In 1966, following the success of his TV series Gilligan's Island, Sherwood Schwartz conceived the idea for The Brady Bunch after reading in The Los Angeles Times that "30% of marriages [in the United States] have a child or children from a previous marriage." He set to work on a pilot script for a series tentatively titled Mine and Yours. Schwartz then developed the script to include three children for each parent. While Mike Brady is depicted as being a widower, Schwartz originally wanted the character of Carol Brady to have been a divorcée, but the network objected to this. A compromise was reached whereby Carol's marital status (whether she was divorced or widowed) was never directly revealed.
Schwartz shopped the series to the "big three" television networks of the era. ABC, CBS, and NBC all liked the script, but each network wanted changes before they would commit to filming, so Schwartz shelved the project. Although similarities exist between the series and two 1968 theatrical release films, United Artists' Yours, Mine and Ours (starring Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball) and CBS's With Six You Get Eggroll (starring Brian Keith and Doris Day), the original script for The Brady Bunch predated the scripts for both of these films. Nonetheless, the outstanding success of the United Artists film (the 11th-highest grossing film of 1968) was a factor in ABC's decision to order episodes for the series.
After receiving a commitment for 13 weeks of television shows from ABC in 1968, Schwartz hired film and television director John Rich to direct the pilot, cast the six children from 264 interviews during that summer, and hired the actors to play the mother role (whose maiden name was Tyler and first married name was Martin), the father role, and the housekeeper role. As the sets were built on Paramount Television stage 5, adjacent to the stage where H.R. Pufnstuf was filmed by Sid and Marty Krofft, who later produced The Brady Bunch Hour, the production crew prepared the back yard of a home in Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles, as the Tyler home's exterior location to shoot the chaotic backyard wedding scene. Filming of the pilot began on Friday, October 4, 1968, and lasted eight days.
Mike Brady (Robert Reed), a widowed architect with three sons, Greg (Barry Williams), Peter (Christopher Knight), and Bobby (Mike Lookinland), marries Carol Martin (Florence Henderson), who herself has three daughters: Marcia (Maureen McCormick), Jan (Eve Plumb), and Cindy (Susan Olsen). The wife and daughters take the Brady surname. Included in the blended family are Mike's live-in housekeeper, Alice Nelson (Ann B. Davis), and the boys' dog, Tiger. The setting is a large, suburban, two-story house designed by Mike, in a Los Angeles suburb.
In the first season, awkward adjustments, accommodations, gender rivalries, and resentments inherent in blended families dominate the stories. In an early episode, Carol tells Bobby that the only "steps" in their household lead to the second floor (in other words, that the family contains no "stepchildren", only "children"). Thereafter, the episodes focus on typical preteen and teenaged adjustments such as sibling rivalry, puppy love, self image, character building, and responsibility.
The regular cast appeared in an opening title sequence in which video head shots were arranged in a three-by-three grid, with each cast member appearing to look at the other cast members. The sequence used the then-new "multi-dynamic image technique" created by Canadian filmmaker Christopher Chapman; as a result of the popular attention it garnered in this sequence, it has been referred to in the press as "the Brady Bunch effect". In a 2010 issue of TV Guide, the show's opening title sequence ranked number eight on a list of TV's top-10 credits sequences, as selected by readers.Robert Reed as Mike Brady
Florence Henderson as Carol Brady
Ann B. Davis as Alice Nelson
Barry Williams as Greg Brady
Maureen McCormick as Marcia Brady
Christopher Knight as Peter Brady
Eve Plumb as Jan Brady
Mike Lookinland as Bobby Brady
Susan Olsen as Cindy Brady
Sam Franklin (Allan Melvin) is Alice's boyfriend. He is the owner of a local butcher shop. Sam appears in only eight episodes, but they span all five seasons. He is also frequently mentioned in dialogue, and Alice occasionally goes on dates with him off-screen. By the time of the 1981 made-for-TV movie The Brady Girls Get Married, Alice and Sam are married.
