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What You Probably Didn't Know About The Brady Bunch

Mike, Carol, Greg, Jan, Peter, Bobby, Cindy, and of course Marcia, Marcia, Marcia. For many generations of fans, "The Brady Bunch" showed the world an idealistic vision of suburban family life — the kind of family we all wished we lived in. Everyone gets into fun misadventures, problems get solved in half an hour, and nine people (including Alice) all live together under one roof in relative harmony.

"The Brady Bunch" debuted in September 1969 on ABC and it lasted five seasons. While it was a modest success in its time, its cult status grew over the years. As time went on, it became a beloved sitcom classic. 

For many fans growing up, the Brady home was a comfortable place we could go to whenever the show was on the air. As the fans grew older, "The Brady Bunch" also provided warm nostalgia for those of us wishing to go back to a simpler time in life. Even if you've seen all 117 episodes, there's a lot about the series you may not know yet. Here's a list of what you probably didn't know about "The Brady Bunch."

The original idea came from a statistic about families

"The Brady Bunch" was created by Sherwood Schwartz, the legendary producer who also gave us "Gilligan's Island," another TV classic that's been in syndication for decades. 

A show idea can come from anywhere, and for Schwartz, the idea for "The Brady Bunch" came from an article he saw in the L.A. Times in the '60s. A statistic jumped out at him — 31% of marriages had kids from a previous marriage. As Schwartz explained (via Bradyworld), this statistic "indicated a remarkable sociological change in our country." It also provided a great idea for a family sitcom.

Schwartz started writing the idea and the theme song that would immediately explain the premise to the viewers. The first time Schwartz shopped the idea around, he had creative differences with the major networks and the germ of "The Brady Bunch" languished for some time.

Then when Schwartz tried to sell "The Brady Bunch" in the late '60s, a movie called "Yours, Mine & Ours" was a hit of the era. In "Yours, Mine & Ours," Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball are living together with 18 kids. In fact, the original title of the show was "Yours and Mine." It was also called "The Brady Brood" before Schwartz finally settled on "The Brady Bunch."

After this somewhat lengthy development process, "The Brady Bunch" finally aired on September 26, 1969.

Gene Hackman was up to play Mike Brady

It's hard to imagine a tough, intense actor like Gene Hackman playing the dad on a sitcom, but Gene Hackman was one of a number of actors Schwartz considered to play Mike Brady.

As Schwartz recalled in the book "Brady, Brady, Brady," he wanted to interview Hackman for the role, but Paramount put a halt to it. The reason? His TVQ rating was low, even though he was nominated for an Academy Award for "Bonnie and Clyde."

For those who don't know what TVQ is, it's a ratio that TV executives use to see if audiences know an actor well. If he's not well recognized by TV audiences, his TVQ is low.

Robert Reed already had a deal with Paramount, he was well known for a popular legal show called "The Defenders," so he certainly had some TVQ going for him. While Reed was a much more serious actor and wasn't totally crazy about being on a sitcom, "The Brady Bunch" would forever cement him as one of the best-loved TV dads in history.

Hackman did alright for himself without "The Brady Bunch." He went on to win the best actor Oscar for "The French Connection," and starred in many great films including "Superman," where he played Lex Luthor, "Hoosiers," "Mississippi Burning," "Unforgiven," "Get Shorty," "The Royal Tenenbaums," and more.

Another actress almost played Carol Brady

Just as Gene Hackman had a shot at playing Mike Brady, the role of Carol Brady almost went to Joyce Bulifant, but she was let go before they shot the pilot.

As Bulifant recalled (via Fox News), she was "signed, sealed and delivered" to play Carol Brady. As she was trying on costumes, Sherwood Schwartz came to her with a concerned look on his face. Bulifant was aghast when she was told she was being replaced by Florence Henderson. "I had signed a seven-year contract," she recalled, incredulous. "The little girls were cast to look like me."

Like Hackman, Bulifant recovered nicely after losing the part. She went on to play Marie Slaughter on the long-running sitcom classic "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." "It all turned out just fine," Bulifant continued. "I was very fond of Florence and she was a lovely lady."

