Monday, March 19, 2018

Beyond the Bunch: The Brady Kids’ Best Non-Brady Roles

The six actors who portrayed the Brady kids never found other roles that had the same popular or cultural impact. 

That’s not a condemnation of their talents, as the same could be said of many Comfort TV-era sitcom kids. In fact, a glance at their sparse non-Brady credit lists after the series suggests that most of them, after perhaps one too many typecasting rejection, just accepted their fates and were content to wait for the next reunion.

But if you’re curious to see them away from Westdale High, the Grand Canyon or that mysterious commode-free bathroom, here are my selections for the most memorable non-Brady roles of the bunch.

Susan Olsen
One year before The Brady Bunch debuted, the youngest one in curls appeared in “Paint Your Waggedorn,” a first-season episode of Julia that offered a sincere if simplistic examination of prejudice. She plays Pamela, a visiting grandchild of one of Julia’s neighbors, who spends a day playing with Julia’s son Corey and his best friend, Earl J. Waggedorn. When grandma and grandpa find their walls covered in crayon drawings, they immediately pin it on the black kid, though Pamela is later revealed as the guilty party. The older folks learn their lesson.

Two things stood out to me about this episode. First, Corey suggesting a game of cowboys and Indians, so he can be the Indian and “pretend we’ve captured a white woman.” It’s one of those lines that comes out of nowhere and reminds us of what TV was like before cultural sensitivity training. The other is how Olsen, even at this young age, is already acting circles around series regulars Marc Copage (Corey) and Michael Link (Earl). 

Mike Lookinland
Lookinland had just four post-Brady credits unrelated to that series. The most substantive was in the Secrets of Isis episode “To Find a Friend” shot in the year between the end of The Brady Bunch and the start of The Brady Bunch Variety Hour.

Every episode of this series featured a kid that had to be sorted out by Isis, and here it’s friendless Tom Anderson (Lookinland), who steals his father’s gun to trade it for a ride on a stranger’s dirt bike. Of course, that kid steals the gun and Tom doesn’t even get his ride. Regular visitors to this blog already know how much I love this show, so this would be an easy choice even if the only other contenders for Lookinland were not glorified walk-ons. 

Eve Plumb
If I were basing choices on personal enjoyment, I’d opt for her appearance on Here’s Lucy as a teenager in love with guest-star Donny Osmond. 

But with Eve Plumb there’s no escaping the more prominent and once salacious legacy of Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway (1976).

It’s one of the rare 1970s TV movies that still get talked about from time to time. But unlike Brian’s Song and The Night Stalker, which people remember because they were really great, Dawn was noticed because it delivered a Brady as a teenage prostitute. 

It’s not a good movie, and Eve Plumb is not particularly good in it. But it is certainly a memorable relic of its time. If you’ve never watched it, proceed with caution – the scene in which William Schallert takes Jan Brady back to a cheap Hollywood motel room can scar a classic TV fan for life.

Christopher Knight
“Max” (1977) is one of the more unusual episodes of The Bionic Woman, as the bionic woman herself is hardly in it. With Jaime Sommers confined to the hospital for a 50,000-mile tune up, the spotlight shifts to a bionic German Shepherd named Max. Christopher Knight plays Bobby, the teenage nephew of the dog’s guardian. It’s a substantial role that carries the episode and he handles it well, even when he has to channel Jon Provost for the dialogue scenes with a dog.  

Maureen McCormick
It’s not surprising that the girl who played overachiever Marcia appeared in more interesting non-Brady projects than any of her TV siblings. Before the series, a very tiny Maureen played young Endora in two episodes of Bewitched, and the rottenest of rotten kids in the Honey West episode “In the Bag.” 

After the show you’ll catch her in a dozen or so guest spots on The Love Boat and Fantasy Island, and once again playing the daughter of Robert Reed in a 1978 episode of Vega$ called “The Pageant.” 

But the one I keep coming back to “Street Games,” a 1975 episode of Harry O. She plays Nancy Wayne, a pregnant, drug-addicted runaway who witnesses the murder of her junkie boyfriend, and is now on the run from his killers. Given her own struggles with addiction, it’s not always pleasant watching her fiddle with a cigarette in a trash-strewn alley, or going through a traumatic withdrawal. Even stranger and sadder is the scene where Nancy tries to score from another addict played by Lani O’Grady, who lost her own battle with addiction back in 2001. It sticks with you.

Barry Williams
No other Brady Brunch cast member embraced his Brady status more than Barry Williams. I believe he still occasionally appears in 70’s-themed concerts, where he gamely dons the matador suit of Johnny Bravo and transports audiences back to simpler and happier times. I'm tempted to select his appearance as an altar boy in Dragnet's Christmas episode, as it's one I look forward to watching every year.

