‘The Brady Bunch’: Two Actors Explained Why Show Remained Popular, Compared it to ‘Comfort Food’

by Jennifer Shea

“The Brady Bunch” was an idyllic sitcom that aired in a turbulent decade. With its wholesome, apolitical humor, the show never waded into the topics that preoccupied some of its contemporaries, such as “M*A*S*H.”

But “The Brady Bunch” nonetheless appealed to a broad audience. And decades after the show’s final episode, its stars discussed what had made it so compelling.  

Susan Olsen, who played Cindy Brady, and Mike Lookinland, who played Bobby Brady, sat down for an interview with the “Today” show in 2019. And then the two former child actors tried to explain the appeal of “The Brady Bunch” among middle-aged people who had watched the show in their youth.

“It’s just like the music you loved…” Lookinland began.

“Comfort food,” Olsen supplied.

“It’s like the music you loved when you first got out of the house, and fell in love with whatever band you loved,” Lookinland added.

Watch their comments here:

‘The Brady Bunch’ Creator Also Launched ‘Gilligan’s Island’

Show creator Sherwood Schwartz, who also created “Gilligan’s Island,” got the idea for “The Brady Bunch” from a 1966 article in the Los Angeles Times.

In his 2010 book “Brady Brady Brady,” which he wrote with his son Lloyd, Schwartz told of how he stumbled across a brief item in the Times about blended families. According to People, it said, “In the year 1965, more than 29 percent of all marriages included a child or children from a previous marriage.”

“I knew instinctively that statistic was the key to a new and unusual TV series,” Schwartz wrote. “It was a revelation! The first blended family! His kids and her kids! Together!”

“The Brady Bunch” never drew much critical acclaim. In fact, the critics reportedly hated it. But it was popular with TV audiences.

Show’s Child Actors Were Mostly Sheltered from Unpleasant Realities

“The Brady Bunch” aired from 1969 to 1974. And some of its stars have praised it as a “cocoon of idealism” set against the backdrop of a bitterly divided country.

There is some evidence to suggest that audiences were glad to take the show up on its escapism. In 1976, reruns of “The Brady Bunch” outperformed the vice-presidential debate in TV ratings, per the New York Post.

Closer to home for the Brady kids than the vice-presidential debate was the atmosphere on set. Kimberly Potts, author of “The Way We All Became the Brady Bunch,” told the Post that Robert Reed, the actor who played Mike Brady, often spent his lunch breaks drinking and returned to the set inebriated. But by then, the child actors had usually left the set for the day and so missed out on his angry outbursts.

As a matter of fact, Reed saw himself as a sort of father figure for the child actors. He took the kids on a trip to England one year and gave them Super 8 cameras one Christmas because he wanted to teach them about culture.

Fortunately for Reed, the show only lasted five seasons, so he was spared the indignity of having his character killed off due to the actor’s difficulty on set, which is what Schwartz had planned for Season 6. As for the kids, they seem to remember only the good times.