Brady Bunch super fans, unite! More than 45 years since the iconic series was canceled by ABC and exactly one second since it last aired in syndication comes HGTV’s “hugely anticipated” A Very Brady Renovation, which convenes the six surviving Brady Bunch cast members for the first time since their last convention appearance. The goal: To transform the interiors of the iconic Studio City home used for establishing shots into an exact replica of the soundstage-built sets that served as the TV family’s home base for five seasons.
Episode 1 of the series kicks off with an intro that apes the show’s iconic split-screen opening credit sequence, complete with updated lyrics (“That’s the way…they remade the Brady house…”). Meanwhile, the adorable Brady kids are all here and accounted for: Maureen McCormick (Marcia), Barry Williams (Greg), Eve Plumb (Jan), Christopher Knight (Peter), Susan Olsen (Cindy) and Mike Lookinland (Bobby).
The next 10 or so minutes indulge in some necessary exposition to explain how we got to this point. In the process we meet the very enthusiastic Kelsey McCallister—granddaughter of the home’s late owner Violet “Vi” McCallister—who explains how she was bombarded with literally thousands of bids after putting the ranch-style house on the market last summer. We also hear from fashionable HGTV executive Loren Rich, who describes how the network shelled out a cool $3.5 million to snatch away the property from the clutches of the numerous other bidders, including Lance Bass.
We are now introduced to a few of the people who will help make this dream a reality, including design expert Dylan Eastman, contractor Dave Clark and executive producer Dean Ollins, who performs a triumphant fist pump upon learning that LA Mayor Eric Garcetti is a “huge” Brady Bunch fan and will help push through the necessary building permits. The neighbors will surely be thrilled!
HGTV has a fool-proof plan to win them over: Bombard them with gourmet cookies and Grandma Vi’s “prized rose bushes,” which will surely allay all of their doubts. Next, we are informed that the show’s producers have set up a CSI-style “command center” in the house next door, where the Brady kids will have the opportunity to “dig forensically through anything and everything Brady Bunch.”
Speaking of crime procedurals, the episode goes on to make a feeble stab at suspense with Loren’s straight-faced proclamation: “If we do not get all six Brady cast members, it will be devastating for this production.” But of course they all said yes, and apparently all it took was one meal at The Black Market Liquor Bar in Studio City to get them on board.
As we move into the meat of the show, we’re told that this episode will focus on reconstructing the “front of house, living room and staircase.” We then see the six Brady cast members traveling in pairs to the Studio City home where they will all pretend to do actual construction work for the next six months.
We also meet the telegenic cast of HGTV talent who will be overseeing the process, including immaculately-groomed twins Drew and Jonathan Scott (aka The Property Brothers), Good Bones stars Mina Starsiak and Karen Laine, Leanne and Steve Ford of Restored By the Fords, Hidden Potential’s Jasmine Roth, and prolific Flea Market Flip host and Good Morning America co-anchor Lara Spencer. As the group awaits the Brady family’s arrival, they profess their nervousness and mutually decide they “cannot mess this up” lest the American public erupt into anarchy.
Eventually, the Brady cast takes a tour of the house, and we witness along with them the shock and horror of small kitchens and hideous bedroom wallpaper. Back at the command center, the HGTV crew explains that the reconstruction will involve adding 2,000 square feet and an extra story onto the original home to recreate 15 individual spaces from the series, all while making sure to avoid any change in the “iconic” street view of the property. Is it too late to back out of this?
The demolition begins in earnest as the hard-hatted group rips out an awning with a collective cry of “Brady!”, followed by a clip reel of what we can expect from the remainder of the season. (Spoiler alert: Expect lots of bad jokes from the Property Brothers.)
We now learn that Maureen, Susan, and Christopher will be a focus of this episode, presumably due to scheduling conflicts. Christopher joins the Property Brothers on the front lawn, where it is pointed out that the “famous” window on the left side of the house was in fact a fake added by production. Later, the brothers walk Maureen and Susan through what will be required to recreate the entryway, living room, and dining room, which entails ripping everything out and starting all over again. This is demonstrated via endless computer animations as well as an “engineering test” that involves a drone for some reason.