What happened to Carol's first husband is never explicitly stated

While Mike Brady is a widower, it's actually not clear what happened to Carol Brady's first husband. A lot of people assume she's divorced, but as it turns out, it's never really discussed on the show.

As a report in Slate reminds us, the Brady girls never mention their original father, and we never see him on the show. While "The Brady Bunch" may seem like safe family entertainment today, it was actually considered somewhat of a radical show for the time because it captured how family dynamics were changing. But even with television evolving, the show wasn't so radical that it could talk openly about divorce.

As the '60s turned into the '70s, divorce rates were going up, and the landscape of American families was changing. Nonetheless, divorce was still a touchy subject for television at the time, so it was never explicitly said that Carol was divorced.

Years later, Henderson claimed that she killed her husband. "I was the original black widow," she joked (via Huffington Post).

The Brady Bunch bathroom didn't have a toilet

It's tough enough for six kids to share a bathroom, but it's hard to imagine sharing a bathroom without a toilet. Many people didn't catch on to this for a long time, but "The Brady Bunch" bathroom doesn't have a toilet. According to one report (via Yahoo), the network standards of the time would not allow a toilet to be shown on TV before 10 pm.

As Eve Plumb, who played Jan, recalled, "At the time, the idea was that it was just sort of tacky to be showing toilets on TV. Nowadays, everybody's on the toilet!"

Many years after the world caught on to the fact that the Bradys had no commode, the house finally got one on the reality TV show "A Very Brady Renovation." Maureen McCormick, who played Marcia, even gave the commode a test drive, "and it was good," she said.

Susan Olsen's lisp was real

Cindy, played by Susan Olsen, was known for having a lisp. As it turns out, Olsen's lisp was legit, and it helped her get the role on "The Brady Bunch." As Sherwood Schwartz recalled in "Brady, Brady, Brady," it was easier to cast the girls on the show, and he remembered Olsen's interview clearly decades after the fact.

Olsen came in, talked about a recent appearance on the Western "Gunsmoke," and tried to say she rode a horse but called it a "horth." As Schwartz wrote, "She was adorable, and she got to be 'Thindy' based on that brief meeting."

Rather than try to downplay her lisp, or have Olsen work with speech therapists, Schwartz let her speak naturally, and it helped create one of the most memorable episodes of the show where she has to confront a bully who makes fun of her speech impediment. It also gave Cindy her own special trademark, along with her pigtails. 

Schwartz continues, "With Susan, as with all the kids, we just took who they were and that became their characters."

Greg and Marcia: Did they or didn't they?

It's something many fans speculated about throughout the years — since the Brady brothers and sisters were within the same age groups, did they date when the cameras weren't rolling?

As many have suspected, Greg and Marcia did indeed date, which Barry Williams confirmed in his book "Growing Up Brady" and Maureen McCormick confirmed in her own memoir, "Here's the Story."

McCormick recalled they had their first kiss when they were filming the show in Hawaii, and she described the event in her book in the spirit of a torrid romance novel. "We couldn't hold back any longer. It was our first kiss, and it was long, passionate, and deep." Then it finally hit her — "Oh my God! I'm kissing my brother. What am I doing?"

Of course, none of this hit the press for decades, and it certainly would have made the show look a whole lot different had anyone known, even if audiences suspected there was something going on between Marcia and Greg all along.

Greg and Mrs. Brady: Did they or didn't they?

We know that Greg and Marcia were romantically involved, but at one point, there was also speculation that Barry Williams and his TV mother Florence Henderson may have hooked up as well. As it turns out, this rumor was a wee bit exaggerated.

In Williams' bestselling book "Growing Up Brady," he confessed to having a crush on Henderson, and he wrote, "When those little things called hormones start kicking in, you get excited by even inanimate objects. It wasn't that I sought to bed her. I just wanted to spend time with her."

Clearly, there was a big age difference between the two; Henderson was 36 and Williams was 16. If they had an affair, it would have been a big scandal, especially considering Henderson was married with four children of her own. Thankfully, they went out to dinner together and that's all that happened.

