‘The Brady Bunch’: How the Idea for the Hit Sitcom Started With a Statistic in the ‘LA Times’

by Josh Lanier

Sherwood Schwartz had much more than a hunch that what he was reading could become a show. A small item in the Los Angeles Times discussing the changing dynamics of families would morph into one of the biggest family sitcoms of all time, The Brady Bunch.

Schwartz explained to The Television Academy Foundation that a small passage in one story changed his life.

“It said that that year, I believe it was 1965, 30 percent of all marriages also included not just a couple but a child from either one or both parents,” he said. “Well, 30 percent is a tremendous percentage. It’s not just a mother father and two kids like Leave It to Beaver. This is a different situation developing it’s a huge sociological change in this country.

“What it meant to me as a writer-producer his stories now you have a wealth of new stories it’s not just one kid jealous of the other kid,” he continued. “…There’s a good box open because all new kinds of stories come out of that box. You have parents who have to show their new siblings that they love them just as much as their own. You have to have the kids show that their love for their father or mother is at the equal at least of their own. It’s a very interesting situation.”

Schwartz said the dynamic would create a persistent internal struggle within the family that could be mined for stories. As well as, show a family dynamic that had never been seen on TV before.

Creators Used Tricks to Cast ‘Brady Bunch’ Kids

There’s a famous W.C. Field’s line that goes “Never work with children or animals. They’re scene-stealing and unpredictable.” And Schwartz had to find six children that he could keep on task each week. They also needed the maturity to understand what scenes they were in and their roles within them.

Acting is a difficult, demanding, and distracting job. Schwartz knew that if he selected a kid he couldn’t keep on task, it would stall the production and balloon costs. So, he devised a plan to weed out children he thought may be a problem on set.

During the auditions, he put toys on his desk which were meant to distract the kids. He would make notes of the kids that didn’t look at the toys and mark them down.

He figured that the children who weren’t distracted by the toys would be able to work well on the show. Schwartz also assumed that by not looking at the toys, the kids would be able to handle the strain of being on set.