The Brady Bunch: Surprising Facts About America's Favorite Sitcom Family
Here’s the story of a man named Brady, who starred in one of the best sitcoms of all time. Okay, that’s not exactly how the theme song goes, but you get the idea. You probably even tried to read the words in tune to the song. After all, the Bradys were a second family to more than one generation of kids, thanks to the show’s enduring popularity on TV Land and other syndicated networks.
Despite what you saw on screen, things weren’t always perfect behind the scenes. The cast and creative team worked together quite well and did a great job of hiding the issues that could have changed the show for so many people. Here’s your inside look at life behind the scenes of The Brady Bunch.
The Creator Was Inspired by a Newspaper Article
Inspiration can come from some strange places. For The Brady Bunch, the original idea for the show came from a simple statistic in a newspaper. After his previous success creating and producing Gilligan’s Island, Sherwood Schwartz was looking for his next project.
While reading the Los Angeles Times in 1965, he came across a stat that indicated "30 percent of marriages have a child or children from a previous marriage." This fact stuck with him and inspired him to work on a script about a blended family. Eventually, that seed of an idea blossomed into The Brady Bunch.
The Show Originally Had a Different Name
Given its iconic status, it’s hard to imagine how something so quintessential to the show could have been different. Nonetheless, The Brady Bunch almost had an entirely different identity. When he first started working on the pilot script, Sherwood Schwartz originally named the show Mine and Yours.
After pitching the show to the big television studios, the execs asked him to make a few changes before they decided to move forward with the project. In its next iteration, the show was titled The Bradley Brood, which eventually became The Brady Bunch before production began.
Hair Color Played a Huge Role in the Casting Process
From the start, the show’s creator Sherwood Schwartz knew that he wanted the mom’s kids and the dad’s kids to have contrasting hair colors. Before they even began casting the parents, they focused on finding the children first.
Because they didn’t know at first who would play the parents, the team found 12 kids to potentially play the Brady children: a trio of blonde girls and a trio of brunette boys and vice versa. Based on the hair colors of Florence Henderson and Robert Reed, the casting director chose the "matching" kids for the roles.
Robert Reed and Florence Henderson Were Both Second Choices
The Brady parents we know and love almost never existed. Both Florence Henderson and Robert Reed were the second choices for their respective roles. The role of Carol Brady was originally offered to Shirley Jones. Although she turned down the part, she went on to play another iconic TV mom: Shirley Partridge on The Partridge Family.
As far as the Brady family patriarch goes, the casting director’s top choice was none other than Gene Hackman. Producers didn’t think he was a big enough star and instead decided to offer the job to Reed, who had a longer resume of TV credits.
Florence Henderson Wanted Carol Brady to Have a Job
On the show, Mike Brady was an architect, and Carol Brady was a homemaker who took care of the family with the help of housekeeper Alice Nelson. If Florence Henderson had gotten her way, Carol would have had a job outside of the home as well.
Citing her own experience as a working mother of four, Henderson "begged" the writers to give Carol a job on the show. They obviously ignored her suggestion, but it brings up some interesting ideas. Can you imagine how different the show would have been if Carol Brady had entered the workforce?
The House’s Backdoor Didn’t Have Any Glass
Keen-eyed viewers may notice something strange about the backdoor of the Brady household. If you look closely, you will notice that the door doesn’t have any glass in it. There's not some crazy reason for this, however. It’s surprisingly practical.
The sliding backdoor didn’t have a glass panel simply because it would have created a glare while filming. To make things easier on set, the team decided to remove the glass entirely. Take a close look at some of the episodes to see if you can tell the difference!
The Show Wasn’t a Big Success at First
Although we now think of the show as a classic, it wasn’t quite as popular when it first aired on television. During the five seasons it aired in its prime-time TV slot, it never appeared in the Top 30 list for network shows.
One of the reasons its ratings weren’t high during prime-time was because of the time it aired. It was a family-centric show that focused on kids, so it was super popular with kids. Children at the time usually enjoyed some TV time, but they often weren’t allowed to watch TV at night. The Brady Bunch only achieved its incredible level of fame after it was picked up for syndication by networks who aired re-runs during the day.
