EDITOR’S NOTE: Looking to expand your ability to write reviews as well as your appreciation of classic TV? Contributing Editor Emiritus Herbie J Pilato has you covered. Right here.
by Herbie J Pilato
Here’s the REAL story…of The Brady Bunch, the unstoppable television show that has charmed millions of viewers for what seems like millions of years.
Author Kimberly Potts exquisitely chronicles the TV phenom in her new book, The Way We All Became The Brady Bunch: How The Canceled Sitcom Became The Beloved Pop Culture Icon We Are Still Talking About Today (Grand Central Publishing, 2019).
Although it’s really only been on the air (in one form or another sequel or remake somehow) for 50 years, The Brady Bunch debuted on ABC in the fall of 1969, along with other now-classics such as Marcus Welby, M.D., Love, American Style, and Room 222 (the latter two of which premiered on the same network’s Friday night line-up as the Brady brood).
But the Bunch was never an immediate hit. The show struggled along for five original seasons and depending on which fan you talk with, peaked around the fourth year. While the fifth season began with a stellar season-opening musical episode showcasing the Brady kids all grown-up, rumblings from leading actor Robert Reed, who played father Mike Brady to Florence Henderson as Carol Brady, and the controversial add of young Robbie Rist to the cast (as Cousin Oliver), eventually muddied any chance of there being a sixth season.
Apparently, had the show gone into that next season, Reed would have been replaced by Robert Foxworth (pre-Falcon Crest, and before meeting and falling in love with Bewitched star Elizabeth Montgomery on the set of the 1974 TV-movie, Mrs. Sundance).
And that would have been an ironic twist; for as Foxworth once explained, Reed had allegedly stopped him one day on a studio lot, admiring his curly locks.
The next time Foxworth saw Reed, the latter’s head-locks were permed with curls, with which the remaining Brady Bunch young male cast members seemingly followed suit. Although some may argue that the hair atop the heads of Barry Williams, as Greg Brady, Christopher Knight as Peter, and Mike Lookinland as Bobby, just happened to grow more textured with age.
At the same time, everybody knows that little Cindy Brady, played with natural adorability by Susan Olsen, was the “youngest [female] one with curls.”
Meanwhile, the two older Brady girls, Maureen McCormick as Marcia, and Eve Plumb as Jan, along with Olsen, were blond to match Henderson, who, during the show’s third season, created a unique bottom-flip-up hairstyle that rivals in TV history popularity that of Jennifer Aniston’s “Rachel” do decades later on Friends.
Into this mix, was TV vet Ann B. Davis (Love That Bob) who as Alice, the loyal Brady housekeeper, who kept the family clean and laughing, as much as possible.
Potts explores all of this, and so much more, in-depth, and yet with brisk, readable prose about a show that became only really became a hit after it mass audiences discovered in syndicated reruns.
In the process, The Way We All Became The Brady Bunch trails a new path for television history/companion books. It shares meaty storytelling and memories, without over-doing it on the trivia and trivial aspects of the series.
The trivia is still there, but it’s surrounded by entertaining perspectives and recollections (from many of the cast and production team, including writer/producer Lloyd J. Schwartz, son of Brady Bunch creator Sherwood Schwartz (who, among other landmark shows, also ignited Gilligan’s Island).
There’s never been anything not to like about The Brady Bunch, and the same now holds true for The Way We All Became The Brady Bunch.
Potts tells and seals it all with pure Brady bliss.
Writer/producer Herbie J Pilato is the host of classic TV talk show THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, now streaming on Amazon Prime, Founder and Executive Director of The Classic TV Preservation Society, and author of several classic TV companion books. He has been part of TVWriter™ for 20 years and is Contributing Editor Emeritus. Learn more about Herbie J HERE. This article first appeared in Medium.