30 Untold Behind-the-Scenes Stories of 'The Brady Bunch'
By Sarah Norman | July 4, 2023
'The Brady Bunch' Wasn't Popular Until It Hit Syndication
Get ready to embark on a far-out journey filled with laughter, nostalgia, and a few surprises! These stories from behind the scenes of The Brady Bunch offer a sneak peek into the captivating world of America's favorite TV family. Discover untold tales, hidden moments, and cherished memories as we unveil the groovy secrets of this iconic show. So grab your bell-bottoms and put on your best polyester, because it's time to step behind the curtain and explore the colorful world of The Brady Bunch like never before!
When The Brady Bunch first graced our screens, it didn't exactly make waves. Initially airing from 1969 to 1974, it faced stiff competition from other popular shows of the era. Ratings were modest, and the series never cracked the top 30 during its five-season run. The Brady family's wholesome adventures and life lessons seemed to be overshadowed by the edgier programming of the time. However, when the show entered syndication in the mid-1970s, it found a new life and a whole new generation of fans. As reruns of The Brady Bunch began to air in the afternoons and early evenings, kids and families across the nation found themselves drawn to the endearing world of Mike, Carol, and their six children. The show's warm, light-hearted humor and timeless life lessons resonated with viewers in a way that it hadn't during its original run.
Maureen McCormick Struggled With A Cocaine Addiction
Maureen's struggle with addiction began in the mid-1970s, as the success of The Brady Bunch faded and the pressure of maintaining her image as picture-perfect Marcia Brady intensified. Searching for a way to cope with the stress and expectations of her life in the spotlight, Maureen turned to drugs as an escape. What began as a casual experimentation quickly spiraled into a full-blown addiction to cocaine, quaaludes, pills and mushrooms. McCormick began slipping up on set and tanking auditions while under the influence. As she slipped deeper into addiction, she even traded sex for drugs. Her career and mental health suffered greatly. Luckily, this story has a happy ending. McCormick credits her husband, Michael Cummings, with helping her find her way to sobriety:
[I] met this guy [Michael Cummings] — it was before we were married and we were just dating — and I had my last relapse. He came to me and said, ‘If you ever do this drug again, I’m gone, I’m leaving.’ It woke me up. It was like the coldest shower you could ever take, there’s just no way I’m gonna lose somebody that I love.
We’ve been married now for 33 years. I just had a feeling that I could trust him with my whole heart and that he was so honest and such a beautiful, beautiful human being.
Greg Went On A Date With His On-Screen Mom
Luckily, this isn't as perverse as it sounds. Though Barry Williams, who played oldest son Greg Brady, has mentioned having a crush on Florence Henderson, who played his on-screen mother Carol Brady, it seems like everything stayed on the up-and-up. What has been described as a "date" between them occurred when Barry was 16 and Carol was 36, as described by Williams in his book Growing Up Brady: I Was A Teenage Greg. Williams' brother drove them to dinner, then, when Henderson was dropped off she gave him a peck on the cheek, and probably not another thought as she returned to her husband and four children. Henderson good-naturedly says at least it sounds more exciting than it was:
That whole thing with Barry got blown way out of proportion. I guess in a sense it was a date, because Barry thought it was. But of course, I had no idea that his intentions were to "date" me. It has made for a good story though!
Marcia Dated Her On-Screen Brother, Greg
Barry Williams and Maureen McCormick, known for their roles as Greg and Marcia Brady on The Brady Bunch, shared an on-screen sibling bond that millions of viewers adored. But what many fans didn't know was that behind the scenes, this TV brother and sister duo had a flirtatious fling that sizzled with so much chemistry it got in the way of filming!
When we shot “A Room at the Top,” the final show of the fourth season, the tension between Barry and me was at an all-time high, I couldn’t read the word bedroom in the script without conjuring up fantasies of the two of us. It was as if "bedroom" had turned into a code word for something illicit and wonderful. Barry wasn’t much better. Shooting the scene where we sat next to each other on the bed was more than either of us could handle. We couldn’t keep our hands off each other.
