Fifty years ago today, the story of a lovely lady raising three very lovely girls premiered on ABC.
“The Brady Bunch” aired in primetime for just five years, long enough to reach the episode minimum to sell the series into syndication. Since then, there has been a near constant presence of the Bradys. Episodes of “The Brady Bunch” have been broadcast somewhere in the United States and abroad every single day since September 1975.
Sherwood Schwartz, once a writer for the radio show “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” make a leap into TV in the 1960s. He was also the creator and producer of hit series “Gilligan’s Island,” which premiered in 1964. After reading in the LA Times that 30% of American marriages have a child from a previous relationship, he came up with the idea for “The Brady Bunch” – a blended family consisting of architect Mike and his three sons, and Carol and her three daughters.
ABC aired the “The Brady Bunch” on Friday nights from September 26, 1969 to March 8, 1974. Ratings were not strong, in no season did it break the top 30 – and this in the era before cable. Original episodes of the Bradys peaked at number 31 with a 19.3 HH rating, in its third season. After falling to number 54 in its fifth season, just after crossing the minimum episode threshold to be sold in syndication, “The Brady Bunch” was cancelled.
In syndication, airing during the day where children and teenagers were watching, the series became a hit. Coupled with spinoffs, reunion specials, and movies, the show has had enduring popularity. TBS aired episodes from the 1980s through 2003, TV Land from 2002 to 2015, and the Hallmark Channel from 2013 to 2016. Currently, MeTV airs a two hour block every Sunday, and episodes are also available on Hulu and CBS All Access.
As Sherwood Schwartz himself said, syndication turned his two TV success into TV institutions and cultural icons. The Bradys’ presence in commercials over the years has helped solidify that status.
Florence Henderson, who played mom Carol Brady, appeared in several Wesson Oil ads. Here is one from 1984.
A 2015 Super Bowl spot for Snickers with great vintage footage of the outside of the house, the iconic staircase, and Mike and Carol in the living room.
In 2017, Playstation used “Sunshine Day,” one of the Brady kids’ singles, as a backdrop to an ad.
In 2018, the Studio City, CA, house used for exterior shots in the original series went up for sale, changing hands for the first time since 1973. Schwartz, incidentally, selected this house for the exteriors because he felt it looked like a house an architect would live in. The inside of the house was not used in filming. Paramount, which produced the show, built the interiors on a soundstage many miles away.
HGTV purchased the house, and set to remodeling it to fit the soundstage rooms into the house. “A Very Brady Renovation,” the series chronicling the renovation work, and featuring all six original Brady kids, is airing this month on HGTV.
Think you’re a Brady expert, or looking for a refresher on Brady trivia? Look no further than MeTV’s Brady Bunch quiz!