A "Very Brady" Renovation Retrospective

By Behind the Scenes in Hollywood Archives
Cover image for  article: A "Very Brady" Renovation Retrospective

Call it the Brady Boom.  HGTV’s A Very Brady Renovation has exceeded all expectations, becoming the highest-rated series in the network’s history for Live +3 among P25-54, W25-54, M25-54, P2+ and households.  Over its four original episodes, the show attracted more than 28 million total viewers, becoming a top-three cable program in the Monday, 9-10 p.m. timeslot, with the first episode (on September 9) registering as the highest-rated season premiere in HGTV history, attracting 40 percent more new viewers to the network.  Further, the stellar performance of the show extended to HGTV’s digital platforms, with the premiere becoming the most-streamed episode on HGTV GO in 2019 and the series becoming the second most-streamed series on HGTV GO this year.  (If you haven't already done so, be sure to take a tour through the recently renovated Brady home.)

To say that HGTV is enjoying significant success with its’ Brady business is a profound understatement.  In addition to its own accomplishments, the network has singlehandedly restored an iconic television home and propelled a 50-year-old sitcom to the forefront of popular culture.  With the possible exception of Star TrekThe Brady Bunch has proven to be a formidable TV franchise unlike any other, in that elements of it have been revived, repackaged and reimagined more than any other in the history of broadcast television.

The media was supposed to be singularly preoccupied this year with the 25th anniversary of Friends, but thanks to a truly genius idea the 50th anniversary of The Brady Bunch stole the spotlight.  Even at the Summer 2019 Television Critics Association tour the Brady Bunch generated more excitement than just about anything else.  (Speaking of anniversaries, there hasn’t been very much said about Scooby-Doo, another long-running cross-media phenomenon, which -- zoinks! -- is also 50 this year.)         

The year of the Bradys isn’t over yet.  HGTV also produced A Very Brady Renovation: Behind the Build, two bonus episodes (the first of which premiered last week).  After culling more than 9,000 hours of a renovation footage, the episodes include looks into never-before-seen renovated spaces of The Brady Bunch house and insights into some of the do-it-yourself projects done by the original cast members that were not featured in the four-part series, along with some surprise Brady guest-stars.  Fans can also expect a special holiday episode to air in December.

Notably, A Very Brady Renovation is not the first time the Brady home has been put back together in one form or another for purposes of popular entertainment.  With the boom in Brady interest, we decided to trek down memory lane and revisit some of the many Brady house re-creations pre-HGTV, and the results were surprising.  That is to say, we learned a lot about something with which we were already very familiar.

For example, it turns out The Brady Bunch is the only show ever to have appeared in some originalform on four broadcast networks, and now on cable, marking another milestone for the classic series.  Check out our Very Brady Re-creation Retrospective below. 

The Brady Bunch Variety Hour -- 1976-77

Two years after The Brady Bunch was cancelled, ABC decided to bring the family back in a variety hour.  (Eve Plumb chose not to return as Jan.)  Helmed by Sid and Marty Krofft (H.R. Pufnstuf, Donny & Marie), the series didn’t even attempt to recreate the familiar Brady home, instead placing the family in country-inspired surroundings.  However, incorporating a staircase was a nice nod to the original series’ digs.

The Brady Girls Get Married-- 1981

February 6,1981 would see the entire Brady clan reunite for the first time in this NBC TV movie, in which both Jan (Eve Plumb) and Marcia (Maureen McCormick) announce they’re getting married.  Apart from the fact that Mike (Robert Reed) and Carol (Florence Henderson) were empty nesters, and Alice (Ann B. Davis) was no longer in their employ, only minor changes were made when the network recreated the Brady home for the first time since the original show’s cancelation.  The familiar horse still had pride of place in the living room, but gone were the dark frosted table lamps and hexagonal side tables.  The matching green chairs, along with the floral couch, had been updated to more contemporary white furnishings, and the orange lucite grapes were gone.  It also appears that the shutters to Mike’s den had been replaced with blinds.

When it came to the famous Brady kitchen, NBC left good enough alone for the TV movie.  Burnt orange and brown were still the dominant colors, with the only noticeable changes being the color of the Saarinen tulip chairs (green to white) and the hanging fish trivets on the wall.  The network eventually set up another short-lived series, The Brady Brides, but with the girls being the main focus, the home wasn’t featured.

A Very Brady Christmas -- 1988

On December 18, 1988, CBS took its first of two turns at becoming the home of the Bradys (without Susan Olsen as Cindy, though).  This TV movie marked the first experience viewers would have with a Brady renovation, with the home undergoing major changes from 1974.  The white living room furnishings inspired by The Brady Girls Get Marriedremained, along with the bureau and the ever-present horse, but almost every inch of the home's original mid-century charm was undone in the interest of a more contemporary feel.  Gone were the multi-colored wall panels, replaced by hideous glass bricks.  No more clear glass table lamps, either.  Anything earth-toned was painted white, and a new pastel-infused dining setting was added.  Sadly, the iconic kitchen didn’t escape this make-over madness and was drabbed down with bamboo coverings on the cabinets.  The Saarinen tulip chairs were also MIA, and a garden window was added for effect.

Day by Day -- 1989

On February 5, 1989, NBC took another spin at recreating the Brady home for episode 11 of the second season of its long-forgotten Julia Louis-Dreyfus sitcom Day by Day.  In the episode, Ross (Christopher Daniel Barnes) dozed off during a Brady Bunch marathon and daydreamed he was a Brady, surrounded by Mike (Robert Reed), Carol (Florence Henderson), Alice (Ann B. Davis), Peter (Christopher Knight), Bobby (Mike Lookinland) and Marcia (Maureen McCormick).  NBC didn’t go all out recreating the famed Brady digs for the episode, but did a very respectable job replicating the living room, complete with the horse, staircase and signature brickwork.  The episode would also provide star Barnes with his first taste of the Brady lfe, as he would later portray Greg Brady in both The Brady Bunch Movie and A Very Brady Sequel.