Maureen McCormick Really Got Hit with a Football
Over the course of its five-season run, The Brady Bunch had so many memorable scenes. Perhaps the most iconic one is when poor Marcia gets hit in the face with a football. During the season four episode, Peter throws a football in the house, and it smacks Marcia right on the nose.
Many people assume this scene was some sort of camera trick, but Maureen McCormick really did get hit in the face during filming. According to Lloyd Schwartz, the creator’s son, Christopher Knight was unable to complete the throw, so he stepped in and nailed the toss in one take.
Some of the Kids Needed Hair Makeovers Before Filming
Although hair color was a key factor considered when casting the show, the rule didn’t apply to all the kids. When Robert Reed was cast as Mike Brady, Schwartz knew the boys needed brown hair. However, he made a slight exception for Mike Lookinland (Bobby Brady), who had dark blondish hair. To become a Brady boy, they regularly darkened his hair.
Susan Olsen (Cindy Brady) also had to dye her hair during production. She was a natural blonde, but the shade wasn’t light enough to match her on-screen sisters and mom, so they had to bleach her hair.
The Original Tiger Died Early in the Series
Along with the three Brady sons, Mike also brought Tiger the dog to the bunch. The adorable pup was featured heavily in the first and second seasons. Sadly, the dog who originally played Tiger died while filming. He was reportedly hit by a car on the Paramount lot.
Finding an obedient replacement dog proved difficult for the producers, especially when they were under tight time constraints. They did find some dogs that looked similar to Tiger, but they were not trained. As a result, the new dog was only on the show when it was necessary for the plot.
Alice Never Ate
Alice Nelson (played by Ann B. Davis) was the Brady’s housekeeper and the glue that kept the family together. During each episode, she spent much of her time cracking jokes, providing helpful advice to the kids and cooking delicious meals for the family.
Despite all that cooking, there’s one very important thing we never saw Davis do. In all 117 episodes, the audience never sees her character eat! Here’s hoping that Alice snuck a little taste while making dinner for the Brady parents and their six kids.
Robert Reed Didn’t Appear in the Final Episode
According to some sources, Robert Reed was unhappy with his role as Mike Brady. He considered himself a serious actor and found the comedic moments to be difficult. He often sent creator Sherwood Schwartz memos with suggestions about the script and his character, but they were usually disregarded.
The feud came to a head during the filming of "The Hair-Brained Scheme." Reed was unhappy with the entire episode, and knowing that Schwartz would not rewrite it, he refused to be in the episode at all. No one knew at the time it would be the final episode of The Brady Bunch.
Many Supporting Characters Are Mentioned but Rarely Seen
Some of the most memorable recurring characters on The Brady Bunch got shockingly little screen time. Although they may have felt like a big part of the Brady’s lives, some characters were rarely seen by the audience.
Mr. Phillips, played by Jack Collins, was Mike’s boss at the architectural firm. Mike often talks about him, but Collins was only in three episodes. Another popular supporting character is Sam Franklin, who was portrayed by Allan Melvin. Sam was the neighborhood butcher and Alice’s boyfriend/husband. Although his character pops up throughout the series (and later in the spin-offs), he is only on screen in eight episodes.
Barry Williams Went on a Date with His On-Screen Mother
Well, the "date" part is debatable, depending on who you ask. What’s true is that Barry Williams (Greg Brady) did have a crush on his on-screen mom, played by Florence Henderson.
In his 1992 memoir, Growing Up Brady: I Was a Teenage Greg, Williams says he went on a date with Henderson when he was 16 and she was 36. At the time, Henderson was married with four children of her own. If you’re about to start having a screaming fit, there’s more to the story. When she agreed to go out to dinner with him, she had no idea that Williams thought it was a date!
Robert Reed Directed a Few Episodes
As mentioned, Robert Reed frequently sent notes to Sherwood Schwartz about the scripts and his character. Although Schwartz may have ignored Reed’s input on his character, he still gave him some opportunities to exercise his creative freedom while on set.
