“Brady Bunch” stars and HGTV’s “Property Brothers” give USA TODAY a peek at the TV-friendly internal redesign of the house used for exterior shots.
Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY
HGTV set network ratings records with September’s “A Very Brady Renovation.” Now, in a jolly seasonal spirit, it’s bringing back cast members from “The Brady Bunch” for a holiday special.
After rebuilding “The Brady Bunch” house with the actors who played the Brady kids, the cable network and its Discovery sibling, Food Network, present “A Very Brady Renovation: Holiday Edition” (HGTV, Monday, 10 EST/PST and Food Network, Dec. 22, 1 EST/PST).
In the special, the “Brady” stars – Barry Williams, Maureen McCormick, Christopher Knight, Eve Plumb, Mike Lookinland and Susan Olsen – join hosts from two Discovery networks, Ree Drummond of Food Network’s “The Pioneer Woman” and Jasmine Roth of HGTV’s “Hidden Potential,” to prepare ’70s holiday treats and decorations.
“There were retro items to decorate the house,” says Olsen, who enjoyed the throwback feel of the food and ornaments. “I’m kind of a snob, because I think the older things are cuter and better, especially with holiday decorations. So all of these ornaments were to my taste.”
‘The Brady Bunch’ cast members (Susan Olsen, from left, Mike Lookinland, Eve Plumb, Christopher Knight, Maureen McCormick and Barry Williams) joined Food Network’s Ree Drummond and HGTV’s Jasmine Roth for HGTV’s “A Very Brady Renovation: Holiday Edition.” (Photo: HGTV)
Olsen, 58, who played the youngest Brady child, Cindy, was impressed by plush Santa Claus dolls that were part of the decorations in the home’s family room, along with a festively attired version of her character’s doll, Kitty Karry-All, and fan-made ornaments that represent iconic “Brady Bunch” moments, including a volcano and a basketball-and-vase.
The ’70s holiday vibe fits well in the suburban Los Angeles home, which served as the exterior shot for the original sitcom, which ran from 1969 to 1974. In “A Very Brady Renovation,” the sitcom’s stars and HGTV hosts, assisted by Los Angeles design team Dr. Christmas, transformed the inside of the house to match the interior soundstage sets from the original series.
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‘The Brady Bunch’ stars Mike Lookinland, left, and Maureen McCormick prepare a festive gelatin mold with Food Network host Ree Drummond on ‘A Very Brady Renovation: Holiday Edition.’ (Photo: Gilles Mingasson, Getty Images)
The four-episode September series set ratings records for HGTV, which led to the addition of two “Behind the Build” episodes and an upcoming “refreshed” version of “Renovation” with added cast reflections and behind-the-scenes stories (Jan. 1, 7 a.m. EST/PST). The holiday edition already had been planned.
“We consider ‘A Very Brady Renovation’ to be our most successful series of all time on HGTV,” says Loren Ruch, HGTV’s senior vice president of production and development. “That’s why we keep adding these wonderful (programming) tentacles, because it seems the public wants to see more Brady. … So we’re trying to keep it going.”
(HGTV has no further programming plans for the house, which is in a residential neighborhood. “For now, we’re keeping it and enjoying the fact it’s a national treasure that we have access to,” Ruch says.)
Christopher Knight, left, Susan Olsen and Mike Lookinland, who played siblings on “The Brady Bunch,” gather in the re-created backyard of a Los Angeles home that was featured in the HGTV series, “A Very Brady Renovation.” (Photo: ROBERT HANASHIRO/USA TODAY)
During the special, Drummond prepares holiday staples, featuring a 29-pound turkey, along with ’70s-style treats, including a red-and-green gelatin mold and “Santapes,” or Santa canapes. Roth, who worked with the actors on the four-episode “Renovation” series, helps them make wooden nutcrackers from window shutters and re-create the famed “Brady” staircase photo with snowmen characters on the roof.
The host pairing and cross-network broadcasts work well, Ruch says.
“Ree Drummond is the biggest ‘Brady Bunch’ fan on the planet. She was brought to tears when she met them, so it was a no-brainer she would be part of the show,” he says. “Jasmine Roth was a member of the original ‘Renovation’ series … so it made sense to combine the two of them and have it air on both networks.”
The warm family comedy seems a logical choice for a holiday-themed special, but “The Brady Bunch” had only one explicitly Christmas-themed episode in its five-year run, Season 1’s “The Voice of Christmas.” (The holiday was center stage in the 1988 TV film “A Very Brady Christmas.”)
In the episode, which originally aired Dec. 19, 1969, mom Carol Brady’s laryngitis threatens her ability to sing at a church service, so Cindy asks a department-store Santa Claus to restore her voice. Dad Mike Brady (Robert Reed) explains to the 6-year-old that Santa may not be able to deliver. (Spoiler alert: Somebody pulls off the Christmas miracle, because Florence Henderson’s Carol is in full voice for “O Come All Ye Faithful” by the end of the episode.)
“I have a photograph, a professional still from the show of me and Bob,” Olsen says. “There’s only a couple of scenes where it’s just me and Bob. Those are very special to me because he was very special to me.”
In addition to the indoor festivities, HGTV brought in a truck with a machine that shredded ice blocks and sprayed the fine, frozen particles into a snowy lawn covering.
When HGTV producers surprised “Brady” cast members with the snow, “they just started to frolic. They forgot what they were supposed to be shooting and turned into kids again. Maureen was throwing snowballs at people,” Ruch says. “At first, we were thinking, ‘Oh, gosh, this is not what we’re supposed to be shooting right now.’ And the other part of of us was like, ‘Oh, let them run with it. This is more fun.’ “
Olsen enjoyed the entire “Renovation” experience, from demolition work to holiday snow.
“It’s always a blast to be with my (TV) siblings, particularly when it’s all of us. … I think that all of us as ourselves are even more likable than our characters,” she says. “I’m very grateful that HGTV showed who we are and how we relate together, because it’s a very different relationship. On this entire planet, there are only five other people that will understand my childhood.”
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