The Bradys -- 1990

With A Very Brady Christmas ranking as the second highest-rated TV movie of 1988, the 1990 series The Bradys was born.  CBS returned to the made-over home featured in Brady Christmas for this short-lived drama series featuring the original stars (sans Maureen McCormick) and an expanded brood of spouses and grandkids.  Carol and Mike had added some striped couches to the living room, and the daybeds in the family room were replaced by more practical couches.  The kitchen appliances were updated and the original indoor barbeque was been reduced to what looked like a pizza oven.  Thankfully, the original brickwork was left intact.

Mike and Carol’s bedroom also received a makeover.  Their bed had a new white headboard, which along with a painting covered the flowered rice-paper backdrop.  The series would last only five episodes, but The Bradys provided the biggest renovation in Brady history when, after getting notice that the house was to be demolished to make way for a new freeway, the entire residence was cut in half, loaded on the back of a semi and hauled to a nearby vacant lot.  So that happened.

The Brady Bunch Movie -- 1995

Paramount went all in with this one, faithfully recreating the house for the first Brady big-screen outing starring Shelly Long as Carol and Gary Cole as Mike.  The recreation was faithful to the original series, down to the house appearing without the small fence that was added in the ‘90s (although it was reported that a similar home in Encino was re-dressed to resemble the original, located in North Hollywood).  The lucite grapes even made a welcome return.

Everything in the movie appeared to be in its rightful place, kitchen- and family room-wise, and the producers even reverted to the plain pink walls in the girls’ room as they appeared in the first season of the original series.

A Very Brady Sequel -- 1996

The same attention to nostalgic detail was evident in the 1996 sequel to the hit Brady movie.  The famed "broken" vase made a return, taking its proper place next to the horse.  The only notable change was the white pane in place of the yellow one on the famed pop art wall feature.

Apart from a hanging pendant light above the informal dining area (a change from the original set) there was nothing to fault in the sequel's kitchen recreation.


Growing Up Brady--2000

On May 16, 2000 the Brady home was again seen on NBC in Growing Up Brady.  Based on Barry Williams’ autobiography, the TV movie featured a pre-The O.C. Adam Brody as Williams and future The Big Bang Theory star Kaley Cuoco as Maureen McCormick.  It also featured another faithful recreation of the home, with the exception of the vase atop the landing entry.

Again, recreations of the kitchen and family room were spot on.

Thanks to the behind-the-scenes aspect of the movie, we got to see more of the house than before.  In one brief scene there we could see the incredibly faithful re-creation of the Brady backyard.  The girls’ bedroom was also given the first season’s pink paint treatment.

The X Files: Sunshine Days -- 2002

The Brady home got the Poltergeist treatment on May 12, 2002 after a man named Mike (David Faustino) and his buddy Blake were killed by something inhabiting the house that was used for exteriors on The Brady Bunch.  (It wasn’t the actual North Hollywood house seen in A Very Brady Renovation.)  Turns out a mysterious inhabitant named Oliver Martin (a.k.a. Cousin Oliver), played by Michael Emmerson, was creating the Brady interior with his psychokinetic powers.  It has been said that the interior of the house was re-created for the episode, but the fact it was for Fox leads us to believe that it may have also been the set for the next Brady movie, The Brady Bunch in the White House, which Fox telecast the same year. The only flaws were the blue pane in the pop art wall feature was white, and there’s a ball-pendant light above the informal dining table.  Oh, and the horse is facing the wrong way.

The famous vase made a return, as did the floral couch and hexagonal side tables.  The Brady boys' dresser was also featured in one shot, although it was not a perfect match and the corkboard above it was missing.

The Brady Bunch in the White House – 2002

Fox re-entered the Brady zone on November 29, 2002, with a TV movie that reunited Shelley Long as Carol and Gary Cole as Mike.  It also gave Hallmark Channel, and future The O.C. star Autumn Reeser, who played Marcia, a taste of being a Brady.  The house was seen in only the first 30 minutes of the film, as Mike, who had become President of the United States (you read that right), packed up the family and headed east.

Sharks may have been jumped, but in terms of the Brady house we believe the sets in this production to likely be the most faithful re-creations attempted before A Very Brady Renovation.  The horse (although facing the wrong way) and “mom’s favorite vase” appeared in the living room.  The daybeds and artwork appeared in the family room, and the burnt orange Formica in the kitchen really popped with the addition of under-cabinet lighting.

Thankfully, the hanging pendant light in the informal dining room was removed, and Mike and Carol’s bedroom proved to be a faithful recreation.

The Brady Bunch 35th Anniversary Reunion Special: Still Brady After All These Years-- 2004

On September 29 of 2004, TV Land went Brady for this reunion special, hosted by Jenny McCarthy, that featured all the surviving original cast members along with the show’s creator Sherwood Schwartz.  (Schwartz' photo is prominently displayed atop Alice's dresser in A Very Brady Renovation.  It's a lovely tribute.)  TV Land impressed with its re-creation of the kitchen, used in one scene.  While it was obviously for background, it was so well done that it deserved a mention here.

Sure, the pop-art backdrop is way too low on the back living room wall, but you can’t fault the placement of the Brady horse and staircase.

A Very Brady Renovation: Behind the Build concludes Monday, October 14 at 9 p.m. on HGTV.

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