Why ‘The Brady Bunch’ Was Popular With Prison Inmates
The Brady Bunch introduced viewers to one of America’s first blended families. Each week, audiences tuned in to spend time with the idyllic household of Mike (Robert Reed), his wife Carol (Florence Henderson), and their six kids: Greg (Barry Williams), Marcia (Maureen McCormick), Peter (Christopher Knight), Jan (Eve Plumb), Bobby (Mike Lookinland), and Cindy (Susan Olsen). Housekeeper Alice (Ann B. Davis) helped keep running smoothly amidst the chaos.
The picture-perfect portrayal of the Bradys often brought a sense of comfort to fans from all walks of life. Some viewers with unhappy home lives wanted to join the family – literally.
Why ‘The Brady Bunch’ struck a chord with viewers
Though the last episode of The Brady Bunch aired in 1974, the sitcom is still considered a staple in television. McCormick remarked how the family’s strong sense of unity attracted viewers.
“The bottom line is that it was about love,” The Brady Bunch alum told the New York Post in 2019. “Coming together, working out innocent problems people had, and a lot of them were basic problems that still exist. We all kind of celebrated working it out together, and I think we all really loved each other — there was a genuine love for all people on show, and I think that resonates.”
Knight noted the familiarity of the Bradys being a comfort to all ages, even over 50 years after the series ended.
“Initially it was a child’s show for children to tap into,” Knight explained. “Then it became nostalgia as soon as people got old enough to look on what they consumed as a child — we’re doing that right now. Regardless of whatever generation you are … it’s the same loop for everyone, regardless of their era.”
‘The Brady Bunch’ was considered a real family that some wanted to join
Sherwood Schwartz created the iconic show in 1969, with his son Lloyd serving as producer/director. The two chronicled their journey with the series in the 2010 book Brady, Brady, Brady: The Complete Story of the Brady Bunch. Lloyd revealed he still hears from viewers requesting pictures and correspondence with the Brady stars, while some write in with a more concerning issue.
“I continue to receive fan mail from all over the world asking for pictures of the cast,” Lloyd wrote. “I once got a fan letter during the first or second year when the show was on prime time. It was from a young girl who said she was leaving her home in Ohio and coming to California to join The Brady Bunch.”
After receiving more letters with the same sentiments from other young girls, Lloyd worried that these viewers would put themselves in danger by running away from home. He would often write to the parents of the girls at the letter’s return address to alert them, keeping copies of his correspondence in case there was ever a real problem.
“The last thing I wanted was to be responsible for runaway girls,” Lloyd explained. “Thank goodness none of them ever showed up.”
The Bradys had a felony following
In his book, Lloyd shared that he also received letters from clergy members who appreciated the show’s moral lessons. One group that often requested pictures was particularly a surprise to The Brady Bunch producer.
“Interestingly enough, I also get letters from prisoners in jail,” Lloyd said. “They ask for cast pictures of The Brady Bunch to put up in their cells. They say it reminds them of happier days when they were young, before they got in trouble with the law.”
The Brady Bunch cast was apparently so popular with inmates that the pictures often became a hot commodity.
“One inmate wrote a second letter because someone had stolen the pictures I had sent him,” Lloyd recalled. “He had them up on his cell wall. He figured out it must have been a prison guard, because no one else had a key to his cell. Apparently, the guard was also a Brady fan.”