MASON - For many TV addicts who grew up in the 1970s and ‘80s, the kids on “The Brady Bunch” were like our own brothers and sisters, only better and groovier.
For five seasons on ABC beginning in 1969, and later in never-ending reruns and various spin-off series, the fictional Brady clan got into all sorts of suburban misadventures that were neatly resolved in 30 minutes.
Whether it was seeing vain oldest sister Marcia bopped in the nose with a football, sympathizing with middle brother Peter as his voice cracked during puberty or watching oldest brother Greg wipe out while surfing in Hawaii, generations of American kids have their favorite Brady moment.
For many fans in the Tri-State, that moment was when the cast filmed an episode at the then-new Kings Island amusement park in 1973.
Three of the actors who played the Brady kids returned to the park Sunday, nearly 40 years after their first visit.
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Barry Williams (Greg), Christopher Knight (Peter) and Susan Olsen (Cindy) met with area media, rode the Racer roller coaster with contest winners, and then performed at a live show singing songs, telling behind-the-scene anecdotes and sharing new photos of their absent cast mates.
The shows were free with park admission. Seating in the Kings Island Theater was on a first-come, first-served basis.
Williams, now 58, said it’s uncommon for all six actors who played the Brady kids to gather en masse nowadays, as each have their own spouses, children and careers – just like real-life extended families.
“It’s pretty hard to get everybody together,” Williams said, just before a few eager female fans offered to fill in for the missing Marcia or Jan.
“It very rarely happens,” Knight, 55, added.
He marveled at how people still fondly recall the sitcom decades later. The last of the original series’ 117 episodes aired in March 1974.
“We had no idea if we’d be on the next year,” Knight said, when asked if he’s surprised to be talking about the show 40 years later. Never a Top 20 hit while on ABC, the show gained legions of devoted fans thanks to after-school reruns.
“But it makes kind of sense,” he said. “It’s a show for kids and a filter that, when presented with it, they seem to pass through.”
“It’s part of Americana,” Williams said.
Olsen, 51, was young enough during the original run to have friends who watched her every Friday night. That turned out to be a major detriment during a last season episode when producers – in a bid to make Cindy look and sound younger – had the adolescent dress up and sing like Shirley Temple.
“Ugh, I was so angry,” Olsen said about the infamous episode.
“I knew it was an idea they had when I was 7 and I thought it would’ve been cute then, and then they wait until Cindy was 12,” she said. “I felt like the biggest idiot. But the good thing about that was Natalie Schafer played the talent scout. I loved her as Lovey (on ‘Gilligan’s Island’) and she was a sweet, sweet, nice lady.”
So, did meeting Schafer make it worthwhile? “No,” Olsen replied, quickly. “The reruns lived on forever and ever and ever!”
Those reruns are shown in 142 nations, including across Europe and Asia.
“I’ve gotten calls from Italy that say, ‘Barry, I can’t get away from you,’” Williams said.
Some friends recently pointed Olsen to some dubbed versions of episodes on YouTube. “Alice, in German, is really interesting,” she said.
“This thing is much bigger than us,” Knight said.
Knight had a second TV career in the early 2000s as a reality TV star, thanks to the VH-1 cable network. After appearing as a housemate on “The Surreal Life” in 2005, he began a relationship with model Adrianne Curry, a fellow contestant who was almost 25 years younger than him.
The pair’s tempestuous relationship was the focus of its own show, “My Fair Brady,” which ran for three years. The second season chronicled the couple’s wedding preparations, while the third focused on their discussions about having a baby. They separated in May 2011, and were divorced in February 2012.
Despite his mixed feelings about the form, Knight said reality TV is here to stay.
“They are sort of the new staple on TV,” he said. “Actually, right now I am getting involved in one. I have a new business venture and there seems to be some desire by my partners to have it put out there, as well.”
But he added, “There are different types of reality shows. Game shows are reality, documentaries are reality. They’re just done differently and for a different purpose. If it’s not just solely about my personal life, I will do it. If it’s just about me and I’m the content, never again.”
Williams and Olsen said they have mostly fond memories of filming at Kings Island, with Williams especially relishing the plot line that had him romancing a curvy park employee named Marge.
Knight, who was 15 when the episode was filmed, said his recollections are hazy but he does remember
enjoying not having to wait in line for the rides.
“It’s the Brady privilege,” he said. “Being able to jump in front of the line is the best part of being a Brady.”
Still, the perk came with a downside, Olsen noted.
“It’s amazing the people who were saying, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re the Bradys. We love you,’” she said. “And then you cut in front of them in line and they don’t love you anymore.”