60 Behind-The-Scenes Secrets About The Brady Bunch That The Show’s Producers Kept Firmly Under Wraps
ABC sitcom The Brady Bunch was one of the defining family-friendly TV shows of the early 1970s. But behind its feel-good plots and wholesome, clean-cut characters, the comedy hid a whole host of dark and unusual secrets – and even a few scandals that could’ve ended the show altogether. Here’s a look at 40 of the juiciest – involving everything from hook-ups and hair problems to casting choices and counseling sessions.
60. The show was inspired by a news story
When The Brady Bunch creator Sherwood Schwartz was reading the Los Angeles Times one day, a short article caught his eye. This feature revealed that the rate of marriages between partners who already had kids had risen notably. And Schwartz subsequently had a light bulb moment – with the rest being sitcom history.
59. A vital cast member missed the filming of its first six episodes
Although Florence Henderson appears in The Brady Bunch’s first six episodes, her scenes as Carol were actually filmed separately from the rest of the cast. You see, the actress was in Europe working on a movie when she learned that the sitcom had been given the green light and was immediately going into production. As a result, then, Henderson had to play catch-up after she returned to the United States.
58. Reed was a father figure to several cast members
This fact about The Brady Bunch may well warm the cockles of your heart. Mike Lookinland and Susan Olsen, who played Bobby and Cindy, respectively, have both revealed that Robert Reed was a better paternal figure to them than their own dads had been. Reed even once took the pair – along with the rest of the Brady kids – on a vacation to the city of London.
57. A future Oscar winner nearly played Cindy
While appearing with many of her former co-stars on Watch What Happens Live in 2019, Olsen divulged a surprising fact about the show’s casting process. Apparently, while a future Oscar winner had been in the frame to play Cindy Brady, Olsen had impressively managed to beat a then-unknown Jodie Foster to the role.
56. The sliding glass doors had no glass
The Bradys’ abode may have looked like your average family home, but not everything about its interior was as it seemed. For instance, those sliding doors that opened up at the rear of the property didn’t actually contain any glass. This was to ensure that the cameras didn’t pick up any reflected glare during shoots.
55. One episode is often censored
During a scene in “Goodbye, Alice, Hello,” Cindy and Bobby beg Alice to be allowed to attend a gathering where skinny-dipping is involved. However, the housekeeper tells the pair that she isn’t prepared for any Brady kid to head to an “X-rated party in their birthday suit.” And while this may seem rather innocent today, the conversation is still cut during syndication airings.
54. The Brady kids pleaded for better wardrobes
Schwartz seemingly wasn’t interested in The Brady Bunch being the height of fashion. In fact, the show creator regularly turned down pleas from the younger cast members to wear more up-to-date styles. Why? Well, Schwartz believed that if he gave into such demands, then the series would quickly appear outmoded upon syndication.
53. Its creator was threatened with a lawsuit
Interestingly, though, The Brady Bunch very nearly ended up in court over claims that Schwartz had stolen the idea for the show from a feature film. Specifically, the executives behind 1968 comedy Yours, Mine and Ours alleged that he had plagiarized their similar concept about a blended family. Thankfully for the accused, he was able to clear his name through material he’d penned prior to the movie in question even entering production.
52. The Brady house was renovated by HGTV
In 2018 the 1,200-square foot house used for the exterior of The Brady Bunch was put on the market for nearly $2 million. The dwelling was soon snapped up by network HGTV, which decided to remodel the home. Then, a year later, all the Brady kids – now grown, of course – showed up in the reality series A Very Brady Renovation.
51. Jeffrey Hunter wanted to play Mike Brady
Best known for his roles in King of Kings and The Searchers, Jeffrey Hunter was desperate to play the part of Mike Brady as casting began. However, executives at ABC turned him down for a very flattering reason: they believed that Hunter was simply too good-looking to portray the father figure.
50. Only three actors appeared in every single episode
Barry Williams, Ann B. Davis and Florence Henderson – a.k.a. Greg, Carol and Alice – are the sole cast members to be seen in every one of the 117 episodes of The Brady Bunch. Their co-stars very nearly achieved the same feat, though. For instance, Reed only missed one episode – the finale – owing to a behind-the-scenes dispute. The rest of the Brady kids were also left out of part of season two due to budget constraints.
49. The Brady kids launched a pop career
Following in the footsteps of The Partridge Family, the younger members of The Brady Bunch also launched music careers during their TV show’s run. The Brady Kids released several albums in the early 1970s and took their brand of sunshine pop out on the road. They even joined forces with the Jackson 5 on a cover of Seals and Crofts’ “Summer Breeze.”
