‘Brady Bunch’ Creator Described Similarities to ‘Gilligan’s Island’

by Josh Lanier

It may not seem like a TV show about a blended family has much to do with one following the exploits of seven strangers trapped on a deserted island, but Sherwood Schwartz says they’re “the same.” The Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island creator said the shows have an identical central concept. And it’s why they still resonate with an audience more than 50 years later.

Schwartz got the idea for Gilligan’s Island from an assignment in a public speaking class at New York University. The genesis of The Brady Bunch was an article in the L.A. Times about rising divorce rates. On the surface, they have nothing in common outside of their creator. But he says they share a dedication to “reality.”

“I think it’s may sound like a strange word,” he told the Writers Guild Foundation, “it’s reality. It’s the fact that everybody can relate to a family, whether it’s a family life that’s composed of strangers who are thrown together in a situation where they can’t get away from each other like in Gilligan’s Island. They’re both very much the same. Yes, they seem to be very different, but the common chord between them relates them, because how do two families that have their own background relate to each other?”

Schwartz didn’t create the shows in a vacuum either. Sherwood Schwartz’s son Lloyd said his dad saw the cultural upheaval of the 1960s and 70s and thought The Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island would be a good counterpoint.

“I think many people respond to that basic idea,” Lloyd said in 2018. “He [Sherwood] always said, ‘God, we’ve got to get along. We’re all in this together,’ and he was talking about the world in general. I think that’s why they’ve resonated for so long.”

‘Gilligan’s Island’ Nearly Trapped Sherwood Schwartz

While the shows are thematic “the same,” Sherwood Schwartz said it was important that The Brady Bunch look different from Gilligan’s Island. The success of the latter meant that the three networks wanted to work with him. But he worried that if he created another broad comedy he would end up marooned on an island.

In his 1996 interview with the Writers Guild, Schwartz said The Brady Bunch is in opposition to Gilligan’s Island. It’s more saccharine and subdued compared to the over-the-top, broad comedy.

“I wanted to show to be toned down in terms of laughter decibel,” he said. “I wanted more real people. The others were obviously exaggerated prototypes.”

ABC, CBS, and NBC wanted more of the same. Executives asked Schwartz to make major changes to the script for The Brady Bunch when he pitched it. He refused and accepted the series was likely never going to happen. But in the eleventh hour, ABC decided to heed Schwartz’s vision and green-lit the series. It’s been on television in syndication ever since.