For Brady Creators, the Family Affair Goes on

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sherwood Schwartz and Lloyd Schwartz, executive producers of "The Bradys," used to look forward to meeting all the other father-and-son writer-producer teams in Hollywood--maybe hosting an occasional picnic.

Then they discovered that there weren't any.

"You're looking at the only father-and-son writing-and-producing team," Sherwood Schwartz, 73, said proudly during the pair's first father-and-son interview at Paramount Studios, where they were hard at work several weeks ago on "The Bradys," which reunited the characters from the popular 1969-74 "The Brady Bunch."

"That happens to be truth," Lloyd Schwartz, 43, said with equal pride. "There are other father-and-son teams who do different things, but we do the same thing--producing and writing a show together."

For the Schwartzes, 1990 is a special year: It marks Sherwood's 50th anniversary in show business and Lloyd's 25th. Sherwood, who holds a master's degree in medical sciences, changed his career to show biz when his brother, a writer, drafted him to write jokes for Bob Hope's radio show in 1939. Lloyd started working parttime in the industry while still in college.

1990 also marks the third decade in the life of the Schwartzes' other family, the Bradys--created when Sherwood dreamed up the idyllic story of "a lovely lady" with three daughters and "a man named Brady" with three sons who got married. They became what Sherwood says was TV's first blended family.

The future of "The Bradys" in the '90s remains uncertain. CBS aired just six episodes as a mid-season replacement; the series ended its run last Friday. Although the first episode, a two-hour movie, got good ratings, the program then dropped into the Bottom 20 and stayed there.

Sherwood blamed the show's disappointing ratings on the fact that the first several hourlong episodes that ran at 8 p.m. were cut-down versions of two-hour Brady movies that CBS initially planned to air in 9 p.m. time slots, with story lines more appropriate for an older audience. The producers tried lighter stories for the last two episodes, but to no avail. The Schwartzes hope the series airs at 9 when it is re-run over the summer, and once again recaptures the Brady audience.

But if it doesn't, the Schwartzes remain satisfied with the brief family reunion. "We're following through on things we started 20 years ago," Lloyd said. "There has been a sense of completion every step of the way."

In any case, an end to "The Bradys" would not mark the end of the Schwartz partnership, he said. Although declining to give specifics, he said he and his father are producing a feature film and a play together, along with pursuing other film and theater projects on their own.

The Schwartzes say the key to their successful partnership--which includes teaching a television production course together in UCLA's extension program--is the time they spend apart. "I think the way we are able to deal with it is that we have our own lives, we do other things, so we enjoy coming together," Lloyd said.

But both Lloyd and Sherwood acknowledge that the arrangement has disadvantages, particularly for Lloyd. Lloyd, a recent UCLA graduate when "The Brady Bunch" was launched, struggled with concerns about nepotism before reluctantly agreeing to become dialogue coach for the kids on the show. And he concedes that he has felt the shadow of his father's accomplishments: Not only did Sherwood create the Bradys, he also got a head start in TV comedy by creating "Gilligan's Island" in 1964.

"There is some loss of identity for me when we come together," Lloyd said. "You always read: 'Sherwood Schwartz's "The Bradys" '--well, it's the two of us. We did it together. But I understand all that, and there's no problem about it between us."

The Bradys have undergone several reincarnations on all three networks since the happy family made its debut on ABC in 1969. There was the short-lived "The Brady Bunch Hour" variety show on ABC in 1977 and "The Brady Brides" series on NBC in 1981, also short-lived. CBS finally struck gold in 1988 with "A Very Brady Christmas," which brought the Brady clan back together for the holidays and won the network some of its highest ratings ever for a made-for-TV movie.

The success of that movie led to the recent series, a drama in which the Brady parents, played by Robert Reed and Florence Henderson, had become grandparents; the Brady kids were troubled and thirtysomething, with spouses, children and pets.

About the only similarity between the old Bradys and the new Bradys was the negative reaction of the TV critics. Sherwood recalled fondly that they hated "Gilligan's Island," too. Like "The Cosby Show's" Huxtable family that succeeded them, the Bradys have been attacked for two decades for presenting a too-rosy view of family life.

After 20 years, however, the Schwartzes have learned to live with it.

"Now 'Gilligan' is a cult classic, and so is ('The Brady Bunch')," Sherwood said. "I honestly think I could sit down and write a show tonight that the critics would love, and I know it would be canceled within four weeks. I know what the critics love. We write and produce for people, not for critics."

Nor do the Schwartzes believe the relentlessly cheerful Bradyness of the family to be less realistic than life in more troubled families. In fact, life with the Brady Bunch was a lot like life with the Schwartz Bunch; many of the show's stories developed out of happenings in the Schwartz household.

"A lot of people say television holds up a mirror to life, and that's why you see all the drug busts and the killings and the seamier side of life," Sherwood said. "I personally take the view that as a responsible producer, it's not sufficient to portray only negative role models. I think it's better to give an alternative. It's not enough to say no to drugs. What do you say 'yes' to?"

The Schwartzes complain that today's situation comedies have lost the "humanity" that "The Brady Bunch" and "Gilligan's Island" had.

"Now they're brittle--it's joke, joke, joke," Sherwood said. "The truth is, as hokey-pokey as 'Gilligan' was, with a lot of broad comedy, there were times when whole pages of dialogue would go by that was serious.

"I don't think anyone could sit down and watch either of those shows and not get the feeling that that's the way they'd like life to be, the way they'd like people to treat each other," he added. "In 'Gilligan's Island,' the sum is greater than all the pieces, and the same is true of 'The Brady Bunch.' "

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