Here’s the Story… of the Shows Named ‘Brady’ — And There Have Been Plenty
How is it even possible that The Brady Bunch is turning 50 this year? The classic series that premiered on ABC back on September 26, 1969, ran for five seasons, turned the original cast of The Brady Bunch into pop culture icons, and spawned only one less spin-off than Star Trek — that is, unless you count the upcoming new series based on renovating the family’s original home (well, the one used for exterior shots), which started making headlines in late 2018. The HGTV series, appropriately titled A Very Brady Renovation, is set to transform the interior of the home to match what we all remember seeing on the TV show. You can also expect to see at least a couple of the original cast members pop up during the construction process.
On the surface, there is no reason the original show should have had the afterlife that it did — but it always defied expectations. The premise is one we all know: Widower Mike Brady falls in love with Carol Ann Tyler Martin (we’re never told what happened to her first husband: Divorce? Death? Murder? Careful, Mike!), and they marry, bringing their six kids (his three boys, her three girls) into the mix. As if that weren’t enough, there’s also Alice the maid and Tiger the dog. Obviously, this group had to somehow form a family, and that’s the way they all became the Brady Bunch — and now that song is going to be stuck in our head forever.
Join us as we take a look back at the television (and movie!) history of the Bradys, and all of the many versions we’ve seen over the years.
Brady Bunch Kids2
The Brady Bunch (1969-74)
This was our first opportunity to meet the Bradys: Robert Reed (Mike), Florence Henderson (Carol), Barry Williams (Greg), Maureen McCormick (Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!), Christopher Knight (Peter), Eve Plumb (Jan), Mike Lookinland (Bobby), Susan Oliver (Cindy), and Ann B. Davis (Alice). We’d tell you who played Cousin Oliver, but nobody likes Cousin Oliver. Okay, fine, quit whining: It was Robbie Rist.
Sure, this show was pure saccharine in its humor and its "drama," but it was the earnestness of it all that made it so endearing along with the little life lessons.
Brady Bunch Singing
The Pete Sterne Amateur Hour (Jan. 26, 1973)
We'll grant you that this is an odd one to include, but we have a good reason. In episode 16 of season 4 ("Amateur Night"), the Brady kids decided to enter a singing competition to raise money for a silver platter they wanted to give Mike and Carol for their wedding anniversary (awwwww).
They sang and danced their way to what became something of a second career as the cast began recording a series of albums, and even performed at some sold out concerts. It also gave the world the song "It's a Sunshine Day." Plus, it sort of set the stage (see what we did there?) for the next live action Brady series.
Brady Bunch Brady Kids
The Brady Kids (1972-73)
Back in the 1970s, there was a period where it seemed like almost every prime-time show was getting an animated version of itself, and The Brady Bunch was no exception. While the show was still on ABC, the kids voiced their cartoon counterparts as they got into all sorts of adventures.
Oh, and those adventures included a mynah bird named Marlon who spoke and happened to be a wizard (don't ask us), their dog Mop Top (which raised the question of what happened to their live-action dog Tiger, who mysteriously disappeared), and a pair of panda cubs named Ping and Pong. In two separate episodes, they also randomly met Superman and Wonder Woman. The '70s was a strange time.
Brady Bunch Kellys Kids
This was a proposed spin-off that aired as a part of The Brady Bunch's final season. The idea was that Ken and Kathy Kelly (Ken Berry and Brooke Bundy), friends of Mike and Carol Brady, adopted three orphan boys from different racial backgrounds and the show would have followed the challenges of that.
One of the kids was played by Bobby Brady — er, Mike Lookiland's brother, Todd.
Brady Bunch Variety Show
The Brady Bunch Hour (1976-77)
Check out the concept of this one: ABC chose the fictional Bradys to star in a new variety show. They must have seen the "Amateur Hour" episode and were impressed. To do so, Mike gave up his career in architecture and moved the family to Southern California. There were guest stars, skits, music numbers, and then looks at the Brady's home life.
The only cast member who chose not to return was Eve Plumb as Jan, who was replaced on screen (but not in our hearts) by Geri Reischl. The seeds for this show were actually planted when then ABC president Fred Silverman reunited the cast for an episode of the Donny & Marie show. That appearance turned out to be such a ratings success that he spun the Bradys off into their own show. Nine episodes were produced.
The Brady Brides
The Brady Brides (1981)
The entire cast reunited for what began as a TV movie (The Brady Girls Get Married) about a double wedding for Marcia and Jan. It also filled us in on what had happened with the Bradys since they stopped hosting that variety show: Mike returned to being an architect, Carol worked in real estate, Marcia became a fashion designer, Jan followed in dad's architectural footsteps, Greg became a doctor, Peter joined the Air Force, Bobby and Cindy were at college, and Alice was finally marrying Sam the Butcher.
For the series that followed the TV movie, Jan, Marcia, and their husbands bought and shared a house where mayhem inevitably ensued (for 10 episodes).
Brady Bunch Very Brady Christmas
A Very Brady Christmas (1988)
This time Susan Olsen was the no-show (something about being on a honeymoon), so she was replaced by Jennifer Runyon. The rest of the Bradys were joined by Jan and Marcia's husbands, played by Ron Kuhlman and Jerry Houser. This dealt with Mike and Carol paying to have the kids, in-laws, grandkids, and pretty much everyone else come together for the Christmas holiday, though it turned out that everyone was dealing with far more adult problems than they ever did when they were younger.
It was odd seeing the Bunch dipping its toe into (sometimes overly) dramatic material. Still, the TV movie was a massive success, and like every other time a Brady reunion scored, someone thought it was a good idea to turn it back into a new series.
Brady Bunch Day By Day
Day by Day (February 5, 1989)
The show was about a married couple who gave up their careers to run a day care center out of their house.
One episode had their son imagining himself as one of the Bradys. This presented a great opportunity to make fun of some of the old show's cliches thanks to the guest appearance of Robert Reed, Florence Henderson, Ann B. Davis, Christopher Knight, Mike Lookinland, and Maureen McCormick.
The Bradys (1990)
While A Very Brady Christmas had dabbled in drama, this show went for broke... And then actually broke after just six episodes. The plots were far more serious than any fans of the Bunch had seen before, but the biggest problem was likely that its ratings were pummeled by the one-two punch of Full House (how rude!) and Family Matters.
The Brady Bunch Movie
The Brady Bunch Movie (1995)
In many ways a parody of the original series, the film's cast absolutely nailed their characters as the Bradys. Extra praise should be paid to Gary Cole and Shelley Long as Mike and Carol, Christopher Daniel Barnes (the star of Day by Day who imagined himself a Brady — what an audition) as Greg, and Christine Taylor as Marcia.
The film took the approach that it may have been the '90s, but the Brady family was living as though it's still the 1970s. That may sound dopey, but it played out really well.
A Very Brady Sequel
A Very Brady Sequel (1996)
While still enjoyable, the joke had already started to wear a little thin by this second film. The plot involved a guy claiming to be Carol's long missing ex-husband, showing up and throwing the household into such disarray that even Alice had a hard time keeping things steady. The returning cast did save the day with their humorous performances.
Brady Bunch In The White House
The Brady Bunch in the White House (2002)
This TV movie had Gary Cole's Mike Brady becoming President of the United States with Shelley Long's Carol as First Lady. The duo have to learn how to balance the responsibilities of government with their responsibility as parents. The film is... not good, although when considering the state of the union today, the idea of Mike Brady becoming president may not be as ridiculous as it once seemed.
So there you have it, the complete story of a lovely lady, a man named Brady and the bunch that has been delighting us for nearly 50 years.