According to the tell-all memoir written by Schwartz and his son, Lloyd Schwartz, in an attempt to keep the peace on set, he allowed Reed to direct several episodes of the show. Next time you’re rewatching the show, see if you can spot the episodes that Reed directed!
Mrs. Brady’s Hair Was Actually a Wig
The Brady Bunch cast has a lot more hair secrets than most fans ever realized! After reading about the extreme focus on hair when casting the kids, it’s a bit surprising to learn that Florence Henderson (Carol Brady) actually wore a wig while filming.
The decision didn’t have anything to do with hair color. Before the show went into production, Henderson cut her hair for another role. She played Nellie Forbush, a Navy nurse, in the off-Broadway revival of South Pacific. The producers thought the cut was too severe for Mrs. Brady, so they decided to have her wear a wig instead.
Many Filming Errors Were Never Fixed
Like many other shows from the era, nobody working on the show anticipated that people would still be watching it more than 40 years later. As a result, many of the small mistakes made while filming were left uncorrected. After all, nobody had Netflix (or even a VCR) to rewind and rewatch scenes more closely.
In one instance, the Bradys leave their home in a convertible and return from their trip in a station wagon. In another scene, Jan’s hairstyle changes multiple times. These flubs, however, have become as much a part of the show’s legacy as the Bradys themselves.
Barry Williams and Maureen McCormick Had a Romantic Relationship
Although they played siblings on-screen, Barry Williams’ and Maureen McCormick’s off-screen relationship certainly proved they weren’t related. The two had a brief romantic affair in real life, despite playing stepbrother and stepsister on camera. While filming in Hawaii, they snuck off to take a moonlit walk on the beach, where they shared their first kiss.
In her memoir, Here’s the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice, McCormick revealed more about their brief romantic relationship. She says that while the relationship was good, a part of her always felt weird about kissing her television brother.
Robert Reed Identified as Gay
Robert Reed was a private person and didn’t like to discuss his sexuality. Coming out could have had a negative impact on his career, which could explain why he wanted to keep his private life private. According to some sources, it was something that he struggled with throughout his life.
Most of the cast knew that he was gay. In a later interview by Florence Henderson, she said, "He was an unhappy person. I think had Bob not been forced to live this double life, I think it would have dissipated a lot of that anger and frustration."
The Brady House Didn’t Have a Toilet
The Brady kids spent much of their time fighting over the shared bathroom, but eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed something odd about the bathroom: There’s no toilet. We see every inch of the bathroom over the five seasons, but never the actual toilet.
Of course, it’s understood that the house has a toilet, and it’s just never shown on screen. In the ’70s, television networks thought it was too crude to make a toilet visible on their television shows, even though the first on-screen toilet appeared before The Brady Bunch on an episode of Leave It to Beaver.
Carol Brady Was Supposed to Be Divorced
While writing the pilot, Sherwood Schwartz originally planned for Mike Brady (Robert Reed) to be a widower and Carol Brady (Florence Henderson) to be a divorcee. He stuck to that concept with Mike, but Carol’s original background became a point of contention.
The network executives thought it was too controversial to broach the subject of divorce, especially on a family-friendly TV show. Instead, her past relationship was left intentionally vague throughout the course of the show. We do know, however, that her maiden name was Tyler, and her married name was Martin.
Maureen McCormick Suffered from Anxiety While Playing Marcia
Facing the trials of adolescence is difficult for most people, but growing up in the spotlight presents even more challenges. All of it becomes even more difficult to handle when you have an anxiety disorder. In her memoir, Maureen McCormick outlined her struggles with anxiety while playing a character who is known for being "perfect."
She wrote, "As a teenager, I had no idea that few people are everything they present to the outside world … Yet there I was, hiding the reality of my life behind the unreal perfection of Marcia Brady. No one suspected the fear that gnawed at me."
Lucille Ball’s Son Guest Starred
During the first season of The Brady Bunch, the audience was treated to a guest appearance by American sitcom royalty: Desi Arnaz Jr. As the son of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz of I Love Lucy fame, Desi Arnaz Jr. was a star in his own right — and a major heartthrob.
