Very ‘Brady’ Memories: Christopher Knight Reflects on 50 Years of Being Peter Brady

Forbes Finance 1 month ago
LA Premiere of ″A Very Brady Renovation'
Christopher Knight attends the LA premiere of "A Very Brady Renovation" at the The Garland Hotel on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

If you build it, they will come. And in the case of A Very Brady Renovation, they’ll watch every detail of you building it with nostalgic enthusiasm.

Since the premiere of the four-part HGTV series on September 9, timed to The Brady Bunch’s 50th anniversary (which was officially marked on September 26), more than 23.7 million viewers have tuned in to watch the grooviest home renovation project in television history. All six original Brady kids — Maureen McCormick (Marcia), Eve Plumb (Jan), Susan Olsen (Cindy), Barry Williams (Greg), Christopher Knight (Peter) and Mike Lookinland (Bobby) reunited and joined HGTV stars, including Property Brothers Jonathan and Drew Scott, Restored by the Fords’ Leanne and Steve Ford and Flea Market Swap’s Lara Spencer, to transform the inside of the original house used for the exterior shots to match the one that appeared on television.

The Brady Bunch cast and HGTV stars stand on the iconic stairs
'A Very Brady Renovation' castmates Jasmine Roth, Karen Laine, Mina Starsiak, Susan Olsen, Mike Lookinland, Eve Plumb, Christopher Knight, Maureen McCormick, Barry Williams, Leanne Ford, Steve Ford, Lara Spencer, Jonathan Scott, and Drew Scott

The success of the series has sparked an additional two-part behind-the-scenes series, A Very Brady Renovation: Behind the Build, with the final episode airing tonight at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HGTV.

“It’s been a wonderful present, unexpected gift,” Knight said of the show bringing the cast together on the momentous occasion. “I really had no expectations for the 50th year and it would have perhaps even taken me by surprise with just some gentle reflecting. You can't expect this kind of longevity.”

Knight, now 61, also chats about where he was half a century ago, on-set romances, the late cast members, the famous theme song’s blue squares, and, of course, pork chops and apple sauce.

Cast of The Brady Bunch
Publicity handout of the cast of "The Brady Bunch" television series, all beaming with their heads stacked on top of each other. Ca. 1970s. (Photo by �� John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Premiere Night at the Knights

Watching his own television debut was especially thrilling for Knight since he hadn’t even previewed the episode before that day. In fact, his family got a new TV for the occasion since all they had was an old Admiral black-and-white set. After all, his dad had been a Broadway actor (and his paternal grandfather was a cobbler who made shoes for the Zeigfeld Follies), who had his doubts about the new medium.

“My dad was anti-television because he liked his work in theater,” Knights says. “So now, all of a sudden, we're having to buy a big television just because I get this series.”

“Little did I anticipate the effect that the premiere would have immediately on the world around me,” Knight says. “No longer was I just going to be able to walk down the street and expect it to be the same. Within six months or so, I had to deal with the recognition thing, which only has grown in 50 years. So I wasn't aware that was my last day of freedom of being somebody else.”

'The Brady Bunch' Goes Jogging.
Actor Ann B. Davis leads the Brady family in a rigorous jog in a still from the television series, 'The Brady Bunch,' 1972. (L-R): Robert Reed, Florence Henderson, Barry Williams, Maureen McCormick, Christopher Knight, Eve Plumb, Susan Olsen and

Teenage Romances

On A Very Brady Renovation, a major adjustment was made was to Tiger’s doghouse to honor an off-camera memory: Olsen and Lookinland used to sneak inside and kiss. Now it’s been built large enough for the two grown-up Brady kids to still fit inside.

Knight says he was completely aware of the romances at the time: “I guess they were playing house. I remember them talking about getting married in the doghouse. Maybe at this point, I'm 12 and Susan is eight, so it was all kid talk.”

The middle brother also found himself caught in the middle of a budding romance between Williams and McCormick. Knight would spend another hour or two a day with McCormick in the car since his mom drove them both to set. “Most of those conversations were about what Barry had said that he wanted Maureen to hear or she was telling me that I needed to tell Barry,” Knight reminisces. “Barry was doing whatever he could to get Maureen’s attention.”

During their carpool rides, Knights describes McCormick as “the girl version of sugar and spice and everything nice” while he was the “snails and puppy-dog tails.” In fact, he was completely unaware about what was happening with the messages that McCormick was tasked with passing along to him from Plumb: “Eve had been lavishing me with attention for a couple of years, but I wasn’t even at that point yet.”

“It was the equivalent of high school crushes,” he says. “Imagine going to school of six kids and you have one age appropriate person in that school for you. That’s the way it broke down. But it was all very wholesome.”

