Things From The Brady Bunch You Only Notice As An Adult

It only ran from 1969 to 1974, but The Brady Bunch has endured as one of the most popular sitcoms ever. The many stories of a lovely lady who was bringing up three very lovely girls, and her husband, a man named Brady who was busy with three boys of his own, who somehow formed a family, have kept us entertained and filled with warm and fuzzy feelings of nostalgia and #familygoals for nearly 50 years. A family show in the most literal sense, it was about as squeaky-clean and corny as 1960s and 1970s TV ever got, with the kids messing up and learning a lesson, Mr. Brady doling out advice, and housekeeper Alice making some gentle wisecracks. But there was actually a lot going on beneath the surface.

As superficial as The Brady Bunch may have seemed to younger viewers, there's some pretty startling stuff about the show you only notice as an adult. There's just a hint of darkness, a splash of weirdness, and a lot that simply boggled the mind ... and that's not even counting the sudden addition of "Cousin Oliver" to the show. Here's a groovy look into The Brady Bunch.

Who's your daddy?

The Brady Bunch has a pretty sad premise for a sitcom, especially for one that turned out to be so deliriously cheerful. The 1969 pilot episode finds Mike Brady prepping for his wedding to Carol Martin, and his three boys are tentative about both the big day as well as life with their new mommy. Evidently and understandably, they're still kind of messed up from their biological mother being dead and all, but for Mike, well, life goes on. 

Over in Carol's world, where her three daughters have hair of gold, like their mother, the young ones are also weirded out about all the fast and furious life changes coming their way. Carol reassures them, as is her way, but no clues as to the whereabouts or fate of the father of Marcia, Jan, and Cindy are given. Nor is dear old real dad spoken of for the entirety of the five-year run of The Brady Bunch, and obviously he never visits. That's a little odd, how children could move on so quickly so as to never even think about their biological father.

It turns out, there isn't even a non-fiction answer to what happened to Carol's ex, but that didn't stop the actress who played her, Florence Henderson, from coming up with her own answer. "I killed my husband," she joked to The HuffPost Show in 2015. "I was the original Black Widow." Explain that one to the kids. 

The kids adjusted with remarkable ease

It wasn't just the girls who quickly adjusted to a complete sea change of life changes. All of the Brady kids really are so gosh darn perfect, because they are immediately cool with their single parent cozying up to a new partner, having to come to terms with the loss (or disappearance) of their other parent, being part of a blended family (which was not a common thing at the time), and moving into a new house. 

The only way the Brady kids ever show a lick of humanity in this regard is some sibling bickering, but that's going to happen with even any group of kids in a family, biological, step, or otherwise. Greg never tells Carol "you're not my real mom!" when she busts him for breaking curfew, nor does Jan ever snap at Mike that he can't tell her to wear her goofy classes because he's just her stepfather. In fact, the kids immediately start calling their opposite-gendered new parent "Mom" and "Dad," respectively.

There's a pet cemetery underneath that AstroTurf lawn

The Brady kids, as kids are wont to do, often got obsessed with animals and the idea of pet ownership, and throughout the course of the five-year-run of the show, they adopted many pets. That could have turned the Bradys' swell house into a noisy, smelly, zoo ... except for the fact that Brady pets had a tendency to vanish.

In the pilot, the girls have a cat named Fluffy ... who doesn't make the move to the new family home. But the boys' dog, Tiger, does ... until he just isn't there anymore after a bunch of episodes. Soon thereafter, when Bobby sprains his ankle and has to lay low for a while, Mike gifts him a parakeet, which only ever makes one appearance on the show. Bobby also briefly possesses a turtle named Herman, as well as a bunch of frogs. Cindy also gets some rabbits, Greg talks about his pet rabbit at one point, and the kids win a goldfish at a carnival. After their initial appearances and mentions, the pets are just gone. Now, this could just be a function of how old sitcoms were not serialized, and basically started fresh with each new episode ... or the Bradys are serial animal murderers.

The time Greg Brady got real far out, man

Greg Brady was undeniably cool, at least as far as the early '70s are concerned. It would also seem that off-screen, Barry Williams, the young actor who portrayed "The Casanova of Clinton Avenue" was also cool, or rather "cool," to use a slang term for people who smoke marijuana

On one episode, Greg — or rather Williams — is clearly under the influence of Cypress Hill's favorite intoxicant. He stands in the driveway, working on his bike — as the Bradys frequently did — when Mike pulls up with a small boat attached to the roof of the car. With a glazed look in his eyes and a dopey grin on his face, Greg stares at the boat and walks over ... stumbling on a tire pump on the way. He later proclaims plans to fix up the boat to be "far out," and then doesn't know where to look when Cindy runs up. 

In his 1992 memoir Growing Up Brady (via Destiny-land), Williams confirmed that he was indeed stoned when he shot that scene. Williams thought he'd had the day off and was hanging out with his brother's friends, when one of them offered him a joint. "Several drags later," Williams wrote, "the stuff had kicked in hard." And it was about then that a Brady Bunch crew member called and told him that he was need on set after all. Oops.

Jan doesn't resemble her aunt at all anymore

Poor Jan Brady (Eve Plumb), always feeling misunderstood and screwed over. In one episode, she takes a break from resenting her sister Marcia to freak out about the inevitably of growing into an "ugly" adult. While the family is cleaning the house one day, Jan finds a black-and-white photo of herself that, judging by her appearance, appears to have been taken sometime within the last couple of weeks. Jan is confused, and her mother points out that the picture is an old one ... and it depicts her Aunt Jenny. 

