Photo courtesy of HGTV
When we got the invite from HGTV to go to the premiere party and a sneak peek tour of the newly revamped house of their new show A Very Brady Renovation, we were thrilled. Then we hit a "Very Brady" snag of our own. Nancy was able to RSVP but I was not — a sitcom style twist that could only be solved by Mike and Carol's sage advice (or an awesome publicist named Brynn). We’re not sure if it was our extremely long and overly detailed email siting all of our accomplishments and audience of enthusiasts of all things retro or her compassion for two crazy women who clearly were taking this opportunity way too seriously. But the wonderful Discovery PR department put both our names on the guest list. We were going to check off another item on our Pop Culture Bucket List that we never really thought possible — go back in time 50 years and walk through the Brady house.
There are few images burned into our minds as indelibly as the staircase in the Brady Bunch house. We were indoor kids. Besides playing in our above ground swimming pool in the summer, we pretty much came home from school, poured ourselves a couple of bowls of Cocoa Puffs (each) and sat "you'll-ruin-your-eyesight" close to the television every day for hours on end. The highlight of our day was a two-hour block that featured reruns of The Banana Splits, The Monkees and two, count 'em two, episodes of The Brady Bunch.
We have seen each of the 117 episodes more than we can count. We can still picture the pink and blue flower power wallpaper in the girl's bedrooms, the orange Formica countertops in Alice's kitchen and, of course, those iconic stairs.
So when we heard that, at the suggestion of their Director of Programming Robert Wimbish, HGTV had bought the house used in the exterior shots on the series, we were very excited. We thought, "Who better to make a tastefully retro-looking home but with all the mod cons than the Property Brothers or Leanne & Steve Ford?"
We never anticipated that our favorite TV network would go so far as to recreate the sets from the soundstage on the Paramount lot in the '60s and '70s instead. Not an easy task. The decision involved adding 2,000 square feet to the back of the house and digging down into the floor of the living room to accommodate the staircase. Why dig? Because the team behind the project wanted to make sure that the view of the house from the front looked exactly like what fans remembered — and that meant no second story could be visible from the street. And in a move of sheer genius, they brought in the Brady kids to work with HGTV stars to make sure every detail was flawless.
Is it wrong to admit that even though we're grown women we lost two nights of sleep over going to the Brady house? The night before the event we were buzzing with anticipation and we were so wired after coming home from the experience we kept waking up with "did that just happen" thoughts zipping around in our heads.
Since the first shuttle left for the Brady house at 3 pm, we had to get there at 2:45. We wanted to be on the first van to Dilling St. We were among the first group to hit the cement walkway and walk through those giant double doors and the sight of that famous sunken living room and view into the kitchen literally took our breaths away.
We don't want to give too many details of what we saw inside because everyone should watch A Very Brady Reno and get to enjoy it for themselves the way we did. But we will say this — every surface, stone wall, strip of wallpaper, piece of furniture, knick-knack, paint color and toy inside the house is perfection. Original props were recovered from Paramount, exact tables were sought out from antique stores and objects were crowdsourced from Brady fans (even more obsessive than us) all across the country.
After our tour ended, we took the shuttle bus back to the hotel with the intention of working for a couple of hours before the premiere party and screening of the debut episode. But after an hour we knew we had to go back for one more peek.
Luckily we made it on the last shuttle of the day and surprised our tour guide, Brian Balthazar, by joining him on another walkthrough. We whispered a little "Mom always said don't play ball in the house" to each other by the credenza and recreated the "Oh, my nose scene" (sans football) in the backyard.
Back at the hotel, we saw Barry Williams arrive and greet the PR team with a resounding "Let's party!" And then we watched all six Brady kids walk the red carpet and were delighted to see them moving in twos — Maureen McCormick (Marcia) with Barry Williams (Greg), Eve Plumb (Jan) with Christopher Knight (Peter) and Susan Olsen (Cindy) with Mike Lookinland (Bobby). Then we went to an amazing retro garden party with "Sunshine Day" blasting through speakers, teeter-totters, Polaroid cameras and, yes, a modern take on pork chops and applesauce.
We sat behind The Brady Bunch producer Lloyd Schwartz (his dad Sherwood created the show) to watch the premiere episode, which any Brady fan will love. And we cheered along with the rest of the crowd as the Bradys demolished the old house and brought the groovy look of the original sets to life.
When we were kids the only house we spent more time in than our own was the Brady's place. And in a weird way going to there felt like going home. If you loved the show or just want to relive your childhood, watch the premiere of A Very Brady Renovation on Monday, September 9 at 9 pm.