Wednesday, September 12, 2018

“The Brady Bunch Hour”: That’s the Way They All Became The Brady Bunch

ABC wanted to strike while the iron was hot and get its Brady Variety Show on the air as soon as possible. As a result, there was little time to make the pilot. ABC decided to produce the pilot as a special that would run before the end of 1976 with the first season beginning in January of 1977. To stay on schedule, ABC was going to have to pickup the show before it knew how successful the pilot would be or whether it met the network’s quality expectations. 

Despite not having any involvement with the show, The Brady Bunch creator Sherwood Schwartz decided to help out Sid and Marty Krofft by sitting down with them to talk about the cast, its strengths and weaknesses. Schwartz’s biggest warning was about family patriarch Robert Reed. Reed was a constant pain for Schwartz, criticizing the show and rewriting scripts, despite the fact that his rewrites were never used. Reed had been written out of the series finale because of his bad attitude. Schwartz was sure that if anyone on the cast would cause problems on the show it would be him.

Nothing could be further from the truth, however. Robert Reed was the most enthusiastic member of the variety hour cast. In fact, he probably worked harder than anyone else. He resented his lack of music and dance ability and practiced more than the rest of the cast. Apparently Reed enjoyed the singing, dancing and pageantry involved in the production of a variety show. The Kroffts would find challenges elsewhere.

In order to make the show stand out from the rest of the pack, the Kroffts decided to build a huge set, complete with a gigantic pool. The pool would be used by the newly formed ‘Krofftettes’, a water follies group who would perform various tricks and frolic in the pool. This ambitious set piece would cause huge headaches for the production. The only large soundstage in Los Angeles that the Kroffts could afford was at Gene Autry’s Golden West Studios, which was a creaky facility in a shady location. Building the large pool was a nightmare; keeping it clear enough to film in was seemingly impossible. The cold soundstage mixed with overly treated water made life miserable for the Kroftettes.

The Bradys were also a problem. The only two musically inclined members of the cast were Florence Henderson and Geri Reischl. While the other castmembers had performed in the past on various pop albums, they were out of their league when it came to a weekly variety show. It wasn’t too big of a deal, though it made rehearsals a bit tedious. Some castmembers recall that Mike Lookinland in particular would get punchy and stubborn during some of the long recording sessions. Still, the production lurched forward. As the pilot wrapped, however, Sid and Marty Krofft realized that the show was missing something. Sherwood Schwartz knew what, or rather who, it was- Ann B. Davis. Ann had moved to a religious retreat and it was thought that she wouldn’t want to return. Ann, however, loved her “family” and eagerly signed up for the show. The family was (mostly) reunited. Would their fans and viewers return too?