‘The Brady Bunch’: What If Florence Henderson Didn’t Play Carol Brady?

The Brady Bunch
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TV’s ultimate blended family is as familiar as our own, but as we celebrate The Brady Bunch‘s half century, we wonder: What if instead of Florence “Carol Brady” Henderson, we had Joyce Bulifant of The Mary Tyler Moore Show?

Kimberly Potts covers the last-minute casting change on the ABC comedy (1969–74) in her book The Way We All Became the Brady Bunch: How the Canceled Sitcom Became the Beloved Pop Culture Icon We Are Still Talking About Today, out December 3. Here’s an excerpt.

Joyce Bulifant had tested well with Robert Reed, the top candidate to play Mike Brady, and excitedly threw herself into preparations without complaint — even when she was asked to lose five pounds in a week. Her round face might appear even rounder on TV, network suits thought, so she visited massage therapist Louise Long, whose aggressive body poundings left stars like Jane Fonda bruised but several pounds lighter.

When Bulifant wasn’t being massaged black and blue, not eating (Long had prescribed an all-eggs-and-tomatoes diet) and not sleeping because of her grumbling stomach, she helped the show’s costume supervisor select outfits for the pilot episode. There was a pretty yellow dress for the big backyard wedding and a smart blue suit for post-nuptials. After all her efforts, she was pleased to show off Carol’s beautiful wardrobe. But when creator Sherwood Schwartz and director John Rich visited her a couple of days before filming was about to begin, they didn’t look happy. “Joyce, sit down, honey,” Schwartz said. “We have a problem.”

(Ted Shepherd/NBCU Photo Bank)

The Brady Bunch, Streaming now, Hulu, Prime Video, CBS All Access