48. The creator’s daughter made four appearances
Schwartz’s daughter Hope Juber certainly benefitted from her family connections, as she appeared in The Brady Bunch on no fewer than four occasions. She showed up first as Marcia’s fellow pupil Jenny in “The Slumber Caper” before playing Greg’s romantic interest Rachel in two episodes. Juber then assumed another character, Gretchen, in “The Hair-Brained Scheme.”
47. Vince Vaughn was involved in a planned reboot
In 2012 news emerged that big-screen funnyman Vince Vaughn was executive producing a reboot of The Brady Bunch for CBS. The planned sitcom would center on youngest son Bobby as a divorcee who begins a new life with his own blended family. Sadly, though, the project never got off the ground.
46. The Brady house interior was used for several other shows
If you were watching the best that action TV had to offer in the 1960s, chances are that you may have spotted the inside of the Bradys’ house on several other series. Yes, Mannix, Mission: Impossible and Hawaii Five-O all cut costs by using the same set as the classic sitcom. In 1975 sci-fi horror Bug also featured the interior familiar to millions.
45. Reed saved the cast from certain death
The Brady Bunch cast have Reed to thank for rescuing them all from an untimely demise. In what appeared to be a Final Destination-esque premonition, the actor wasn’t convinced about the safety of the roller coaster in which the family were due to ride for “The Cincinnati Kids.” And, alarmingly, Reed’s hunch was right. During a try-out that he had demanded, the camera on the cart became detached and hurtled off in what would have been the stars’ direction.
44. A real-life accident inspired an episode
Ever wondered how the story of “The Subject Was Noses” came about? Well, in 1973 Maureen McCormick, a.k.a. Marcia Brady, was involved in a car accident in which her nose was damaged. Then, after hearing about the collision, The Brady Bunch’s writers decided to incorporate McCormick’s agony into the show.
43. The Brady Bunch wasn’t the series’ original name
It’s hard to imagine The Brady Bunch being called anything else. At first, though, the classic sitcom had several other names before producers decided upon its final moniker. “Yours and Mine,” which sounds reminiscent of the similarly themed 1968 comedy, was one such idea, as was “The Bradley Brood.”
42. Three cast members popped up on That ’70s Show
In an example of meta-casting, throwback sitcom That ’70s Show nabbed three actors from a very real ’70s show. Eve Plumb, a.k.a. Jan Brady, appeared in the series as Jackie’s mother, while Barry Williams and Chris Knight – better known as Greg and Peter Brady, respectively – showed up as the Forman family’s gay neighbors.
41. Christopher Beaumont portrayed four different characters
While Christopher Beaumont starred in four episodes of The Brady Bunch in the space of two years, he portrayed a different character each time. Yes, as avid fans may know, the actor played The Boy in “Our Son, the Man,” Eddie in “The Wheeler-Dealer,” Hank in “A Room at the Top” and Jerry in “Quarterback Sneak.” And the roles may not have been a stretch for Beaumont, as they all required him to play an unpleasant idiot.
40. The original Tiger was run over
Ever wondered why Tiger rarely shows up past the midway point of The Brady Bunch’s first season? Well, tragically, the real pooch was knocked down by a car during the show’s early filming. And while the dog’s trainer tried to replace him with a lookalike he picked up at a nearby pound, unsurprisingly the substitute wasn’t able to follow commands in quite the same way as the original canine actor. Producers eventually decided that it wasn’t worth the hassle to retrain the animal, then, and only featured Tiger on screen when absolutely necessary.
39. Jan and Peter were once busted by the police
With so many adolescent hormones flying around on set, it was perhaps inevitable that several of The Brady Bunch’s stars would hook up in real life. Eve Plumb and Christopher Knight – a.k.a. Jan and Peter – were one such pairing. And, scandalously, the on-screen siblings were once caught by the authorities while making out in Knight’s vehicle.
38. Mike Lookinland became an alcoholic
Sadly, the youngest member of The Brady Bunch found it difficult to cope with the pressures of childhood fame, and in adulthood he turned to the bottle for comfort. But Mike Lookinland finally got clean before it was too late. He told Oprah Winfrey, “When it became clear that the choice wasn’t between sobering up or drinking, but the choice was actually between living or dying, then it became a simple choice for me.”
