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16 Things You Might Not Know About The Brady Bunch

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Here's the story of a lovely lady, a man named Brady who could've been played by Gene Hackman, six kids, a wacky housekeeper, and how a series that started as a typical formulaic sitcom grew into a syndicated monster. Here are 16 things you might not know about The Brady Bunch.

1. THE CONCEPT ORIGINATED WITH A NEWSPAPER STATISTIC.

“It's very rare that a writer knows exactly where his ideas come from,” producer Sherwood Schwartz once said. “However, in the case of The Brady Bunch, I know exactly what inspired that show. It was just a four-line filler piece in the Los Angeles Times. Just a statistic. It said that year, 1965, 31 percent of all marriages involved people who had a child or children from a previous marriage. It was just a statistic, but to me it indicated a remarkable sociological change in our country. Thirty-one percent is approximately one-third of all marriages. That's a huge statistic.”

It gave him an idea for a TV series called Yours and Mine. He shopped his script to the three major networks but was turned down each time. Three years later, United Artists released a film called Yours, Mine and Ours, starring Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda, which told the story of a widow with eight children who married a father of 10. The film did well at the box office, and suddenly ABC was interested in Schwartz’s script, which was then called The Bradley Brood.

2. HAIR COLOR PLAYED A FACTOR IN CASTING THE BRADY KIDS.

When casting the six Brady kids, Schwartz wasn’t yet sure what the parents would look like (as those actors hadn’t yet been hired), so his goal was to have a total of 12 child actors in reserve: three blonde girls, three blonde boys, three brunette girls, and three dark-haired boys. (It was presumed from the get-go that the parents would have contrasting hair colors, and that their offspring’s locks would correspond likewise.) “As a consequence, to this day, there are three dark-haired girls and three blonde boys about 45 to 50 years old somewhere in the world who might have been The Brady Bunch kids,” Schwartz said in Brady, Brady, Brady: The Complete Story of the Brady Bunch As Told by the Father/Son Team Who Really Know. “And they are just finding that out if they're reading this book.”

Naturally strawberry blonde Mike Lookinland was Schwartz’s first choice for the role of youngest son Bobby, but when brown-haired Robert Reed was cast as the dad, Lookinland had to endure his hair being dyed a variety of colors so that it looked appropriately dark under the harsh studio lights. Susan Olsen, who played Cindy, was naturally blonde, but not light enough to suit the producers. Olsen’s hair was regularly bleached to give her that adorable towhead look on-camera. Unfortunately, the process eventually caused clumps of Susan’s hair to fall out during season two. She tearfully presented her case to head honcho Schwartz, who immediately ordered the staff to leave Cindy’s hair alone.

3. YES, CINDY’S LISP WAS REAL.

Susan Olsen’s endearing real-life lisp was incorporated into the episode “A Fistful of Reasons,” in which mean ol’ Buddy Hinton teased her with that age-old playground taunt “Baby talk, baby talk, it’s a wonder you can walk.” Olsen worked regularly with a speech therapist until the age of 19 and ultimately underwent surgery to help correct her “lazy S.”

4. GENE HACKMAN WAS IN CONTENTION TO PLAY MIKE BRADY.

For the role of Mike Brady (the family’s surname had changed by this time), “there were a number of men I wanted to interview, including Gene Hackman,” recalled Schwartz in Brady, Brady, Brady. “Paramount wouldn’t even okay Gene Hackman for an interview because he had a very low TVQ. (TVQ is a survey that executives use to determine the audience’s familiarity with performances. TV executives have don’t admit to the existence of TVQs, but it is commonly employed in casting.)”

They finally chose Reed because he was already under contract to Paramount, and he had a certain amount of marquee value because of his co-starring role on the popular legal drama series The Defenders. “The year after The Brady Bunch debuted, unknown Gene Hackman with no TVQ starred in The French Connection and won the Academy Award for Best Actor, and has been a major star ever since,” added Schwartz.