We are now treated to a split-screen-heavy demolition montage straight out a Brian De Palma movie, during which the house is gutted and the landscaping at the front is returned more or less to its original condition. A foundation is then laid in the backyard for a two-story extension that will contain the kitchen, family room, bedrooms and famous “Jack and Jill bathroom.” Meanwhile, back at the command center, Christopher and Jasmine puzzle over the correct shade of “Brady beige” needed to paint the front of the house. “I have to get this paint color right, or I’m going to let America down!” Jasmine proclaims in exasperation.
Elsewhere, the Property Brothers seek Maureen’s expert advice on the design of the iconic Brady Bunch staircase, which must be modified to fit the height of the ceilings inside the home. The high-stakes dilemma they are faced with: Whether to reduce the number of stairs from 12 to 11 or, alternatively, to pitch them at a slightly shallower angle to fit them all. The brothers then proceed to spend half a day building out a replica staircase for Maureen to walk on. Upon reaching the top step, Maureen delivers a poignant monologue before descending back to Earth to announce that she has deemed the angle as the most important element.
It’s worth pointing out that in the world of A Very Brady Renovation everything about the original Brady house is “iconic,” from the stairs to the fake front window to the “Persian-inspired” floral pattern of the living room couch, which is recreated with the help of a digital printing company. It’s probably safe to say that 99.9 percent of the America the cast and crew so frequently invoke won’t ever notice if the precise angle of the staircase is off or the beige on the home’s exterior is a shade too dark, but then I suppose you have to keep your base happy or the entire enterprise crumbles.
Moving along! Lara is “having a small panic attack” and in desperate need of Maureen’s opinion (for some reason Maureen’s opinion is the only one that seems to matter here) on a collection of furniture and props discovered in a Paramount storage facility, including a living-room curio cabinet and a fugly brown vase. Maureen, who appears to have been blessed with a Marilu Henner-level memory, nixes the cabinet but confirms the vase’s authenticity, leaving Lara to proclaim that she feels like Indiana Jones discovering the Holy Grail. Meanwhile, we have not seen Susan for an eternity.
Back at the house, Christopher is really starting to pull his weight. Not only has he discovered the correct shade of beige with some savvy detective work, he has exploited one of his unlikely connections in the 3D printing world to reproduce the missing leg of the “iconic” Brady Bunch horse statue that has been discovered in a Paramount vault. This process requires 210 cameras and 28 hours, but the horse is important and everyone agrees that no cost is too great to restore it back to its original condition.
Just when we were starting to worry about her, Susan re-emerges to accompany Maureen on a trip to a midcentury furniture store that happens to possess an exact replica of the dining room table and chairs from the original series. The TV sisters subsequently return to the house to help the Property Brothers cut out acrylic pieces for the multi-colored mural above the stairs. In a true show of patriotism, it is revealed that during production a number of Brady Bunch fans donated duplicates of items from the original set, including a curio cabinet that meets Maureen’s exacting standards and a pile of orange grapes made of glass.
The always-enthusiastic Maureen then goes on to assist the brothers in recreating the original stone wall in the entryway, while informing us that “the stone work in the Brady house is in everybody’s mind.” After completing that work, she and the rest of the cast are banished from the premises in anticipation of the final reveal. Following another montage in which we see the construction crew rigging up the staircase, laying bricks for the living room fireplace and installing miles of glorious astroturf in the backyard, the entire cast is brought back to view the finished portions of the house.
It is in the reveal where A Very Brady Renovation truly shines. Simply put, the recreations are extraordinary in their level of detail. Though Episode 1 sadly deprived us of any Growing Up Brady-esque backstage drama or shattering emotional outbursts between the cast, it’s hard to deny the impressive level of craftsmanship on display.
As the cast stands back to admire the production’s handiwork at the end of the episode, Maureen invokes their late castmates once more. “I feel like they’re all here with us,” she says, and it’s hard not to feel a pang of nostalgia as the now-retirement-aged cast gathers together for a classic photo op on the precisely-angled staircase. If Heaven exists, their late TV parents and TV maid are surely looking down, admiring the stonework.