37. Barry Williams once went on a date with his on-screen mom
In his 1992 autobiography, Barry Williams admitted that as a teen, he had become infatuated with his on-screen mom. He even managed to persuade Florence Henderson – who was 20 years his senior – to go out to dinner with him. Williams explained in his book, “When those little things called hormones start kicking in, you get excited by even inanimate objects. It wasn’t that I sought to bed [Henderson]. I just wanted to spend time with her.”
36. Susan Olsen was forced to dye her hair
During her stint as Cindy, Susan Olsen was made to repeatedly bleach her hair. Why? Well, it was simply to maintain the distinct aesthetic of the Brady kids, as all three boys had to be dark-haired and all three girls had to be blonde. After having been subjected to such treatment since the age of eight, however, Olsen eventually started to lose her hair in large clumps.
35. Maureen McCormick was once a shoplifter
According to one of her on-screen sisters, Maureen McCormick – a.k.a. Marcia – was very much a teenage troublemaker. Yes, Olsen has claimed that her former co-star would often shoplift as a means of passing the time between filming scenes. Rather sneakily, the actress would also allegedly point the finger at the unsuspecting friend she had brought along if she ever got caught in the act.
34. Christopher Knight felt exploited by his mom
Knight once told Oprah that he felt betrayed by how his mother had thrust him into the spotlight at such a young age. The actor – who played Peter Brady in the sitcom – said, “I [was] feeling totally prostituted at that point by my mom. I think in a way, I totally was. And by her own admission it was [prostitution of a sort], [but] she was sorry about it.”
33. Ann B. Davis passed away in a freak accident
In 2014 one of The Brady Bunch’s most beloved cast members lost her life in a tragic accident. Ann B. Davis – who portrayed family housekeeper Alice – suffered a subdural hematoma following a fall in which her head struck a bathtub. The 88-year-old – who picked up multiple Emmy nominations during her career – sadly failed to regain consciousness after the incident.
32. McCormick and Williams hooked up
Williams and McCormick may have played siblings on screen, but that didn’t stop them from getting hot and heavy away from the cameras. Yes, apparently the pair first hooked up on a moonlit beach walk when The Brady Bunch went to Hawaii. McCormick later revealed in her memoir, “It was our first kiss, and it was long, passionate and deep.”
31. Cindy’s lisp was real
If you thought that Cindy’s lisp was fabricated just to make the character more endearing, think again, as the actress who portrayed the youngest Brady did indeed have a very real speech impediment. In fact, Olsen regularly saw a therapist for the problem up until her late teens, after which she decided to treat it with a surgical procedure.
30. Florence Henderson wasn’t the first choice to play Carol Brady
It’s hard to imagine anyone else other than Henderson playing The Brady Bunch’s matriarch Carol. In fact, you may be surprised to hear that Joyce Bulifant was actually first pick for the iconic role owing to her skillful comic timing. But, of course, this wasn’t to be. When the equally hilarious Ann B. Davis was signed up to the sitcom, you see, the producers realized that Carol didn’t need to be so wacky. Ultimately, then, the bigwigs made the character a much more homely figure instead.
29. Shirley Jones turned down the role of Carol
Henderson faced plenty of stiff competition when it came to the role that launched her to fame. Initially, the part of Carol was even offered to – and then turned down by – her best friend Shirley Jones. And as fans likely know, Jones went on to make her name in another classic family-friendly sitcom: The Partridge Family.
28. Gene Hackman nearly played Mike
Producer Sherwood Schwartz once revealed that Gene Hackman had been in the running to play The Brady Bunch’s dad Mike. Apparently, the future Hollywood legend only lost out on the role because he simply wasn’t familiar enough to TV audiences at the time. Yet Hackman had the last laugh; just a year after the sitcom premiered, he delivered an ultimately Oscar-winning performance in iconic thriller The French Connection.
27. Knight couldn’t sing
Famously, the Brady family would often burst into song during episodes of the show. But while McCormick, Lookinland and Williams would all belt out tunes in their own voices, tone-deaf Knight had to lip-sync. The youngster later admitted to The Improper Bostonian that he had been left traumatized by the sitcom’s musical moments.
26. Several bloopers made it into the final cut
In order to finish episodes of The Brady Bunch on time, editors would often leave in little mistakes that they hoped no viewer would ever notice. But since the sitcom’s syndication, audiences have had plenty of opportunities to spot such bloopers. The errors in question include the family returning home from an errand in a completely different vehicle to the one in which they had left. During one memorable scene, Jan’s haircut also seems to inadvertently change altogether.