5. FLORENCE HENDERSON WASN’T THE FIRST MRS. BRADY.

Comedic actress Joyce Bulifant was so close to inking a contract to play Mrs. Brady that she was used in most of the screen tests with the various child actors for their auditions. In fact, one of the reasons Eve Plumb landed the role of Jan was because of her physical resemblance to Bulifant. Originally, Schwartz envisioned Mrs. Brady as a wacky mom-type, much like Lucille Ball in Yours, Mine and Ours. But the cast dynamics changed when Emmy Award-winning actress Ann B. Davis signed on to play housekeeper Alice. Davis’ Alice would more than fulfill the wackiness quotient, and a more grounded, down-to-earth mother was required to maintain a balance. Texas-born musical theater star Florence Henderson got the job, and Joyce Bulifant went on to a successful career of her own, including playing Murray’s wife on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

6. HENDERSON WASN’T AROUND WHEN FILMING BEGAN ON THE FIRST SIX EPISODES.

Florence Henderson, who wore a wig during the first season of the show because her hair had been cropped short for her recent starring role in an off-Broadway revival of South Pacific, was wrapping up filming on Song of Norway in Denmark when she received word that The Brady Bunch pilot had sold. “And so they started the show without me,” Henderson told NPR in 2014. “They did six episodes without me and then I filled in when I got back to the States.”

7. BARRY WILLIAMS “WENT THROUGH A STAGE OF EXPERIMENTATION.”

Like many teens in the 1970s, Williams—who played eldest brother Greg—was known to occasionally partake in some illegal substances while hanging out with his friends. After sparking up one afternoon on his day off, Williams received a call from the studio that certain scenes of the “Law and Disorder” episode needed to be re-shot. Barry dutifully reported to the set, but it became obvious to all present that something was not quite right with Greg Brady. Aside from his stumbling over nothing in the driveway, there was a glazed look in his eyes and a stilted delivery of his few lines regarding Dad’s purchase of a boat that tipped the producers off and caused furious rewrites to reduce Greg’s part in this episode. “I went through a stage of experimentation as a kid,” Williams wrote on his blog. “I certainly never went to the set high again but I don’t like weed. It makes me feel dumb, paranoid, and hungry.”

8. THERE WAS SOME ROMANCE ON THE SET.

In his book, Growing Up Brady, Barry Williams wrote that he and Maureen McCormick shared their first kiss while in Hawaii filming a three-episode story arc during the show’s fourth season. Their relationship was at its hottest and heaviest around the time they filmed the final episode of that season, “A Room at the Top.” The scene where Marcia and Greg were sitting on her bed together arguing over who should get the attic room took hours to film, as the director kept having to yell “cut” due to the actors getting too cozy on camera. Lloyd Schwartz finally had each actor make a fist and place it between them as they sat on the bed and instructed them to maintain that amount of distance from each other at all times during the scene.

In Brady, Brady, Brady, Lloyd Schwartz mentions that he tried to cool things down between Barry and Maureen mainly because on-the-job romances rarely worked, especially between teenagers. If they had a traumatic breakup, how would they be able to continue to work together? Part of his strategy was to appeal to Barry’s vanity and flatter him, telling him that he was too young and too good-looking to limit himself to one girl.

9. CHRISTOPHER KNIGHT WASN’T BLESSED WITH MUSICAL ABILITY.

Barry Williams, Mike Lookinland, and Maureen McCormick were all excellent vocalists, while Eve Plumb and Susan Olsen could both carry a reasonable tune. Christopher Knight, on the other hand, is the first to admit that his pipes were a bit on the rusty side. When asked to cite the most embarrassing thing he ever did on the show by The Improper Bostonian, Knight didn’t hesitate in responding: “Singing, by far. It was traumatic.” Knight was encouraged to lip-synch while the other kids sang in the musical episodes. It was decided, however, that his lack of vocal prowess could be played for laughs in the “Dough-Re-Mi” episode; Peter’s voice had begun to change, and Greg incorporated his cracking and squeaking into the song “Time to Change.” But poor Chris couldn’t even manage to hit the wrong notes properly, and his lines in the song were actually dubbed by producer Howard Leeds. “That whole episode where my voice changing was them just pointing out that I couldn’t sing,” said Knight. “My first experience with depression was that week.”

10. SIX KIDS SHARED ONE BATHROOM WITH NO TOILET.

Eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed something odd about the Jack and Jill bathroom the Brady kids shared: It was missing a toilet. Television networks still had strict rules about showing a porcelain toilet bowl onscreen during the Brady years. In order to avoid costly tricky camera angles, the producers opted to forego a commode altogether in the bathroom shared by the kids. (The tank portion of the toilet was acceptable, as seen on the “Captain Jack” episode of Leave It To Beaver in 1957.)