The Brady Bunch
circa 1972: The Brady family, from the television series, 'The Brady Bunch'. Top row (left to right) Maureen McCormick, Florence Henderson, Barry Williams, Christopher Knight; bottom row: Eve Plumb, Mike Lookinland, Robert Reed and Susan Olsen.

Remembering Mike, Carol and Alice

Reuniting with his Brady siblings for the HGTV series has been an exciting way to honor the show’s legacy, but also comes with an emptiness for the other three cast members: Robert Reed, who died in 1992 at 59 of intestinal cancer; Florence Henderson, who passed away in 2016 at 82 of heart failure; and Ann B. Davis, who died in 2014 at 88 after a fall in the bathtub.

“There's a tug,” Knight says. “It's a sad reality that they can't be there. But they're never gone. And a lot of memories are tickled by just being in the house, so there's a feeling that they're present. They would have been having so much fun in this process. We were a hodgepodge of individuals acting as a family in such a fashion that we liked the idea, so we were a family.”

One of his fondest memories is Reed’s legendary gifts, doled out over three seasons — first a Super Eight camera, then a trip to London (including a stop at Stratford-on-Avon to see Shakespeare’s As You Like It) via the Queen Elizabeth II to shoot footage, and finally a projector to show the homemade movies. 

As for Henderson, it’s her joyful “fun” energy that sticks. “She was a consummate professional but had a really well-exercised inner child,” Knight remembers. “She could have fun and then when we’d take it a little too far, she could also then have us zip it up. She was friendly and stern at the same time, if it was necessary. You didn't want the stern because you'd love so much the friendly Florence.”

The Brady Bunch
American actress Ann B. Davis (1926 - 2014, top left) with the child members of the cast of the US TV sitcom 'The Brady Bunch', 1970. Susan Olsen is at centre and the others (clockwise, from top, centre) are: Barry Williams, Maureen McCormick, Susan

His image of Davis a bit different. “Ann was a unique individual,” he describes. “She was really well-prepared. She was a comedian, but it wasn't as though she was effervescent with humor. Humor was more engineered. She knew how to deliver humor. But it wasn't ever-present in her person in the moment. She was more of a person who was going to get you to be more of an adult than you would have been otherwise, which is not a bad thing.”

“I was a little intimidated by her,” he admits. “But we all have our individual takes on this and my view is not shared by others.” Even so, there was off-camera bonding, as he remembers needlepoint lessons from Davis. 

'The Brady Bunch' Stand In Hotel Lobby.
American actors Robert Reed and Florence Henderson stand in a hotel lobby with their television family in a still from the TV series 'The Brady Bunch,' circa 1969. (L-R) Christopher Knight, Barry Williams, Mike Lookinland, Maureen McCormick, Eve

Blue Box Fun

Here’s a story… about how the iconic blue squares theme song opening was shot.

“When you're watching it, you're hearing the theme song, but we weren't,” Knight explains. “We were literally sitting in front of the camera and being told to look up, look down, look right, look down diagonally and it wasn't that easy to do especially since you’d have to smile the whole time and it could be one contiguous five-minute shot.”

Over the years, through about three or four shoots, it was the cast members themselves who helped make the process easier. “Realizing that no one had ever done this before, we were the most experienced ones. So we’d ask, ‘Can I set a pointer?’ I could stare at that because the sightline was the part that was most critical. When you don't have anything to focus on, your eyes can get cross-eyed or oddly dead.” 

“It made it better for us, which made it better for them as well,” he says. “But we had to invent that for ourselves.”

Jasmine Roth and Christopher Knight work on A Very Brady Renovation's house.
Jasmine Roth of HGTV's 'Hidden Potential' joined Christopher Knight on 'A Very Brady Renovation.'

Earning His Chops

Unwittingly, one of Knight’s seemingly mundane line at the time of filming has turned into one of the series’ most quotable lines: “Pork chops and apple sauce.” 

“I'm asked to say it once a month or twice a month,” he admits. “As I've gotten older, I think it's become a little less comfortable for individuals to ask a sixty-year-old man to say, ‘Pork chops and apple sauce.’ But when I was younger, it would be requested of me quite frequently.”

The effect those five words would have on his life was a surprise. “You’ve got people in Australia who are tickled in the same way that it's tickled somebody in Omaha, Nebraska,” he adds.

Thankfully, Knight is a fan of the food, his favorite being the Crackling Pork Chop Shank from Maloney & Porcelli in midtown Manhattan. And fortunately, it comes with Firecracker Applesauce.

And he’s completely leaned into the meaty sensation. “My production company is Pork Chop Phenomenon, Inc. because I have a pork chop phenomenon, and I don't think anyone else does in life,” Knight says. “It's kind of cool to be the only one with something.”

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