But I must choose “Up In the Air” (1982) from Three's Company, as it is widely considered the series’ best episode. At a party for a man Janet is trying to impress (played by Williams), Jack gets loopy on booze and tranquilizers, and John Ritter delivers a master class in physical comedy. It’s Ritter's show, but Williams carries off the straight man role with aplomb. 

And if you’re looking for a selection for Robbie Rist, you’ve come to the wrong place.


  1. Mike Lookinland also made an appearance on LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE around 1977, which would be after playing Bobby in both the sitcom & the variety show.

    I find Eve Plumb's HERE'S LUCY appearance interesting in part because she made it in fall 1972, while she was still appearing as Jan on THE BRADY BUNCH, and it was on a different network too.

    I love that Chris Knight played a character named Bobby. Do you suppose Mike L ever played "Peter" anywhere or even "Greg"?

    Barry Williams also played a good part on MARCUS WELBY, MD, when both shows were in their 1st seasons. He played a young teen who was facing leukemia and a father who wanted to hide that truth from him.

  2. Mr. Hofstede, have you seen "Alexander: The Other Side of Dawn"? It was a follow-up to "Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway." Eve Plumb and Leigh McCloskey were in both movies. McCloskey would go on to play a gynecologist/rapist on "Santa Barbara."

  3. I remember Eve Plumb in a TV movie called "The Secret of Three Hungry Wives. She played the daughter of one of the wives who was having an affair with a man who later ends up dead. One of the wives finds out that the man was having an affair. The wife goes to confront the man at his place. When she confronts him, she looks up and sees her daughter (Eve) at the top of the stairs coming out of the bathroom wearing a towel. Said to myself, "Marcia wouldn't do that."

  4. What about an episode of "It's Takes A Thief" titled "A Matter of Grey Matter" where he played a super smart kid whose sister was an actress played by Joey Heatherton. He had to have been in high heaven because Joey was every boy's wet dream.

  5. Barry Williams wrote about this episode in his book "Growing Up Brady". He loved working with Joey Heatherton, and I won't share it here, but his comment about filming the last scene with Ms. Heatherton confirms his general horniness at the time.

  6. If anyone here indeed wants to know what happened to Robbie Rist:
    Robbie Rist pursued a quiet and distinguished career in music in Los Angeles. He is a great guitarist and songwriter. As a matter of fact, one of his bands from the 90s L.A. "Poptopia" scene -The Andersons - will be reuniting April 5 at LA hangout club 6555 (Formerly The King King). Along with a good British Invasion band (Time Of The Season) opening.

  7. I'm late to the comments, but upon seeing the subject of this post I immediately thought of the same HARRY O episode our host David did for Maureen McCormick. It was only the next season after BRADY BUNCH was canceled, so she was still very much Marcia in appearance. To her credit, she merely "fiddled" with that cigarette and never puffed it. (Robert Reed was on HARRY O just a few episodes earlier.)

    I'm surprised nobody mentioned Eve Plumb in the 1970 DAN AUGUST pilot movie, THE HOUSE ON GREENAPPLE ROAD. A memorable role.

    ebf1957 mentioned my favorite non-Brady Barry Williams role in the Joey Heatherton IT TAKES A THIEF two-parter. And yes, I read his recollections of it, which are funny, but most touching is his high regards for Robert Wagner as a standup guy mentoring an up n' coming actor. I'm currently working my way through the first season of MARCUS WELBY and will be eager to see Williams' appearance, bringing together the stars of two iconic TV families.

    I just saw about a week ago Christopher Knight in the "Oil" episode of MASQUERADE (the unjustly forgotten 1983-84 Rod Taylor, Greg Evigan, and Kirstie Alley spy series). Unfortunately, his part was small and undistinguished.

    1. I think I remember seeing Robert Reed in HARRY O back in 1974 when it originally aired. If I remember it correctly, he played a bad guy who was shot and fell off a boat at the end of the show. I thought that was a terrible thing to happen to Mike Brady, or at least someone who used to be Mike Brady. I don't recall ever seeing Robert Reed playing a villain in any other show or movie, excluding where he played the slave-owning Mr. Reynolds in ROOTS.

    2. Jon H, you are correct; that's the one! He plays a mild-mannered family man married to the beautiful Linda Marsh but in reality . . . he's a hit man! I was doubly distressed watching it because I had also been seeing Reed as good guy Lt. Adam Tobias on MANNIX. On Reed playing bad guys, should his role in PRAY FOR THE WILDCATS be added to the list?