11. CAROL BRADY WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A DIVORCEE.

While Mike Brady was painted as a widower, Carol’s pre-Brady marital status was a bit of a mystery. Sherwood Schwartz has said in several interviews that his intention was for Carol to have been a divorcee (her maiden name was “Tyler” and her married name was “Martin,” as revealed in the pilot episode). But divorce was still considered to be taboo for primetime television (especially for a family-friendly show), so the fate of Mr. Martin was always left a mystery … until recently. After nearly five decades of being asked what happened to Carol Brady’s first husband, Florence Henderson now prefers to tell interviewers (jokingly, we hope) that she killed him.

12. MARCIA REALLY DID TAKE A FOOTBALL TO THE NOSE.

According to Lloyd Schwartz, Christopher Knight was unable to hit his target when filming the crucial football-tossing scene in “The Subject Was Noses” (a.k.a. the “Oh, my nose!” episode). So Schwartz stepped in off-screen, threw a perfect spiral, and pegged Maureen’s nose with the pigskin in one take.

13. TIGER MET A TRAGIC ENDING.

One evening after filming had finished for the day of the episode entitled “Katchoo” (in which Jan appears to be allergic to the family dog), Tiger’s trainer let the pooch out on the Paramount lot for his daily exercise. Unfortunately, a careless driver didn’t see the dog and Tiger was hit and killed. The frantic trainer spent the rest of the night scouring animal shelters looking for a reasonable facsimile of the shaggy canine, since he still had several scenes left to film. The replacement dog looked enough like Tiger to fool the cast and production staff, but the jig was up when he wouldn’t follow directions and was frightened by the noise and lights. The only way the director got Fake Tiger to hold stay in place during the emotional scene where the boys were bidding him a tearful farewell was to nail his collar to the floor.

14. THE SHOW WAS NEVER A HUGE HIT.

The Brady Bunch was never a huge Nielsen hit during its original run; in fact, it never managed to crack the Top 30 shows. But it did well enough to run for five seasons, which gave Paramount enough episodes to sell as a package for syndication. The syndicated reruns were often shown in the late afternoon, which gave it more exposure to a younger audience. As a result, the show’s fan base grew exponentially after it had ceased production, and continues to grow today as each younger generation discovers it.

15. MANY FLUBS WERE NEVER CORRECTED.

Like most shows of that era, no one who worked on The Brady Bunch thought that the show would still be airing regularly over 40 years later after it had been cancelled. So sometimes little mistakes were left unfixed in the name of finishing an episode on schedule. After all, the show aired in the days before every home had a VCR, so who would notice something like the family leaving the house in a convertible and returning from the same errand in a station wagon? Or Jan’s hair mysteriously switching from a ponytail to loose around her shoulders repeatedly while the kids were building a house of cards? Those flubs and others—like a tired Susan Olsen sticking her tongue out as she exited a scene, thinking it was still a rehearsal—have become part of the show’s legend thanks to syndication, DVRs, and viewers with too much time on their hands.

 16. THE SHOW ATTEMPTED A BACKDOOR PILOT.

 During the final season of The Brady Bunch, the Brady family generously relinquished most of a 30-minute episode in order to introduce their neighbors, Ken and Kathy Kelly (portrayed by Ken Berry and Brooke Bundy). The Kellys had adopted three boys—Matt, Dwayne, and Steve—who’d been best friends at the local orphanage. The twist was that one of the boys was white (and was also Mike Lookinland’s real-life brother), one was African-American, and one was Asian-American. Sherwood Schwartz had hoped that this backdoor pilot would be picked up as a series, since the networks had recently announced that they were pushing “prime time” forward half an hour to begin at 7:30 p.m. and they would be in need of some family-friendly programs. But Kelly's Kids didn't happen.

Bonus Fact: Christopher Knight digs mental_floss!

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Adult-Sized Little Tikes-Inspired Car Spotted in UK
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Remember scooting around town in your red and yellow Little Tikes toy car? The fun plastic vehicle offered accessible mobility like a tricycle, but with the sophistication of a real car. It was never meant to be driven outside of the cul-de-sac, but what if there was a grown-up version that could be taken out on the road?