25. The show wasn’t as big as you may think
Given The Brady Bunch’s sizeable impact upon popular culture, you may assume that the show consistently topped the TV ratings back in the day. But that’s not the case; in fact, the sitcom failed to enter Nielsen’s Top 30 even once during its five-season run. It seems that syndication was the key, then, to making The Brady Bunch iconic.
24. McCormick really did get hit by a football
While filming one particular episode, McCormick learned that sometimes you have to suffer for your art. In “The Subject Was Noses,” Marcia was supposed to get hit by a football thrown by her brother Peter. Instead of using camera trickery or stunt doubles, though, producer Schwartz decided that the best course of action was to fling the pigskin at McCormick’s nose for real.
23. Carol was supposed to be divorced
Before joining Carol and her girls, Mike Brady had of course been married and then sadly widowed. But what about the matriarch herself? Well, although Schwartz had originally intended for Carol to be a divorcée, this would have broken one of primetime TV’s main taboos in the late 1960s. So, the show decided to avoid the subject altogether. Later, Henderson jokingly claimed that her character had actually murdered her first spouse.
22. The Brady bathroom had no toilet
Seeing a porcelain toilet bowl on screen was a strict no-no when The Brady Bunch first aired. This explains, then, why you never see a john in the bathroom that all of the six kids share. And while the show could have given viewers a glimpse of the tank section – as this wasn’t prohibited – producers decided to do without altogether to make filming easier.
21. There was very nearly a spin-off
Fans may remember an episode of The Brady Bunch’s fifth season that saw neighbors Kathy and Ken Kelly and their three adopted kids take center stage. And, initially, this new family on the block – who included the real-life sibling of Mike Lookinland – were once lined up to star in their very own sitcom after The Brady Bunch came to an end. Sadly, though, Kelly’s Kids never actually made it to air.
20. Reed was deliberately written out of the final episode
Robert Reed – a.k.a. Mike – repeatedly fought on set with Schwartz over The Brady Bunch’s scripts. And as it turns out, the actor was so unhappy about the show’s last ever episode that he issued an ultimatum: change it, or he would refuse to show up for filming. Then, when Schwartz simply called his bluff, Reed was as good as his word – explaining exactly why the man of the house doesn’t appear in the series finale.
19. Henderson liked a dirty joke
Henderson may have played a butter-wouldn’t-melt mother on screen, but behind the scenes she was renowned for having a risqué sense of humor. And yet the actress kept up the pretense any time she was approached by a fan. Schwartz’s son Lloyd once told Variety, “Whenever anybody came up to [Henderson] to say anything about the show, she was as warm as could be. I saw it a million times.”
18. Reed stayed in the closet for most of his life
Although many of The Brady Bunch’s cast and crew were aware that Reed was gay, the actor decided to keep his sexuality a secret from the public for most of his life. And Henderson believes that her co-star would have been much happier had he come out of the closet earlier. She told ABC News, “I think had Bob not been forced to live this double life… it would have dissipated a lot of that anger and frustration.”
17. Henderson wanted Carol to work
Carol may be one of TV’s quintessential housewives, but things could have been very different if Henderson had been given her way. Inspired by her own experience as a working mother, the actress pleaded with the show’s scriptwriters to give Carol another purpose in life; ultimately, though, the team refused to budge.
16. Reed believed that TV was beneath him
According to Schwartz, Reed thought that television was too tawdry for a man of his talents. The Brady Bunch’s producer and creator once told ABC, “[Reed] wound up on a show that he didn’t want to do in the first place, and it became more and more difficult for him.” And the Mike Brady star certainly had the skillset to do more, as he had trained as a Shakespearean actor for two years before landing his famous role.
15. The Bradys once had a cat
We wouldn’t blame you for not trusting the Bradys to look after your pet. After all, Tiger the dog wasn’t the only animal to go missing early on in the show’s run. In the pilot episode of the series, the family can be seen petting a cat by the name of Fluffy; following that moment, though, the cute feline was never seen or heard of ever again.
14. The show’s creator drew upon his own kids’ life experiences
The Brady Bunch’s creator didn’t look too far for inspiration for the hit show. Often, you see, Schwartz would draw upon his own kids’ experiences for storylines – something with which his daughter Hope wasn’t particularly enamored. She told MeTV, “I was in a unique position regarding the show, and I was going through my own teenage girl angst at the time… When things I considered private showed up on the screen, I wasn’t always happy about it.”
