Mr. TV: Very Brady

By now you must know that I’m fanatical about timeless sitcom The Brady Bunch.

Unlike most series that end after the last episode airs, the Brady brood has, to date, spawned three scripted spinoffs, one animated half hour, two theatricals, three made-for TV movies, a reality series, stage plays and musicals, countless specials and reunions, fan sites, and  books, including the latest, Brady Brady Brady: The Complete Story of the Brady Bunch From the Father/Son Team Who Really Know.

That father and son team, of course, is series creator Sherwood Schwartz, now 93 (also the force behind Gilligan’s Island), and Lloyd Schwartz, who honed his behind-the-scenes skills in his 20s on the original series. I had the chance to speak to Lloyd, who happily reminisced.

Forty-one years after debuting, fan can’t get enough of The Brady Bunch. Why has it held up? This was a family sitcom, the first in color, told from the point of view of the children and the issues these kids had—fitting in, getting braces, feeling wanted, etc.—are things that all children face at one time or another. By not being topical and focusing on six kids of different ages, there was really something for everyone.

When the series premiered, you were just starting out. What was your involvement in the series? Initially, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be part of it. But Dad brought me in as dialogue coach after the pilot was shot, and I ultimately moved up the ranks from associate producer to producer to director.

Much has been said about Robert Reed (Mr. Brady) and his displeasure with the series. Yet, he always managed to return for the reunions. Why? Oddly, he did feel like he was head of the Brady family and that Florence Henderson was his wife and the kids his real children. When the characters of Marcia and Jan got married, he said at the time that no one else would walk them down the aisle. Was that a good thing? I’m not so sure. But had he returned for a sixth season, another actor probably would have been cast in his role. Much has been written about his absence from the final episode, but I’m not really sure anyone noticed.

Had there been a season six, would so-called “Jump the Shark” addition Cousin Oliver have returned? And were there plans, as rumored, for Florence Henderson as Carol to give birth to twins (a boy and a girl, of course)? The kids were getting older, and there were conversations before the final season to expand the family. And that was the reason why the character of Cousin Oliver was created who, yes, would have been back.

I recently saw your appearance on Good Morning American with Christopher Knight (Peter), Mike Lookinland (Bobby) and Susan Olsen (Cindy). Are you in contact with the rest of the cast? Yes, I am. We really are like a second family, and the actors are similar to the characters they played.  Sometimes they don’t want to be a part of this. But the one thing I never experienced was being a Brady, so I imagine it can’t always be easy being associated with a role you played so long ago.

What made you decide to write the book? My father still loves to be active. His voice is visible in one half of the book, mine is in the other—and we do not always agree. That is one thing that sets this book apart from anything else. And I really felt like I had something to say. Little did we know way back when what an impact this would have.

Is there any chance of ever getting the “bunch” together for another scripted reunion? If I have learned one thing over the years, it is never say never. But my comfort zone is the parodies we have done over the years and will continue to do into the future. What a ride this had been.