Mechanic John Bitmead and his brother Geoff of Attitude Autos created just that back in 2015, with an oversized spin on the classic kid wheels. It's road-legal and fully functional, looking somewhat similar to a Smart Car (but way cooler). The car was adapted from a Daewoo Matiz and took 16 weeks to make. Despite its small size, it can go up to 70 miles per hour.

This nostalgic creation eventually wound up on eBay for bids of at least £21,500 (roughly $33,000). It only had 5000 miles on it. Sadly, it seems the vehicle went unsold. But Bitmead doesn't appear to be finished with his unique customs. His Instagram page features a post-apocalyptic roadster with a bright pink Hello Kitty paint job. If you live in the UK, perhaps one day you'll see the two racing during your morning commute.

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9 Mysterious Facts About Murder, She Wrote
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For 12 seasons and 264 episodes, the small coastal town of Cabot Cove, Maine, was the scene of a murder. And wherever there was a body, Jessica Fletcher wasn’t far behind. The fictional mystery author and amateur sleuth at the heart of the CBS drama Murder, She Wrote was given life by actress Angela Lansbury, who made a name for herself in the theater world and in movies like 1944’s Gaslight and 1962’s The Manchurian Candidate. Though the show was supposed to skew toward an older audience, the series is still very much alive and being discovered by new generations of audiences every year. Unravel the mystery with these facts about Murder, She Wrote.

1. ANGELA LANSBURY WAS “PISSED OFF” AT THE TV ROLES BEING OFFERED TO HER BEFORE MURDER.

After years of high-profile parts and critical acclaim in the theater, Angela Lansbury was in her late fifties and ready to tackle a steady television role. Unfortunately, instead of being flooded with interesting lead roles on big series, she said she was constantly looked at to play “the maid or the housekeeper in some ensemble piece,” leaving her to get—in the Dame’s own words—“really pissed off.”

After voicing her displeasure, she was soon approached with two potential solo series, one being Murder, She Wrote, which grabbed her attention because of its focus on a normal country woman becoming an amateur detective. After meeting with the producers and writers, it was only a matter of time before Lansbury agreed to the role and began the 12-season run.

2. THE SHOW TOOK A SHOT AT FRIENDS IN ITS FINAL SEASON.

In 1995, CBS made a bold move: After airing on Sundays since 1984, Murder, She Wrote moved to Thursdays at 8:00 p.m. for its twelfth and final season, going head-to-head against Mad About You and Friends over at NBC. On a night dominated by younger viewers, Lansbury was at a loss.

"I'm shattered," she told the Los Angeles Times. "What can I say? I really feel very emotional about it. I just felt so disappointed that after all the years we had Sunday night at 8, suddenly it didn't mean anything. It was like gone with the wind."

Maybe not so coincidentally, during that last season of the series there was an episode titled “Murder Among Friends,” where a TV producer is killed in her office after planning to get rid of a member of the cast of a fictional television show called Buds. Complete with its coffee shop setting and snarky repartee, Buds was a not-so-subtle stab at Friends, coming at a time when Murder, She Wrote was placed right against the hip ratings juggernaut.

Putting the murder mystery aside for a moment, Fletcher takes plenty of jabs at Buds throughout, literally rolling her eyes at the thought of six twentysomethings becoming a hit because they sat around talking about their sexuality in every episode. The writing was on the wall as Murder, She Wrote was being phased out by CBS by the end of 1996, but Lansbury made sure to go down swinging.

3. JESSICA FLETCHER HOLDS A GUINNESS WORLD RECORD.

Here’s one for any self-respecting trivia junkie: Jessica Fletcher holds a Guinness World Record for Most Prolific Amateur Sleuth. Though Guinness recognizes that Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple has been on and off screen longer—since 1956—Fletcher has actually gotten to the bottom of more cases with 264 episodes and four TV movies under her belt.

4. THE SHOW’S FICTIONAL TOWN WOULD HAVE BEEN THE MURDER CAPITAL OF THE PLANET.

Quiet, upper-class New England coastal towns aren’t usually known for their murder count, but Cabot Cove, Maine, is a grisly destination indeed. In fact, if you look at the amount of murders per the population, it would have the highest rate on the planet, according to BBC Radio 4.

