Despite how it looked on The Brady Bunch, the actors weren’t all one big happy family. In particular, Robert Reed – who played Mike Brady – didn’t seem as dedicated to the show as others. He was reportedly quite difficult to work with on a regular basis, something that contributed to his absence in the show’s final episode. There was even one line that he flat-out refused to say while in character, no matter what the producer said.
Difficult on set
From the beginning of his time on The Brady Bunch, Robert Reed was unhappy with his role as family patriarch. As someone a trained Shakespearean actor, he felt sitcom acting was silly and beneath him. He constantly tried to get the show to be more “realistic” which created a lot of tension between him, producer Sherwood Schwartz, and the other creatives on the show. Reed always seemed to get along well with the other cast members, however.
He would frequently deliver handwritten notes to Schwartz about what he was doing wrong with the show, notes that were generally ignored. However, there were occasions where, in an effort to keep the peace, Reed would be allowed to make some changes and direct an episode. Later in life, Reed recalled, “We fought over the scripts. Always over the scripts… Schwartz had done Gilligan’s Island… Just gag lines. That would have been what The Brady Bunch would have been if I hadn’t protested.”
He wouldn’t say this
It was because of this desire for realism on the show that Reed refused to say one particular line. In the season four episode “Jan, the Only Child,” Mike was supposed to come home while Carol and the family housekeeper Alice were in the middle of making strawberry preserves. He would then declare that the house smelled like “strawberry heaven,” an absolutely unacceptable sentiment according to Reed.
The seemingly harmless quote was actually a major issue for the actor, who had taken to fact-checking certain lines and other elements of the show with an encyclopedia. In this case, his research told him that strawberries didn’t smell when they were being cooked. Since the line was inaccurate, he refused to say it. Schwartz even went so far as to bring the actor down to the set where they were really cooking strawberries to show him that they did give off a slight smell, but that didn’t matter.
Eventually, the men agreed to a compromise with “it looks like strawberry heaven in here.” Reed actually said the over-the-top line “I do believe I’ve died and gone to strawberry heaven,” while filming.
What happened to Mike Brady?
Reed’s difficulties on set reached a breaking point when it came time to prepare for the season five finale. Although he regularly caused a fuss over his lines or complained about plot points, this time he went too far. In the final episode, Bobby sells Greg a bottle of hair tonic that turns his hair orange right before his high school graduation. Reed abhorred this plot.
He complained that it was an inane and antiquated cliché, and he wanted Schwartz to change it. Reed even went so far as to write a memo to the staff of Paramount outlining his complaints.
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Instead of making the change, like the producer had so many times before, Schwartz decided to simply write Reed out of the episode and then fire him from the series. However, this didn’t end up causing his desired effect as the show was later canceled anyway.