Adult viewers of this Brady Bunch episode would understand if Jan freaked out about suddenly discovering a doppelgänger, but instead Jan thinks it's fun and writes to Aunt Jenny to ask for a current photo. She gets one, and discovers that Aunt Jenny is her notion of unattractive, which is having the red hair and broad features of a comedian, because adult Aunt Jenny is portrayed by TV legend Imogene Coca. Jan thinks she'll grow up and look just like Aunt Jenny, too, which she thinks is horrible until Aunt Jenny comes to visit, and she's totally awesome. 

Yes, we've all learned an important lesson here about character being more important than looks, which sidesteps the real issue for more mature viewers: Plumb and Coca look nothing alike. How does one turn into the other? It makes no sense.

A lawn that didn't need mowing, and windows that didn't need washing

The Brady Bunch was filmed on a set, an obvious fact that is clear to even the most eagled-eyed and unsophisticated child viewer. That's because everything just looks fake, from the wood-paneling in the TV room to the phone in the kitchen. Pretty much every sitcom in history shoots on a specifically-built set, but what makes The Brady Bunch different is its frequent outdoor scenes. 

Those kids spend a lot of time playing in the backyard, and building school play scenery and fixing up recreational vehicles in the adjacent driveway. It's these scenes that have the most artificial and dissonance-causing appearance of anything on The Brady Bunch. Studio lights do not provide or approximate the same level of brightness as the sun, but they do bring the consequences of television artifice to the forefront. For example: There doesn't seem to be glass in that sliding "glass" door (presumably to reduce glare for the cameras) and how the lawn is made of unnaturally green, all-one-length AstroTurf.

The Brady kids don't have digestive systems

The Bradys' quintessential midcentury home was designed by Mike Brady himself. He was supposedly an architect of great renown, and yet he thought it was perfectly fine to build a house with two bedrooms to accommodate six children, along with one connected bathroom for the whole half dozen to share. (By the way, his "den," or office where he did his important bad architecting work, is bigger than those two bedrooms put together.) On the rare occasion that the Brady kids get into a tiff, it's usually about somebody hogging that solitary bathroom for too long, doing stuff like brushing their hair for hours on end (Marcia), lamenting their glasses (Jan), or practicing his flirtatious smile (Greg). 

However, nobody ever holes themselves up in that joint bathroom for the main reason bathrooms were invented. Alas, no Brady kid ever finds him or herself trying to pass Alice's pork chops and applesauce, because there isn't a toilet in there. There's a tub, and two sinks ... but no toilet.

Mike and Carol's white-hot chemistry

Perhaps love really is better, "the second time around," as the theme song for the Brady Bunch ripoff Step by Step states. It certainly is for Mike and Carol Brady, as The Brady Bunch is loaded with subtle, kid-proof allusions to the fact that both Brady patriarch and matriarch have a voracious sexual appetite. 

It's a trait that precedes their marriage. Before they found each other, both Mike and Carol were in relationships that were quite physically active, as they've got three kids each. Young viewers probably also wouldn't much notice or care that Mike and Carol are constantly flirting with each other, and, if they're in the same room, that they're usually touching in some way, like the newlyweds that they are.

One thing that might go way over a young viewer's head, particularly that of a modern one, is that the Brady parents sleep in the same bed. Up to that point, a married couple's bedroom on TV was generally depicted as having two single beds, not one big one. That's a strong implication that the Bradys are getting down together on the regular.

Greg and Marcia's white-hot chemistry

Granted, Mike and Carol were often all over each other, but the truly steamy couple of The Brady Bunch was Greg and Marcia. After all, Maureen McCormick and Barry Williams were both telegenic teen idols in the early '70s, and in close proximity to each other all day on set. Throw in some teenage hormones, and, well, one thing led to another

It was while filming the episodes when the Brady family went to Hawaii, McCormick wrote in her memoir, Here's the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice, that she and Williams shared their first kiss. "It was long, passionate, and deep. It was wonderful, too, though as we continued to kiss and press against each other so closely that we could feel each other's body heat." Yowza.

That sexual tension between (fictional, step) brother and sister spilled over to the set. In the latter years of The Brady Bunch, there are many strange sequences in which Marcia and Greg treat each other with a little bit more than sibling-on-sibling affection, casually touching each other, sitting way too close to each other, and staring into each other's eyes the way that normal brothers and sisters are not encouraged to do.

They're gonna keep on, keep on, keep on ripping off The Partridge family

Toward the end of its run, Brady Bunch producers tried to inject some life into the show by having the six Brady kids form a family singing group. After initially coming together to win a TV talent show to win the money to pay for an anniversary present for their folks, the Bradys cut multiple minor hit tracks, like "It's a Sunshine Day," "Keep On," and "Time to Change." 

This plot development seemingly came out of nowhere, except that it didn't. An adult would recognize that The Brady Bunch was merely biting the style of The Partridge Family, a show that had always been about a family band, and which featured teen idols in David Cassidy, Susan Dey, and Danny Bonaduce. But the Brady Kids were no Partridge Family. 

For one, the Partridges played their own instruments (or at least mimed playing them on screen), while the Bradys only sang, and to pre-recorded backing tracks that magically materialized. The ratings ploy didn't work — The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family were both canceled in 1974.