SAN JOSE, Calif. — “It’s a miracle!” Susan Olsen, a.k.a. Cindy Brady, blurts as she steps into the home of America’s favorite blended TV family. That reaction is pretty much echoed by her five fictional siblings in the opening episode of “A Very Brady Renovation” on HGTV.
“It’s like stepping back in time,” says a wide-eyed Barry Williams, who played Greg on “The Brady Bunch.”
The object of their jaw-dropping raves? A massive renovation of the ranch-style Studio City home that was seen in the opening shots of the beloved 1970s sitcom. Last year, HGTV forked over $3.5 million for the property (nearly twice the asking price) in a bidding war. What they’ve since done with the place is absolutely remarkable.
The cable network’s top designers, with a little help from the grown-up Brady kids, worked to transform the formerly private residence into the “1970s masterpiece we all know and love,” complete with groovy avocado green and burnt orange accents.
In doing so, they had to overcome one monumental obstacle. Because the house in question was only used in establishing exterior shots for the show, its interior never matched that of the indoor sets used on the sound stages of Paramount Pictures. Not even close.
So here’s the story: The home had to be gutted. A wing, a front window and a set of stairs were added — all while not altering the street view of the home that reportedly is the second-most photographed in the nation (behind the White House). Meanwhile, a painstaking search was launched to find furnishings that came as close as possible to matching those imprinted in the minds of discerning Brady-maniacs everywhere.
“There are so many elements that had to come together to make this thing work. It’s almost unfathomable,” Williams told TV critics recently in Beverly Hills. “It’s almost a perfect replication — from fabrics to carpeting to furniture to decorating to artwork to the fake grass in the backyard. Tiger’s doghouse is even there.”
Adding to the complicated logistics was the desire to get all the Brady kids together for the project — never a sure bet. Since the original series went off the air in 1974, there have been several reunion shows in which not everyone participated. (Is there a “Fake Jan” sad face emoji?)
But for “A Very Brady Renovation,” all six of the surviving cast joined forces, including Williams, Olsen, Maureen McCormick (Marcia), Christopher Knight (Peter), Eve Plumb (Jan) and Mike Lookinland (Bobby).
“What resonated with me the most was that (this project) was a different take on Brady,” Plumb said. “They weren’t asking us to come back and play ‘Brady Bunch’ characters again. It was let’s explore what the house would be like if we could make it in real life, and please help us do that. And I started watching all the HGTV shows, and I went this is going to be good.”
For McCormick, it helped that she’s a “huge fan” of HGTV home makeover shows.
“I talked with the (network) people, and I just felt like they had a love for this project,” she said. “I felt like this would be a really good one to be involved with. And I was very excited to get back together with everyone. It’s been a really long time since we’ve all been together and it’s just been so beautiful to be a part of this.”
Added Olsen, “It’s proven to be a path with heart.”
In addition to the Brady kids, HGTV enlisted a squad of renovation all-stars, including Jonathan and Drew Scott (“Property Brothers: Forever Home”), Mina Starsiak Hawk and Karen E Laine (“Good Bones”), siblings Leanne and Steve Ford (“Restored by the Fords”), Jasmine Roth (“Hidden Potential”) and Lara Spencer (“Flea Market Flip”). They pulled off what the network calls “the boldest home renovation the world has ever seen.”
Indeed, even viewers who aren’t fans of the sitcom will be impressed by the amazing amount of renovation work and meticulous attention to detail that went into the project. Brady devotees, meanwhile, will enjoy vintage clips from the original series, trivia quizzes and nostalgic anecdotes.
While the design stars, of course, did the heavy lifting, the Brady kids weren’t idle observers. In Monday’s opener, they wield sledge hammers and saws. Along the way, they said they gained a new appreciation for the home that they had never set foot in before.
“I think one of the most interesting aspects of working on this project was learning just how connected the audience was to this house,” Knight said. “But we had no recollection of it. … I didn’t even learn where this house was until 1996.”