Tiger the dog – the original dog that played Tiger was hit by a florist truck and killed early in the first season. A replacement dog proved problematic, so the producers decided the dog would only appear when essential to the plot. Tiger appeared in about half the episodes in the first season and about half a dozen episodes in the second season. Tiger seemingly vanished without an explanation and was not shown again after "The Impractical Joker" (last episode shown with Tiger) and "What Goes Up" (last episode made with Tiger).
Mr. Phillips (Jack Collins) is Mike's boss at the architectural firm. He appears in only three episodes, all during season two, but is often mentioned in other episodes when issues occur around Mike's work.
Cousin Oliver (Robbie Rist) – in the middle of season five, producers added a new character named Oliver, Carol Brady's young nephew, who was sent to live with the Bradys while his parents were living in South America. The character was added in an attempt to fill the age gap left by the maturing Brady children – the youngest (Susan Olsen) was 12 years old during the show's final season. Lloyd Schwartz, son of creator and executive producer Sherwood Schwartz, later admitted that the character threw off the balance of the show and said that fans regarded the character as an interloper. Oliver appeared in the final six episodes of season five, which proved to be the final season, as ABC cancelled the series in 1974. The addition of the character has been cited as the moment the series "jumped the shark". The term "Cousin Oliver" has been used to describe the addition of a young character to a series in an attempt to save a series from cancellation.
Herbert Anderson (known for playing Dennis's father in the 1960s sitcom Dennis the Menace) as a doctor who comes to treat the boys' measles in "Is There a Doctor in the House?" (season one)
Melissa Sue Anderson, who later rose to fame playing Mary Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie, played Millicent, a girl who gives Bobby his first kiss ("Never Too Young", season five)
Desi Arnaz, Jr. (teen heartthrob son of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball) meets Marcia, who had written about him in her diary in "The Possible Dream" (season one)
Jim Backus (Thurston Howell III in Gilligan's Island) appears three times in the series, twice in two of the three Grand Canyon episodes, "Ghost Town U.S.A." and "Grand Canyon or Bust", playing Zaccariah T. Brown, who mistakenly thinks the Bradys are jumping his gold claim and locks them in a ghost-town jail, and in "The Hustler" (season five) playing Mike's second boss, Mr. Harry Matthews
Ken Berry (known for F Troop, Mayberry RFD and Mama's Family). In 1973 Sherwood Schwartz wrote a Brady Bunch spin-off called Kelly's Kids, which featured Berry as the adoptive father of three diverse boys (black, white, and Asian). The pilot failed to interest ABC.
Imogene Coca (known for Your Show of Shows and one of the cast members of Sherwood Schwartz's It's About Time TV series) plays the Brady girls' great-aunt Jenny, whom Jan fears she will grow up to resemble after seeing a childhood photo of her in "Jan's Aunt Jenny" (season three)
Don Drysdale (Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher) tries to inject reality into Greg's dreams of being a professional baseball player in "The Dropout" (season two)
Don Ho (Hawaiian singer) meets Cindy and Bobby and serenaded Cindy in Honolulu in "Hawaii Bound" (part one of a three-part season-four episode, filmed on location in Hawaii)
Davy Jones (of The Monkees) performs at a music studio and then takes Marcia to her school dance in "Getting Davy Jones" (season three) (he also satirized his cameo decades later in The Brady Bunch Movie).
Deacon Jones (Los Angeles Rams defensive end) encourages Peter's singing in "The Drummer Boy" (season two).
E. G. Marshall as Mr. J.P. Randolph, Marcia's school principal in "The Slumber Caper" (season two) (Marshall and Robert Reed co-starred in The Defenders in 1961–65 – making this a reunion of the two).
Bart La Rue, immortalized in Star Trek history as the iconic voice of the Guardian of Forever, played a sports coach in the (season two) episodes "Click" and "The Drummer Boy".