As Henderson recalled (via Outsider), "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!" And why let the truth stand in the way of a good story?

Robert Reed feuded with the show's producer

While the Brady bunch largely got along behind the scenes, off the set, Robert Reed and producer Sherwood Schwartz often butted heads.

Robert Reed, much like Fred Gwynne and John Ritter, was a much better actor than many knew, and he was clearly frustrated by the limitations of a TV sitcom. As Schwartz recalled (via Best Life), Reed felt the medium was beneath him, but even when he had disagreements about a line, he said it with conviction. However, there was one major exception to this rule. At one point, Reed was supposed to say that a dish Alice cooked smelled like "strawberry heaven." Reed looked it up in an encyclopedia and learned that strawberries don't smell when you cook them. Therefore, the line was changed to "I do believe I've died and gone to strawberry heaven."

Reed also didn't appear in the last episode of the series where Greg buys a hair tonic from Bobby and it turns his hair orange. Reed and Schwartz fought over the script, and Schwartz cut Reed out of the episode.

Despite their battles, Schwartz acknowledged that the chemistry among the actors was genuine, and they were all truly fond of each other. "They became very attached to each other," Schwartz said. "Even Bob Reed, who was a personal pain to me, loved the kids and they loved him."

Tiger, the family dog, was killed and had to be replaced

Cute dogs have always been a staple of TV and movies going all the way back to Rin Tin Tin and Lassie. "The Brady Bunch" had Tiger, who was unfortunately killed during the first season.

Tiger disappears from the show without explanation, and he was reportedly run over. Tiger's trainer rushed to find a replacement dog at the pound, but he didn't perform as well as the original dog. In "Brady, Brady, Brady," Schwartz recalled noticing a reduced quality of dog acting and asked his trainer what was going on. The trainer had to confess, "Tiger was home, and he got out. He was hit by a car and killed."

It's not clear if the public knew about Tiger getting run over at the time, or if the world learned much later. If it wasn't known when the show was originally on the air, that was definitely for the best, because one can imagine the trauma Tiger's death would cause fans of "The Brady Bunch."

The Brady Bunch was not a big ratings winner

"The Brady Bunch" has been so ubiquitous on TV for so long that it's surprising to learn it was never a big ratings winner when it was first on the air.

"The Brady Bunch" debuted on September 26, 1969, and it finally went off the air on March 8, 1974, after 117 episodes. But surprisingly, the show never made it to the top 30 of the Nielsen ratings, but it did well enough for ABC to keep it going for five years.

There was even going to be a Season 6, but as Sherwood Schwartz recalled in a chat with the Television Academy Foundation. ABC didn't think it was worth it "because the show was not doing that well. It was okay, but not anywhere near as good as it was two or three years earlier. So, it went out peacefully."

Considering how much the show is beloved today, it's hard to figure out why it was not a smash in its time. One report from Outsider speculates it could have been popular with kids, while adults weren't crazy about it.

Like another big Paramount hit, "Star Trek," the popularity of "The Brady Bunch" grew in reruns, and eventually, it became the beloved family hit that we all know and love today.

It helped inspire one of the worst shows in TV history

With "The Brady Bunch" growing in popularity in reruns, there were several attempts to bring the Bradys back to TV over the years. There was the 1988 TV movie "A Very Brady Christmas," and 1976's "The Brady Bunch Variety Hour," which was one of the worst TV shows in the history of the medium.

The show was created by Sid and Marty Krofft, puppeteer brothers who created wild children's programs like "Land of the Lost" and "H.R. Pufnstuf." It was an era where the television variety show thrived with programs like "Donny and Marie," but this show was a hideous disaster.

The entire Brady cast was back except for Eve Plumb, who was replaced by Geri Reischl, later dubbed "Fake Jan." On "The Brady Bunch Variety Hour," there were skits, musical numbers where the Bradys sang and danced to disco tunes, and guest stars like Vincent Price and Rip Taylor. It all fell painfully flat.

The show lasted a reported nine episodes before it was mercifully yanked off the air, leaving behind one of the oddest footnotes in television history.