The director of the episode, Lloyd Schwartz, even found it hard to film the scene, as the energy between the two definitely wasn't reading very brother-sister. Luckily they eventually got through the moment and wrapped the season!
Bobby Developed Alcoholism In His 20s
Bobby Brady, the youngest brother, was played by Mike Lookinland, who went on to appear in the tv show The Secrets Of Isis and the movie The Towers of Inferno. He also, unfortunately, developed an alcohol problem. In 1997, Lookinland headed to rehab after a DUI incident where his blood alcohol level was 0.258:
I loved alcohol. First time I had a drink, oh boy, I thought it was the greatest thing in the world … 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.
Luckily, this incident was the turning point for Mike. He has been sober for decades, and has left the world of showbiz to run his own business.
In Real Life, Marcia Underwent Three Abortions Before She Was 21
When Maureen McCormick, who played Marcia Brady, was deep in the clutches of her addiction, she lost touch with the real world. In her memoir, Here's the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice, she has spoken openly about missing out on job opportunities, going without sleep for days, and ending up in dangerous situations due to drugs. She also has spoken candidly about getting pregnant multiple times while on drugs:
I was 18, 19 and 20 when I had each abortion. It shows how careless I was. It shows what drugs did to me and how far I went. I was not aware of the things going on in my life. Playing Marcia, I always had to be perfect... but I had so much going on underneath.
We're so happy McCormick came out the other side!
Peter And Jan Were Caught On A Date By The Cops
Marcia and Greg weren't the only two Brady siblings to hook up! Christopher Knight, who played Peter, couldn't help noticing Eve Plumb, who played Jan, when puberty hit:
At 16, Eve bloomed a little earlier than I did.
The two teens headed out on a starry night with a six pack, blankets, and some questionable intentions, but they got busted by police pretty quickly. Ah, young love!
Greg Was A Teenage Smoker
According to his memoir, Barry Williams, who played Greg Brady, started smoking regularly at age 14. Pretty ironic, since his character smokes for the first time and doesn't even like it in the Brady Bunch episode, "Where There's Smoke". I guess he really can act!
Mike Brady Hid His Sexuality
Brady Bunch dad Mike Brady was played by classically trained Shakespearean actor Robert Reed. Although he wasn't terribly fond of the role - he had a lot of creative differences with the creator and showrunner, and felt that the role was beneath him - he was extremely fond of all his co-stars and became a father figure to many of them in real life as well. Reed was a closeted gay man, which was also a source of pressure as the 70's were not an accepting time. Having to hide his sexuality was extremely hard on him, and certainly contributed to his death, according to on-screen daughter Susan Olsen:
Because it was so taboo, he could never make peace with himself. He never allowed himself to have a genuine love. He was forever taunted by his own disdain for the natural inclinations that he was BORN WITH. Bob was a family man. Had he been allowed to form a relationship with another man, he would have been the best husband ever and might still be alive.
Cindy's Hair Fell Out In Chunks After It Was Bleached For Almost Every Episode
Although Susan Olsen was a natural blonde, the producers deemed her hair not blonde enough for the role of little Cindy Brady. Thus, eight year old Olsen was told to bleach her hair on the regular. By season two, the constant bleach was causing her hair to fall out in clumps. Olsen begged the showrunners to let her stop the bleach routine, and thankfully they acquiesced!
Cindy Grew Cannabis Later In Life
Not so innocent! When little Susan Olsen, who played Cindy Brady, grew up, she got to explore some new hobbies, specifically gardening and cannabis:
I was really a [marijuana] grower, my husband at the time and I grew it hydroponically.
I have never really enjoyed smoking it, it makes me very paranoid. But it was my husband’s idea.
It was really fascinating and I’ve always been into ‘gardening’ and it’s such a complicated, wonderfully fascinating plant.
