Barry Williams, Greg Brady, and 4222 Clinton Way

RemingtonGrowing Up Brady, by Barry Williams with Chris Kreski, exposed life behind the scenes of The Brady Bunch; it was, for Baby Boomers who saw the show’s original broadcast and Generation Xers who feasted on reruns, a fascinating, revealing, and titillating look at one of television’s most famous shows.

The Brady Bunch aired on ABC from 1969 to 1974; it was a highly significant contributor to ABC’s programming targeted to younger viewers, including Room 222The Mod Squad, and The Partridge Family.

Growing Up Brady details how Barry Williams got the part of Greg Brady, the oldest of six Brady children.  It also showcases, in painstaking detail, the fights, arguments, and tension between Robert Reed and Sherwood Schwartz, the show’s lead actor and creator, respectively.

Williams also shares his insights on the various and varied spinoffs of The Brady Bunch.  The family residing at 4222 Clinton Way in an unspecified town in southern California proved popular across different formats:  The Brady Kids (animation), The Brady Bunch Hour (variety), The Brady Girls Get Married (tv-movie), The Brady Brides (sitcom), A Very Brady Christmas (tv-movie), The Bradys (drama).

Paramount, the production company behind The Brady Bunch, produced two feature films in the 1990s, The Brady Bunch Movie and A Very Brady Sequel.  In 2002, FOX aired The Brady Bunch in the White House, a tv-movie featuring Brady patriarch Mike Brady becoming President of the United States.

Robert Reed wrote the Foreword for Growing Up Brady.  Williams does more than explain Reed’s aforementioned conflicts with Schwartz;  he uses Reed’s own words, i.e., memoranda, to shed light on Reed’s point of view regarding the story lines in The Brady Bunch.

Williams, additionally, reveals the harsh realities of show business.  Contract negotiations between the representatives of the actors and Schwartz caused a rift, for example.  “All along, we had basically been a bunch of ordinary kids who liked each other and who interacted naturally with each other on camera,” Williams writes.  “Now, with burnt business deals, lawsuits, angry parents, and a jaded mistrust of those in charge thrown into the mix, our chemistry went from spontaneous to stilted and our united ensemble mentality burst into six-sided selfishness.  Worst of all, our spirits were dampened and that resulted in some noticeably low energy episodes.  We listened to the hype, believed it, and screwed up big time.”

Williams also gets personal, sharing the details of his date with Florence Henderson, who played his stepmother, Carol Brady.  An off-screen romance with Maureen McCormick, who played stepsister Marcia, also gets a spotlight.

Story lines revolving around Greg include pranking brothers Peter and Bobby with a fake UFO, competing with Marcia in a driving contest, and having a crush on a teacher.  In the episode The Dropout, Don Drysdale visits the Brady house because he’s a client of Mike Brady, America’s favorite fictional architect until Ted Mosby came along to recount the tale of how he met his children’s mother.  After Mike displays his design for the pitching legend’s new house, he asks Drysdale to meet the Brady boys.

Greg has a sure-fire career of success on the baseball diamond.  Or so he believes, anyway.  A pitcher in the Pony League, Greg has stars in his eyes after the former Dodgers ace offers encouraging, kind, and seemingly benign words about Greg being in the big leagues someday, maybe even a “bonus baby” who gets a lucrative deal as a rookie.

The allure of a baseball career overshadows Greg’s sense of reality. At Mike’s request, Drysdale visits the Brady house again, this time with the purpose of affirming the gritty parts of baseball to Greg, including soaking your pitching arm in ice.  Still, Greg’s ego expands the typical childhood fantasy of playing in the major leagues into a full-blooded assault on perspective.

When Greg gets pounded for 12 runs in the first inning of his next game, the coach benches him. After nearly giving up baseball with tears in his eyes, Greg receives fatherly insight from the Brady patriarch about not everyone being a Don Drysdale.

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