‘The Brady Bunch’: How the Creator Came Up With Idea for Show

by Liz Holland
(Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

“The Brady Bunch” has gone down in history as one of the most iconic sitcoms on television. The series was created by talented writer Sherwood Schwartz, who also created the well known “Gilligan’s Island.” Although Schwartz passed away in 2011 of natural causes at age 94, the effects of his work still continue to ripple through society today. 

In an extensive interview filmed in 1996, Schwartz opened up about his life as a writer. When the creator got the idea for “The Brady Bunch,” he had already been a writer for quite some time. However, his approach to this series was unique from his other projects. In the interview uploaded by the Writers Guild Foundation, Schwartz explains the exact moment the idea for the show came to him. 

“Most writers, I dare say, don’t know where an idea comes from. They just sit. I sat a long time before I created ‘Gilligan’s Island.’ And the maneuvering of characters, why this character, why that character,” Schwartz says. “But in the case of ‘The Brady Bunch,’ I can tell you exactly [when I got the idea.] It was–forgive this word, because I don’t like to use it– it was an epiphany moment. It happened just like that.”

A Statistic Inspired ‘The Brady Bunch’ Script

He continues, “It was a filler, in an LA Times paper. A statistic, if you will. Which said that as of that year– I believe it was 1965 or ‘66… just under 30% of all marriages had a spouse and a child by a previous marriage. Either one or both. Just like that, I saw a new door open. I had written family situation comedy, but a new sociology was here. A new direction that the country was moving in. If practically 1 out of 3 marriages were constructed this way, this opened the floodgates to all kinds of new stories.”

Schwartz explains that, “It wasn’t just brother and sister rivalry, or sibling rivalry. It was cross sibling rivalry, it was dynamics of new kinds of stories. And it all happened in an instant. Instead of sitting and sweating, this happened [like] ‘bang.’” 

The late writer shares how he told his wife, Mildred Seidman, about his “epiphany.” “All of the sudden I said, ‘Honey, I have an idea that’s really enormous.’ And I told it to her. Well, she thought it was a good idea, but she didn’t see the implications it makes for a writer.”

Schwartz says he took the script to 3 major networks, all of which didn’t work out due to the changes each network wanted to make. The show presented starkly different characters from the writers’ previous work, but Schwartz was determined to keep it that way. The project was eventually set aside because Schwartz wanted to stick to his principles. When the 1968 film “Your’s, Mine, and Ours” saw success, networks circled back to Schwartz as his pilot presented similar concepts. ABC picked up the show, and the rest is history.