13. McCormick once joked about an affair with Plumb
In her 2007 memoir Here’s the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice, McCormick joked about having had an affair with Plumb. Her on-screen sister didn’t see the funny side, however, and so the actress was forced to apologize in an interview with Digital Spy. McCormick said of the incident, “I made the crack to be funny – and for shock value. I’m sorry if [Plumb] took offense.”
12. McCormick struggled with anxiety
After leaving The Brady Bunch behind, McCormick experienced her fair share of personal problems. But life wasn’t completely rosy when she was filming the hit sitcom, either. In her autobiography, the actress 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.”
11. Olsen hated playing Shirley Temple
In the episode titled “The Snooperstar,” Cindy is tricked by Marcia into impersonating Shirley Temple as a punishment for scanning through her diary. And Olsen has since admitted that she didn’t appreciate that particular storyline. She told Inquisitr, “That was really embarrassing. It would have been really cute when I was seven, but when I was 12, [I was] going, ‘I feel so stupid.’”
10. McCormick once dated Michael Jackson
While competing in British reality show I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! in 2015, McCormick claimed that she had once stepped out with a megastar. Yes, after being asked by a fellow campmate whether she liked Michael Jackson, the actress replied, “We used to date. We used to go roller skating in Woodland Hills [in California]. I used to go over to [the Jackson family’s] house all the time.” McCormick added that she and the future King of Pop had both been in their mid-teens back then.
9. Henderson initially wore a wig
Shockingly, Henderson was forced to wear a wig during the filming of the first season of The Brady Bunch. But that wasn’t because the star was losing her locks; instead, her short ’do at the time wasn’t deemed to suit the character of Carol. Naturally, then, a hairpiece was brought in as a solution.
8. Williams injured himself in a surfing stunt
In season four, the Brady family famously travel to Hawaii for a vacation, and it’s there that Greg shows off his skills on the surfboard. Unfortunately, though, this led to a real-life disaster for the man who played the eldest Brady boy. On his own blog, Williams revealed, “I was injured during the filming of the surfing episode in Hawaii. I cut my feet on some coral. You can actually see it when I fall headfirst off of my board.”
7. Henderson once counseled Knight for a VH1 show
Back in the mid-2000s, Knight landed his own reality series, entitled My Fair Brady, on VH1. During filming, the actor even graciously invited his former on-screen mom onto the show to help provide some relationship guidance. So, Henderson advised Knight to slow things down with his The Surreal Life co-star Adrianne Curry – words of wisdom that weren’t heeded, as the couple went on to wed just months later.
6. The kids were cast in a unique way
Before casting the six Brady kids, Schwartz was originally tasked with overseeing tryouts by 264 different child actors. To help whittle that number down, then, he simply placed an array of toys on his desk. How did this work? Well, any youngsters who were seen being distracted by the toys were given the boot. Schwartz believed, you see, that those kids who stayed focused on the matter in hand had the perfect temperament to work in TV.
5. The casting of Oliver created tension
It’s fair to say that Carol’s nephew Oliver – played by Robbie Rist – wasn’t exactly a fan favorite. And it seems that Rist – who showed up in the sitcom’s final season – was just as unpopular with the rest of the cast, too. On his blog, Williams revealed, “The writers were floundering, and [Rist] introduced a very different type of humor into our show. Also, we had been together a long time, and we didn’t really have time to adjust to a new ‘family member.’”
4. McCormick developed a cocaine addiction
In order to deal with her mental health battles, McCormick turned to illegal drugs – and one substance in particular. In her memoir, she wrote, “I sought refuge in seemingly glamorous cocaine dens above Hollywood. I thought I would find answers there, while in reality I was simply running farther from myself. From there, I spiraled downward on a path of self-destruction that cost me my career and very nearly my life.”
3. Williams was a pothead
Greg Brady may have been a goody-two-shoes, but the actor who played him was anything but. In his early teens, Williams started smoking pot; for one particular episode of The Brady Bunch, he even turned up on set stoned. Take a closer look at “Law and Disorder,” and you may notice that the squeaky-clean Greg looks suspiciously glassy-eyed.
2. Reed died with HIV
Reed sadly passed away in 1992, with his daughter Karen initially stating that colon cancer was the sole cause. After the star’s death certificate was made public, however, the world learned that he had an underlying condition that had also caused complications. At some point during his life, Reed had been diagnosed with HIV.
1. Sixth season storylines were planned
Although The Brady Bunch ultimately concluded at the end of its fifth season, there were actually storylines in the offing for a further run. Had more episodes been given the green light, Carol would have likely fallen pregnant with twins, for example. And owing to the ongoing dispute with Reed, the character of Mike would probably have been recast, too.