combine creativity with hard work, good things can often happen.
The show was sort of a blooper fest
It’s safe to assume many TV shows and movies have a blooper reel. And like many shows, this one wasn’t without its blunders — and they were plenty in number. One of the scenes involved some of the Brady’s going out to the store to run errands in a convertible, but only to return in a station wagon.
Another scene included the kids building a house of cards, during which Jan had her hair tied in a ponytail in one scene and then falling to her shoulders in a different take. Of course, most people may not have noticed these bloopers in the first place.
Robert Reed was excluded from the final episode
The fiery disagreements between Robert Reed and producer Sherwood Schwartz were worse than you may have thought. Things got so bad that Reed was eventually booted off the script of the finale after disagreements on a particular plot and writing within the story.
Reed even wrote letters to Schwartz detailing the difference between different genres in theater and how the show’s writing was too fake and unoriginal. But if there’s one thing an actor should know: never cross your producer. Unfortunately, it looks like Reed learned this the hard way.
Florence was a visionary in her own right
Forward-thinking, and in some ways, a predictor of the future. At one point during the show’s tenure, Florence Henderson would frequently ask producers to make her character a working woman. In a sense, her vision on the show did come true, as Carol got into working at a non-profit.
Carol Brady ultimately remained as a stay-at-home mom, but you could say her role in the family started a new trend in female roles afterward. Just when we thought Carol couldn’t be more likable, we were proven wrong yet again.
The older brothers were best buds in real life
It goes without saying that you’ve made a friend for life when you get invited to be the best man at your friend’s wedding, right? Such is the case with Barry Williams and Christopher Knight, with the latter inviting Williams to fill the role. But those two weren’t the only ones who were best pals off-camera.
It’s important to have friends, especially the ones who remain faithful through the tried and true test of time. That can especially be seen with Williams and Florence Henderson–whom Williams has cited as his “biggest mentor” and “friend.”
Cindy never faked her lisp
You would think a speech impediment could hurt the chances of an aspiring actor, but not for Susan Olsen. In fact, in one of the episodes, her lisp was right front and center in “A Fistful of Reasons” where her character was teased for it.
While Olsen underwent speech therapy to correct this until her late teens, it also factored into her casting decision. During her interview for the show, Schwartz had been cited as finding her lisp hilarious and immediately hired her for the role.
Robert Reed had his hands full during filming
Juggling two acting gigs at once seems like a tall order. But not for Reed. During his time as Mike Brady, he also acted in a show called Mannix. His role as a lieutenant was much more serious, and perhaps more in tandem with what he aspired to be as an actor.
The show ended up having about the same running length as The Brady Bunch -1968 to 1975- during which he was cast as a tech-savvy detective. Was this a far cry from his role as a beloved father of eight? That’s up for you to decide.
The show had its fair share of star-studded guest appearances
What’s a good show without a few guest stars to come in and mix things up a little bit? The producers understood this, which is why they had on Davy Jones of The Monkees. He appeared in an episode in season three, during which he takes Marcia to the dance.
The charming English musician was arguably in the height of his prime after coming off debuting in the Billboard Top 100 about four years prior to the show’s first season. You really have to wonder if Marcia had her hands full with Brady and Greg. But she seemed to have everything under control.
Alice was never seen eating any food
You would think the wise and witty Alice Nelson would have made a few snacks for herself, but it’s true, there were no scenes showing her chowing down on one of her scrumptious meals. To be fair, she was quite busy preparing food for eight people.
We would like to think the family would let her have her well-deserved fair share of breaks, but there’s really no way of truly knowing. However, we can probably deduce Ann B. Davis was one of the more memorable maids in television history. Seriously, how could you not love her?
‘Cousin Oliver’ was introduced to make the cast seem younger
We all wish we could stay young forever. Well in television, that wish can almost be realized, even in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. When Robbie Rist was brought into the show, it was because the producers felt the cast was growing too old for the story-line as the years wore on.
The story goes Oliver came to live with the Brady’s when his parents were in South America. He wasn’t exactly welcomed with open arms, however, as many viewers felt he was a forced, arbitrary addition to the cast.
So, where was that dog all along?
There’s a very sad reason for why the family dog was featured in only a few episodes. During filming for the show’s debut season, Tiger was accidentally struck by a car and passed away. Amazingly, however, the cast was determined to find his replacement.
They eventually did find one that looked like the original, but it was not trained for television, so the hiring crew gave up. It was truly a wonder how the cast was able to move on. But he was definitely a cutie, and we’ll all miss him. Rest in peace, Tiger ‘ole boy.