But that was one of the reasons why I did leave my husband, because it just bothered me too much that we were doing something so illegal.
Oh, Cindy! Don't you know gardening should be stress-free?
Tiger Was Run Over By A Car During Filming And Replaced With An Untrained Rescue
Remember the scruffiest, most lovable Brady? There's a sad tale (tail) behind what happened to Tiger. The original "Tiger" was tragically hit by a car sometime during Season 1. Not sure what to do, and not wanting to show up to set with just a leash, his trainer stopped by the pound and picked up a similar looking pooch. The showrunners caught on that it was a different dog when the new Tiger kept running off during takes.
Marcia Used To Shoplift
Marcia, Marcia, Marcia! Not so squeaky-clean, are we? According to one of her on-screen sisters, Maureen McCormick, who played Marcia, occasionally shoplifted with pal Susan Cowsill, of the family band The Cowsills. On one occasion, the two girls got caught. Maureen ended up making a run for the car, leaving her buddy Susan to take the blame. We wonder if their friendship ever recovered!
Alice Died In A Tragic Accident
Born in Schenectady, New York, on May 3, 1926, Ann Bradford Davis rose to prominence through her career in television, earning two Emmy Awards for her portrayal of the secretary Charmaine "Schultzy" Schultz on The Bob Cummings Show in the late 1950s. However, it was her role as Alice Nelson on The Brady Bunch from 1969 to 1974 that immortalized her as a household name. With her perceptive wit and quick quips, Davis' Alice served as both the confidante and comic relief to the Brady family, endearing her to generations of viewers. Tragically on June 1, 2014, at age 88, Davis fell and hit her head on her bathtub, passing away due to a subdural hematoma. She is remembered fondly by friends, family, fans, and co-stars from The Brady Bunch.
Marcia and Jan really did hate each other
Growing up on the set of The Brady Bunch, one might assume the Brady sisters—Maureen McCormick and Eve Plumb, who played Marcia and Jan Brady, respectively—shared a perfect sisterly bond. However, as with many sibling relationships, things were not always smooth sailing between the two. Susan Olsen, who played little sister Cindy, has claimed in the past Maureen spread false rumors about her and Eve's relationship, which understandably caused tension:
I don't like there to be a rift in the family. I love them both and this means whenever we get together for any project there will only be one or the other. But I do understand Eve's point of view. She got tired of Maureen gaining attention for herself by regurgitating the tiresome and false insinuations that they had a lesbian affair.
However, the beef might have been squashed for good. In 2019, both Maureen and Eve participated in the HGTV series A Very Brady Renovation, in which they worked together to renovate the original Brady Bunch house. It's good to have the family back together!
The Brady Bunch Didn't Make A Ton Of Money In Its First Run
Barry Williams Filmed An Episode While He Was High
The Season 4 Episode of The Brady Bunch, "Law and Disorder", was more disorder than law for brother Greg. The actor, Barry Williams, was meant to have the day off, and so was hanging with his brother and his friends, who offered him a joint. Right after, Williams was called back to set, and decided to really flex his acting chops:
In my mind, I made up a history for the bike; why it needed air, what happened to the tire, where I had been riding it at the time. When rehearsal began, I proceeded to get involved with the spokes of the wheel, forming a relationship with each individual spoke, and then trying to come up with a more aerodynamic design for them.
He ended up tripping over a bike pump in his endeavor to act casual, but hey, at least they got the shot. That's a wrap!
Robert Reed Clashed With Producers Over The Storylines
Robert Reed was known for his background in theater and serious acting, constantly expressed concerns about the show's scripts, believing they lacked depth and intellectual value. Tensions between Reed and the show's producers reached a boiling point As The Brady Bunch approached its final episode, "The Hair-Brained Scheme'. Reed found the storyline to be absurd, poorly written and unrealistic, leading him to write a lengthy memo to the show's creator, Sherwood Schwartz. Reed's memo criticized various aspects of the script, from the implausibility of the hair tonic plot to the episode's lack of meaningful character development.
