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Byline: David Kronke Television Writer

If you've ever watched a rerun of the late-'60s, early-'70s sitcom ``The Brady Bunch'' - and let's face it, if you've done any channel-surfing at all, you've no doubt landed upon it; it's that ubiquitous - and if you've thought, ``What went on behind the scenes must be more interesting than what's on the screen,'' Barry Williams wants you to know you're right.

Williams, who portrayed Greg, the ``hip,'' oldest brother, on the series, wrote a best-selling 1992 memoir on his life as a Brady - including all the sundry spin-off TV films and series - that has been adapted into a TV movie, ``Growing Up Brady.'' It's an affectionate look at a show that's been both roundly celebrated and mocked for its innocence and its goofiness, but it's likewise a show that has endured and even risen in stature over the intervening decades.

``Growing Up Brady'' reveals some of the endless disputes over scripts creator Sherwood Schwartz - who was also responsible for the other sitcom in the twin towers of '60s silliness, ``Gilligan's Island'' - had with ``Bunch'' head Robert Reed, who portrayed sensible dad Mike Brady. It also essays the numerous romantic trysts the series produced, particularly between Williams and Maureen McCormick, who played Marcia, the ``perfect'' Brady sister. But it airs its laundry in a manner befitting the series - sweetly and fairly, with all sides' perspectives represented.

``This is not about score settling, it's not mean-spirited; it's respectful, it's true to the spirit of what really happened,'' Williams says. ``That is the way I remember things, the way I see and feel about it, and I'm glad that this is the story. It's not about me getting beat up by my father (as ``Come On, Get Happy,'' Danny Bonaduce's ``Partridge Family'' biopic, was). Or,'' Williams adds, deadpan, ``by Ann B. Davis.''

``Brady'' creator Schwartz and his son Lloyd, who served as a writer and director on the series, also spoke to set the record straight. Though both Schwartzes in separate interviews used the same phrase to describe Williams' book - ``A lot of it took place in his head'' - they confirm the generalities.

Sherwood Schwartz - who conceived of the series after reading a newspaper item about blended families, and quickly pounded out a script out of fear that someone else would come up with the idea of a comedy about two families merging into one (only to watch the development process take a whopping four years before the show made it to the air) - still shakes his head over some of Reed's complaints.

``He was such a stickler, he used to read with the script in one hand and the other he had in the Encyclopedia Britannica,'' Schwartz remembers. ``Every day of every week, he was a pain in the neck, and you can go a little further south of that. If something didn't ring the truth bell with him, he'd walk off the set and not tell you why.

``I would visit him in his dressing room and say, 'What's wrong?' and he'd say, 'If you don't know, I can't explain to you.' He would say, 'Did you see the last script?' Well, that was a direct insult - it was my script. He'd say, 'Do you know what scene we're doing now?' Again, a direct insult, I was the executive producer, I should sure as hell know what scene we're shooting.''

One time, Reed took offense to Mike entering the kitchen, seeing his wife and maid cooking up some strawberries for a baking contest, and uttering the line ``This smells like strawberry heaven.''

``It's not a joke, but it's a cute way to get into the scene,'' Schwartz says. ``And Robert says, 'It just so happens that strawberries, while cooking, have no odor.' Minutes and dollars are flying away while we're sitting there discussing this. I said, 'Can you say, ``This looks like strawberry heaven?'' Fifty thousand dollars later, I changed one word.''

Reed also balked when the script called for him to slip on some eggs that fell out of the refrigerator. ``Robert said, 'The truth of the matter is, contrary to popular belief, when your shoes hit eggs, they're sticky. You don't slide at all.' This one cost $150,000. I told him, let's rehearse the scene and get to your point later. So he opens the refrigerator, the eggs fall out, and he just by accident steps on them and falls on his ass. So I'm standing there, looking down at him, and he's wagging his finger in my face, saying, 'That doesn't prove a thing!' ''

Schwartz soon learned to do his homework before handing Reed a script. He contacted the Federal Communications Commission over an episode in which the Bradys install a pay phone in their house for the kids, knowing that Reed would declare such an act was illegal. Schwartz found his loophole - they were legal in Santa Monica - and toyed with Reed when the actor demanded to know where the Bradys lived.

Schwartz recalls, ``I told him, 'California.' He said, ``I know that - where in California?'' 'Oh, Southern California.' He said, ``I know that, too, given that we see all these palm trees. But where in Southern California?'' Schwartz hemmed and hawed for a while longer before telling Reed the Bradys lived in Santa Monica. ``I heard him yell, 'S---!' and slam the phone down. That was one of the best phone calls of my life. It wasn't very nice of me, but since he had caused me enough sleepless nights and caused Paramount enough money, I thought he deserved that.''

Reed stormed off the set of the last episode of the series and was summarily written out of it. Nonetheless, he returned for all the sundry Brady spinoffs, from variety shows to dramas.

``Years later, when we were doing 'The Brady Girls Get Married,' he was in a play in New York at that time and had another week to go, but he bought himself out of the show, flew himself out here and showed up, saying, 'No one is going to marry off my two oldest daughters but me,' '' Schwartz remembers.

For the subject of Brady sex, we turn to Lloyd Schwartz, who says, ``I was on the set and assumed the position on ensuring that there weren't any next editions of Bradys running around.

``At the time when we started on the show, I was 22 and Barry was 15, so I was like his uncle or big brother,'' Lloyd says. ``We had a lot of talks. He was very interested in Maureen, and I had to keep that from happening on the set, so I told him, 'When you start to get interested in her, take a look at her hands. She has very small hands, they're like little girl hands - so look at them and stop thinking about her that way.' ''

Schwartz says he was largely successful at keeping extracurricular romance to a minimum on the set, but a scene in ``Growing Up Brady'' in which Williams and McCormick flirt wildly while shooting a scene, though exaggerated, is based on fact.''

``I was 23 years old and this was the first scene of anything I had ever directed,'' he remembers. ``I had gone to UCLA film school, and nowhere in any book does it say what to do when a brother and a sister are hot for one another.

``They kept doing the scene, and there didn't seem to be any mistakes in their line readings, but I could just see the steam coming out of them. I made them do 13 takes to try to lose that, when usually we'd just do three. The crew wasn't really paying attention, and Barry and Maureen weren't aware of it, so everyone was wondering what I was doing, if I had lost my mind.''

As for Williams' ``date'' with his TV mom, Florence Henderson, ``That's totally in Barry's head,'' Lloyd and Sherwood agree. Lloyd explains: ``Florence was married at the time and had four kids.''

And to hear Lloyd tell it, the luckiest guy on the set was none other than - Lloyd Schwartz. ``Whenever we cast for Barry's girlfriends, we always cast older - that way, they didn't need an on-set teacher. So a lot of the girls we cast were 19 playing 16. And I was about 23. So they were never right for him, but they were always right for me. When we watch reruns sometimes, my son will say, 'That's a good episode.' And I'll look at Greg's girlfriend and think, 'That was a great episode!' ''

The facts

--The show: ``Growing Up Brady.''

--What: Behind-the-scenes telefilm about the kitschy family comedy.

--The stars: Adam Brody, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Michael Tucker, Kaley Cuoco, Rebeccah Bush.

--Where: NBC (Channel 4).

--When: 9 p.m. Sunday.




'I was 23 years old and this was the first scene of anything I had ever directed. I had gone to UCLA film school, and nowhere in any book did it say what to do when a brother and a sister are hot for one another. ... I could just see the steam coming out of them.'

Lloyd Schwartz

writer and director, ``The Brady Bunch''
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:L.A. Life
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 20, 2000

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