Arnaz Jr. appeared in the episode "The Possible Dream," and played Marcia’s crush. When Marcia’s diary is misplaced, she worries that it will fall into the wrong hands, and people will find out about her secret crush. You’ll have to watch the episode to see what happens next!
Christopher Knight Met His First Girlfriend on Set
The identity of the mystery girlfriend? It was none other than Eve Plumb (Jan Brady)! That’s right, Barry Williams and Maureen McCormick weren’t the only brother-sister duo to find romance on set. According to TV Guide, Christopher Knight’s (Peter Brady) first girlfriend was his on-screen sister.
The relationship, however, was short-lived. Knight took Plumb out on a date in his pickup truck, where he just happened to have candles, a six-pack and some blankets. Parked under the stars, things were beginning to get romantic — until the police showed up. The incident put an end to their date and their romantic relationship as a whole.
Jan and Marcia Didn’t Get Along in Real Life
The sibling rivalry between the eldest and middle daughters on The Brady Bunch seems to have transcended the small screen. Reportedly, Eve Plumb (Jan Brady) and Maureen McCormick (Marcia Brady) did not get along behind the scenes while filming the iconic sitcom.
It has been said that their relationship always remained distant in the decades following the show’s end as well. They did remain professional while filming the Brady spin-offs and reunion specials together. Maybe the Bradys are just like any other real family. They may not get along all the time, but they still care about each other.
Season Six Would Have Looked Wildly Different
Although the show was canceled before we got to see it, season six would have been completely different from the previous five seasons. Robert Reed (Mike Brady) and Sherwood Schwartz (the creator) often experienced creative differences. After refusing to appear in the final episode of season five, Schwartz and his son had reached their breaking point with Reed.
They planned to replace him for the sixth season. They had even talked about Carol Brady becoming pregnant with twins in an effort to refresh the show moving forward. For better or for worse — we’re thinking for better — these changes never came to pass.
Cousin Oliver Was the Show’s Most Controversial Character
Played by Robbie Rist, Cousin Oliver (Carol’s nephew) was introduced during the fifth and final season. Producers thought the Brady children were getting too old, and they wanted to bring in someone younger to revitalize the show.
Surprisingly, he didn’t receive a warm reception from the fans. They felt his addition was random and threw off the balance of the family. Some overzealous fans even blame him for the show’s cancelation. In fact, Oliver was so disliked that producers chose not to include him in any of the Brady spinoffs or reunions.
Christopher Knight Was the Only Brady Who Couldn’t Sing
Maureen McCormick, Mike Lookinland and Barry Williams were all blessed with excellent vocals, and even Eve Plumb and Susan Olsen could carry a tune. Christopher Knight, on the other hand, will be the first to admit that singing wasn’t his strong suit.
When asked by The Improper Bostonian to share his most embarrassing experience on the show, he instantly responded, "Singing, by far, was the most traumatic." In the musical episodes, Knight was encouraged to lip sync while the other kids sang their parts. His lines were later dubbed by producer Howard Leeds.
Ann Bradford Davis Released a Brady Bunch Cookbook
As the Brady family’s housekeeper, Alice Nelson (played by Ann B. Davis) was as beloved for her cooking as she was for her wisecracks. In a fitting tribute to her most iconic character, Davis published Alice’s Brady Bunch Cookbook.
Released in 1994, the cookbook is comprised of recipes inspired by the cooking on The Brady Bunch. The book also includes recipes for some of the other cast member’s favorite dishes and plenty of ‘70’s nostalgia. If you want to eat like the Bradys, you can still find copies of the cookbook online today.
The Season Finale Wasn’t the End of the Show
The show ended after five seasons, but that wasn’t the last we saw of the Bradys. Following the show’s 1974 cancelation, it went on to spawn a number of spin-offs, specials and parodies over the years.
The spin-offs included The Brady Bunch Hour (1976-77), The Brady Girls Get Married (1981), The Brady Brides (1981), A Very Brady Christmas (1988) and The Bradys (1990). In the mid-90s, two parody movies were released, although they didn’t star the original cast. On top of all that, the Brady’s have enjoyed countless specials and reunions. Fans just can’t seem to get enough of the Bradys!