Robert Reed Bailed On The Finale
The creative clashes between Reed and the producers escalated to the point where he was ultimately excluded from the final episode. After producers and the show creator, Sherwood Schwartz, received a lengthy memo detailing the Brady patriarch's grievances with the episode, "The Hair-Brained Scheme", Reed continued his protest by not showing up on set until his demanded changes to the finale were made. Schwartz decided they would proceed with the episode as planned:
Where was Robert Reed during all this? He was in his trailer waiting for us to go to him with new scenes which would fundamentally change the script. We didn’t. For the next day or two, he would come out of his trailer and walk to the set. He would stand in the eye line of the actors while they did work that he had refused to do.
Reed finally showed up to set, but just to kind of hang around glaring at everyone while the finale was being filmed.
Producers Weren't Allows To Show The Family's Toilet On Screen
It wasn't just the Brady family's toilet that couldn't be shown on screen - it was everyone's. Back in the day, television shows adhered to certain unwritten rules to avoid offending audiences or attracting regulatory scrutiny - one being keeping toilets off screen. The primary reason behind this was to maintain a sense of decorum, as showing toilets was considered inappropriate and in poor taste. This unwritten rule persisted throughout the 1950s and 1960s. However, the taboo began to loosen in the late 1960s and early 1970s as societal norms shifted and television content became more progressive. One of the first instances of a toilet being shown on television occurred in the 1971 sitcom All in the Family. The show frequently featured the character Archie Bunker flushing the toilet off-screen, and the bathroom set did include a toilet. However, the Bradys played it safe, and kept their porcelain throne a mystery.
The Actors Were Forced To Wear Dorky Clothing In Order To Keep The Show From Being Too Dated
Writers Had To Incorporate Maureen McCormick's Nose Injury Into The Show
"Oh, my nose!" Remember the episode, "The Subject of Noses"? Well, that episode was based around Maureen McCormick's - Marcia Brady's - real life nasal incident. In the episode, Marcia is all excited about a big date coming up, when the Brady boys accidentally knock her in the face with a football. Oof! In real life, the accident was a lot more harrowing. McCormick was in a car accident the week before shooting, and ended up with a broken shnozz. Luckily both Maureen and Marcia's noses ended up ok in the end!
Marcia Was Really Hit In The Face With A Football
Despite breaking her nose in a car accident only a week prior to filming, Marcia, played by Maureen McCormick, was actually hit in the face with a football in the episode, "The Subject Of Noses" - albeit accidentally. Her on-screen brother Greg, played by Barry Williams, describes the incident below:
It was a real football. But it was thrown into screen very close to her, maybe a couple of feet. Actually, the prop man tried a couple of times and it didn’t connect. Then, (Peter Brady actor) Christopher Knight reminded me that he came in and he actually lobbed it into her face. That’s how it happened.
The Cast Was Nearly Injured In A Roller Coaster Accident
In the episode "The Cincinnati Kids", the Brady kids visit a theme park, where they ride a roller coaster, as one does. However, things could have gone terribly wrong if not for the watchful eye of their TV dad, played by Robert Reed. Reed noticed that the camera mounted on the coaster cart seemed a bit loose, so the showrunners decided to do a test run with an empty cart just in case. Sure enough, the camera came flying straight off at high speed - right into where the kids' faces would have been. After that, they made sure everything was on tight before they got the shot. Either way, Cindy, played by Susan Olsen, would have been spared - she refused to get on! Same, Cindy. Same.