Brigadier General James McDivitt (NASA astronaut) signs autographs for Peter and Bobby after appearing on a talk show in "Out of This World" (season five).
Joe Namath (New York Jets quarterback) visits Bobby because he thought that Bobby had a terminal illness in "Mail Order Hero" (season five).
Wes Parker (Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman) meets Mike and Greg in Greg's math classroom, thus curing Greg of the crush he had on his teacher Miss Linda O'Hara (played by Gigi Perreau), Parker's fiancée in "The Undergraduate" (season one).
Vincent Price (horror film actor) appears twice in the series in two of the three Hawaii episodes, "Pass the Tabu", and "The Tiki Caves" from season four, playing the villainous Professor Hubert Whitehead, who holds the Brady boys hostage.
Marion Ross (later known as Mrs. Cunningham in Happy Days) appears as a doctor who comes to treat the girls' measles in "Is There a Doctor in the House?" (season one).
Natalie Schafer (Lovey Howell in Gilligan's Island) is Mike's fussy client, Penelope Fletcher, who is charmed by Cindy's impromptu 'Shirley Temple' routine in "The Snooperstar" (season five).
Marcia Wallace played a salesclerk in "Would the Real Jan Brady Please Stand Up" (season two) and "Mrs. Robbins" in "Getting Davy Jones" (season three).
Rita Wilson (actress and wife of Tom Hanks) Wilson's career began with a guest appearance on The Brady Bunch in the 1972 episode "Greg's Triangle," where she played one of the candidates running against Marcia for head cheerleader.
Paul Winchell (ventriloquist and actor; Winchell-Mahoney Time, voice of "Tigger" in Winnie-the-Pooh) appears as Skip Farnum, the TV commercial director in "And Now a Word From Our Sponsor" (season three).
The Brady Bunch never achieved high ratings during its primetime run (never placing in the top 30 during the five years it aired) and was cancelled in 1974 after five seasons and 117 episodes; it was cancelled shortly after the series crossed the minimum threshold for syndication. At that point in the story, Greg graduated from high school and was about to enroll in college.
When the episodes were repeated in syndication, they usually appeared every weekday in late-afternoon or early-evening slots on local stations. This enabled children to watch the episodes when they came home from school, making the program widely popular and giving it iconic status among those who were too young to have seen the series during its primetime run.
According to Schwartz, the reason the show has become a part of Americana, despite the fact other shows have run longer, were rated higher, and were critically acclaimed, is that the episodes were written from the standpoint of the children and addressed situations that children could understand (such as boy trouble, sibling rivalry, and meeting famous people such as a rock star or baseball players). The Bradys are also portrayed as a harmonious family, though they do have times when one of the children does not cooperate with his or her parents or the other children.
Since its first airing in syndication in September 1975, an episode of the show has been broadcast somewhere in the United States and abroad every day of the year. Episodes were also shown on ABC daytime from July 9, 1973 to April 18, 1975 and from June 30-August 29, 1975, at 11:30 a.m. EST/10:30 CST.
The show was aired on TBS starting in the 1980s until 1997, Nick at Nite in 1995 (for a special event), and again from 1998 to 2003 (and briefly during the spring of 2012), TeenNick (under the channel's former name The N) from March to April 2004, on TV Land on and off from 2002 to 2015, Nick Jr. (as part of the NickMom block from 2012 to 2013), and Hallmark Channel from January to June 2013 and again starting September 5, 2016, until September 30, 2016.
Episodes in the syndicated version have been edited for time to allow for commercial breaks, down from the original version of 25–26 minutes.
As of 2015, the series is being shown on some local stations around the country, while airing nationally on Me-TV weekday mornings at 7 am ET, and Sundays from noon–2 pm ET (in a block promoted as "The Brady Brunch").