With 3560 people living in the town, and 5.3 murders occurring every year, that comes out to 1490 murders per million, which is 60 percent higher than that of Honduras, which only recently lost its title as the murder capital of the world. It’s also estimated that in total, about two percent of the folks in Cabot Cove end up murdered. 

5. SOME FANS THINK FLETCHER WAS A SERIAL KILLER THE WHOLE TIME.

That statistic leads us right into our next thought: Isn’t it a little suspicious that Fletcher keeps stumbling upon all these murders? We know that Cabot Cove is a fairly sleepy town, but the murder rate rivals a Scorsese movie. And this one person—a suspicious novelist and amateur detective—always seems to get herself mixed up in the juiciest cases. Some people think there’s something sinister about the wealth of cases Fletcher writes about in her books: It’s because she’s the one doing the killing all along.

This theory has gained traction with fans over the years, and it helps explain the coincidental nature of the show. Murders aren’t just exclusive to Fletcher and Cabot Cove; they follow her around when she’s on book tours, on trips out of town, or while writing the script to a VR video game for a company whose owner just so happens to get killed while Fletcher is around.

Could Jessica Fletcher have such an obsession with murder mysteries that she began to create her own? Was life in Cabot Cove too boring for a violent sociopath? Did she decide to take matters into her own hands after failing to think of original book ideas? We’ll never know, but it puts the whole series into a very different light.

6. LANSBURY WAS NOT HAPPY ABOUT A PROPOSED REBOOT.

Despite its inimitable style, Murder, She Wrote isn’t immune to Hollywood’s insatiable reboot itch, and in 2013 plans were put in motion to modernize the show for a new generation. NBC’s idea was to cast Octavia Spencer as a hospital administrator who self-publishes her first mystery novel and starts investigating real cases. Lansbury was none too pleased by the news.

"I think it's a mistake to call it Murder, She Wrote," she told The Hollywood Reporter in November 2013, "because Murder, She Wrote will always be about Cabot Cove and this wonderful little group of people who told those lovely stories and enjoyed a piece of that place, and also enjoyed Jessica Fletcher, who is a rare and very individual kind of person ... So I'm sorry that they have to use the title Murder, She Wrote, even though they have access to it and it's their right."

When the plug was pulled on the series, Lansbury said she was "terribly pleased and relieved” by the news, adding that, "I knew it was a terrible mistake."

7. JEAN STAPLETON TURNED DOWN THE LEAD ROLE OF JESSICA FLETCHER.

It’s impossible to separate Angela Lansbury from her role as Jessica Fletcher now, but she wasn’t the network’s first choice for the role. All in the Family’s Edith Bunker, actress Jean Stapleton, was originally approached about playing Fletcher, but she turned it down.

Stapleton cited a combination of wanting a break after All in the Family’s lengthy run and the fact that she wasn’t exactly thrilled with how the part was written, and the changes she wanted to make weren’t welcome. Despite not being enthralled by the original ideas for Fletcher, Stapleton agreed that Lansbury was “just right” for the part.

8. FLETCHER’S ESCAPADES HAVE LIVED ON IN BOOKS AND VIDEO GAMES.

For anyone who didn’t get enough of Fletcher during Murder, She Wrote’s original run, there are more—plenty more—dead bodies to make your way through. Author Donald Bain has written 45 murder mystery novels starring Fletcher, all of which credit Fletcher as the "co-author." The books sport such titles as Killer in the Kitchen, Murder on Parade, and Margaritas & Murder. Not even cancellation can keep Cabot Cove safe, apparently.

On top of that, two point-and-click computer games were released based on the show in 2009 and 2012. Both games feature Fletcher solving multiple murders just like on the show, but don’t expect to hear the comforting voice of Angela Lansbury as you wade through the dead bodies. Only her likeness appears in the game; not her voice.

9. LANSBURY WOULD BE GAME TO REPRISE THE ROLE.

When recently asked about her iconic role by the Sunday Post, Lansbury admitted that she'd be into seeing Murder, She Wrote come back in some form. "I was in genuine tears doing my last scene," Lansbury said. "Jessica Fletcher has become so much a part of my life, it was difficult to come to terms with it being all over ... Having said that, there have been some two-hour specials since we stopped in 1996 and I wouldn’t be surprised if we got together just one more time."

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