Carol's First Marriage Was Never Explained Because The Network Forbid The Producers From Discussing Divorce
In The Brady Bunch, it's made clear that Mike is a widower in episodes like "The Honeymoon". However, the show creator Sherwood Schwartz has mentioned that Carol Brady is meant to be a divorcee. So who is Carol's first husband? Why is he never seen or mentioned? Well, back during the days of The Brady Bunch divorce was still a pretty taboo topic, so the network decided to just clam up and never make mention of what happened to Carol's husband. However, Florence Henderson, who played Carol, had her own ideas:
No, nobody ever said [what happened to Carol’s husband]. I always said I just got rid of him. I killed my husband. I was the original black widow!
Cousin Oliver Caused Tension With The Cast
We all know him. We all hate him. Cousin Oliver is a character so annoying that he's given rise to a whole new phenomenon: Cousin Oliver Syndrome, which is a term for when a new, often younger, character is introduced to a long-running TV show in a forced, unsuccessful attempt to boost ratings or add fresh storylines. On the final season of The Brady Bunch, cousin Oliver was played by Robbie Rist, who actor Barry Williams felt didn't really fit in with the rest of the cast:
Robbie came into a tough situation. The writers were floundering and he 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.' I haven’t had much contact with him, but I’m sure he is a nice guy and I certainly wish him every success.
Robert Reed Was Often Drunk When Not Filming
Like Mike Lockinwood, who played his on-screen son Bobby, Robert Reed struggled with alcoholism. He would often drink on his lunch breaks, making it impossible to keep filming in the afternoons. Reed was notoriously critical of The Brady Bunch, and difficult to deal with creatively, however there was much more to him than that. He was a caring father figure even off-screen to his child co-stars, taking them on trips and buying them gifts. His on-screen wife, Florence Henderson, notes that some of his more toxic behavior was probably caused by his personal struggles:
Here he was, the perfect father of this wonderful little family, a perfect husband. Off camera, 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. I never asked him. I never challenged him. I had a lot of compassion for him because I knew how he was suffering with keeping this secret.
Florence Henderson Thought Robert Reed Was Condescending
Mike Brady was a lot more negative off-screen than on. His constant criticisms about the show, and arguments with the showrunners took a huge toll, both on the work environment as a whole and on his co-stars. Florence Henderson, who played his on-screen wife Carol, often had to act as a mediator between Reed and the show creator, Sherwood Schwartz:
That was, you know, the only negative thing about the show. The fact that Bob and Sherwood did not get along. That kind of negativity takes a toll on a workplace environment. I don’t like negativity. I don’t like to be around it while I work. Anger frightens me. I think it has a very negative effect on the people that are around it, especially when it’s done in front of them. I would often talk [Robert] down. Or Sherwood, and try to find a way to make it work so everybody could keep their jobs and keep the show on the air.
At Least One Character Per Episode Was Cut To Save Money
At the time of its release, The Brady Bunch was only a mild success, only really blowing up after the show ended. While filming, the studio would constantly come up with interesting methods to cut costs and optimize profits, much to the chagrin of the cast and crew. Show creator Sherwood Schwartz and his son, Lloyd, dug into one particular method in their book, Brady, Brady, Brady: The Complete Story of The Brady Bunch as Told by the Father/Son Team who Really Know:
Later, also for a few episodes, the studio - again to save money - arbitrarily asked us to eliminate one of the six kids from each episode on a rotating basis. We did it for a short while, but Dad talked the studio out of this since he knew the audience had their favorites and would miss the missing Brady kid.
Episodes where kids got the cut included "Call Me Irresponsible", "The Tattle-Tale", and "A Fist-ful of Reasons". Which Brady kid did you miss most?
The Cast Didn't Make A Lot Of Money From The Show
Due to the eventual syndication and popularity of The Brady Bunch, you'd assume that the surviving cast members are rolling in dough, but nothing could be further from the truth. Susan Olsen, who played youngest daughter Cindy, explained the situation below - it was all because of bad timing:
It wasn’t like we signed some bad deal. This is the way things were before 1973: people only got paid for reruns for the first 10 runs, and the first 10 runs were over with probably by 1979. So, we made no money since then.