During the series' original run, the Brady kids recorded several albums on Paramount's record label.Merry Christmas From The Brady Bunch—Paramount 5026–1970
Meet The Brady Bunch—Paramount 6032–1972—Billboard #108
The Kids From The Brady Bunch—Paramount 6037–1972
Phonographic Album—Paramount 6058–1973
Chris Knight & Maureen McCormick—Paramount 6062–1973
It's a Sunshine Day: The Best of The Brady Bunch—MCA 10764–1993
Also includes solo recordings as indicated
Several spin-offs and sequels to the original series have been made, featuring all or most of the original cast. These include another sitcom, an animated series, a variety show, television movies, a dramatic series, a stage play, and theatrical movies:
A final-season Brady Bunch episode, "Kelly's Kids", was intended as a pilot for a prospective spin-off series of the same name. Ken Berry starred as Ken Kelly, a friend and neighbor of the Bradys, who with his wife Kathy (Brooke Bundy) adopted three orphaned boys of different racial backgrounds. One of the adopted sons was played by Todd Lookinland, the younger brother of Mike Lookinland. While Kelly's Kids was not subsequently picked up as a full series, producer Sherwood Schwartz reworked the basic premise for the short-lived 1980s sitcom Together We Stand starring Elliott Gould and Dee Wallace.
A 22-episode animated Saturday morning cartoon series, produced by Filmation and airing on ABC from September 1972 to August 1974, is about the Brady kids having various adventures. The family's adults were never seen or mentioned, and the "home" scenes were in a very large, well-appointed tree house. Several animals were regular characters, including two non-English-speaking pandas (Ping and Pong), a talking bird (Marlon) which could do magic, and an ordinary pet dog (Mop Top, not Tiger). The first 17 episodes featured the voices of all six of the original child actors from the show, but Barry Williams, Maureen McCormick, and Christopher Knight were replaced for the last five episodes due to a contract dispute.
On November 28, 1976, a two-hour television special entitled The Brady Bunch Variety Hour aired on ABC. Eve Plumb was the only regular cast member from the original show who declined to be in the series and the role of Jan was recast with Geri Reischl. Produced by Sid and Marty Krofft, the sibling team behind H.R. Pufnstuf, Donny and Marie, and other variety shows and children's series of the era, the show was intended to air every fifth week in the same slot as The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, but ended up being scheduled sporadically throughout the season, leading to inconsistent ratings and its inevitable cancellation.
In 2009, Brady Bunch cast member Susan Olsen, with Lisa Sutton, published a book, Love to Love You Bradys, which dissects and celebrates the Variety Hour as a cult classic.
A TV reunion movie called The Brady Girls Get Married was produced in 1981. Although scheduled to be shown in its original full-length movie format, NBC at the last minute divided it into half-hour segments and showed one part a week for three weeks, and the fourth week debuted a spin-off sitcom titled The Brady Brides. The reunion movie featured the entire original cast; this proved to be the only time the entire cast worked together on a single project following the cancellation of the original series. The movie's opening credits featured the season-one "Grid" and theme song, with the addition of The Brady Girls Get Married title. The movie shows what the characters had been doing since the original series ended: Mike is still an architect, Carol is a real-estate agent, Marcia is a fashion designer, Jan is also an architect, Greg is a doctor, Peter is in the Air Force, Bobby and Cindy are in college, and Alice has married Sam. Eventually, they all reunite for Marcia and Jan's double wedding.
The Brady Brides features Maureen McCormick (Marcia) and Eve Plumb (Jan) in regular roles. The series begins with Marcia and Jan and their new husbands buying a house and living together. The clashes between Jan's uptight and conservative husband, Philip Covington III (a college professor in science who is several years older than Jan, played by Ron Kuhlman) and Marcia's slovenly and more bohemian husband, Wally Logan (a fun-loving salesman for a large toy company, played by Jerry Houser), were the pivot on which many of the stories were based, not unlike The Odd Couple. Florence Henderson and Ann B. Davis also appeared regularly. Ten episodes were aired before the sitcom was cancelled. This was the only Brady show in sitcom form to be filmed in front of a live studio audience. Bob Eubanks guest-starred as himself in an episode where the two couples appear on The Newlywed Game.
Throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, The Brady Girls Get Married was rerun on various networks in its original full-length movie format.
A second TV reunion movie, A Very Brady Christmas, aired in December 1988 on CBS and featured all the regular cast (except Susan Olsen, who was on her honeymoon at the time of filming; the role of Cindy was played by Jennifer Runyon), as well as three grandchildren, Peter's girlfriend, Valerie, and the spouses of Greg, Marcia, and Jan (Nora, Wally, and Phillip, respectively). The Nielsen ratings for A Very Brady Christmas were the highest of any television movie that season for CBS.
Due to the success of A Very Brady Christmas, CBS asked Brady Bunch creator Sherwood Schwartz and his son Lloyd to create a new series for the network. According to Lloyd Schwartz, his father and he initially balked at the idea because they felt a new series would harm the Brady franchise. They finally relented because CBS was "desperate for programming". A new series featuring the Brady clan was created entitled The Bradys. All the original Brady Bunch cast members returned for the series, except for McCormick (Marcia), who was replaced with Leah Ayres.
As with A Very Brady Christmas, The Bradys also featured elements of comedy and drama and featured storylines that were of a more serious nature than that of the original series and its subsequent spin-offs. Lloyd Schwartz later said he compared The Bradys to another dramedy of the time, thirtysomething. The two-hour series premiere episode aired on February 9, 1990, at 9 pm on CBS and initially drew respectable ratings. Subsequent episodes were moved to 8 pm, where ratings quickly declined. Due to the decline, CBS cancelled the series after six episodes.
The Day by Day episode, titled "A Very Brady Episode" (February 5, 1989), on NBC, reunited six of the original The Brady Bunch cast members: Ann B. Davis, Florence Henderson, Christopher Knight, Mike Lookinland, Maureen McCormick, and Robert Reed.
Twenty years following the conclusion of the original series, a film adaptation, The Brady Bunch Movie went into production and was released in 1995 from Paramount Pictures. The film is set in the present day (1990s) and the Bradys, still living their lives as if it were the 1970s, are unfamiliar with their surroundings. It stars Gary Cole and Shelley Long as Mike and Carol Brady, with Christopher Daniel Barnes (Greg), Christine Taylor (Marcia), Paul Sutera (Peter), Jennifer Elise Cox (Jan), Jesse Lee (Bobby), Olivia Hack (Cindy), Henriette Mantel (Alice), and cameo appearances from Ann B. Davis as a long-haul truck driver and Florence Henderson as Carol's mother.
A sequel, A Very Brady Sequel, was released in 1996. The cast of the first film returned for the sequel. A second sequel, The Brady Bunch in the White House was made-for-television and was aired on Fox in 2002. Shelley Long and Gary Cole returned for the third film, while the Brady kids and Alice were recast.
Paramount Home Entertainment released all five seasons on DVD in Region 1 from 2005 to 2006, before CBS DVD took over DVD rights to the Paramount Television library (though CBS DVD releases are still distributed by Paramount). Paramount/CBS has released the series on DVD in other countries as well.
A Complete Series box set was released in 2007 by CBS and Paramount, which includes the TV movies A Very Brady Christmas and "The Brady 500" (an episode of The Bradys), as well as two episodes of The Brady Kids animated series. The box art for the set features green shag carpeting and 1970s-style wood paneling.
The first two seasons are also available on Region 2 DVD for the Nordic countries, with audio in English and subtitle choices in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, or Finnish. The series has also been released on VHS, but the VHS tapes have gone out of print.
On April 7, 2015, CBS Home Entertainment released a repackaged version of the complete series set, at a lower price, but it does not include the bonus disc that was part of the original complete series release.
Seasons one and two have also been released in the UK.