Where was the Real Cindy? ‘A Very Brady Christmas’ Turns 35 This Year
In case you forgot, A Very Brady Christmas was not a fever dream but indeed a real special that aired 35 years ago, in 1988. The original series The Brady Bunch ended in 1974 and remained so popular that several spin-offs were created including The Brady Bunch Variety Hour and The Brady Brides. Unfortunately for fans, all of the original cast members did not return for each special, including A Very Brady Christmas, so there was something a little off about seeing a new star amid the familiar family.
When the holiday special debuted, the late Florence Henderson shared her concerns and questioned how fans would feel about the time jump. She said at the time, “It felt strange to go back to the roles. Robert [Reed, Mike Brady] and I were very nervous trying to get back into those characters. The kids are all grown. That’s going to be quite a shock to all those kids who watch the reruns. The house has been redecorated. I’m into real estate now. Mike’s still an architect. One son’s a doctor, one’s a race car driver, one works in an office. One girl’s married, one’s married with a career and the youngest is in college. Plus, there are three grandchildren. Can you believe that?”
For the special, the Brady house and their outfits got a big ’80s upgrade. The kitchen was remodeled to fit the time period and added more blond wood and pastels. Greg rocks a very Magnum P.I.-inspired mustache while the ladies wear off-the-shoulder shorts and tights. Cindy, who was supposed to be a college senior, got some of the most fashionable looks of the time. Speaking of Cindy, she wasn’t played by the original star Susan Olsen but by Jennifer Runyon.
Reportedly, Paramount only had it in the contract that five of the six children needed to return for the special (sounds like they wanted to cut the budget and pay the new person less money). When Olsen’s honeymoon lined up at the same time, she decided to say no to appearing in the TV movie. Olsen herself revealed why she decided to take a stand.
She explained, “They were being stingy! I’m sorry but at this point Paramount had made a billion dollars off Brady and we make nothing on reruns. I had a honeymoon to go on in Jamaica as well. I decided to take a stand because they were doing this ‘You’re the youngest so we’ll pay you the least’ thing. I was like, ‘They’ve GOT to be kidding’ and what I didn’t realize was that they didn’t need me anyway. They only had to deliver five out of six ‘kids’ in the cast so I was expendable.”
She continued, “They only wanted to pay five of us. With that in mind, I was quite happy to go to Jamaica rather than be in the special. The only sad thing was to know that everyone was going to be together and I might not see them. Maureen McCormick arranged a dinner for us all when I got back from Montego Bay. That was nice and I had no regrets about sitting out for one reunion.” Of course, Olsen wasn’t the only one to skip a spin-off. Eve Plumb (Jan) didn’t appear in The Brady Bunch Variety Hour and Maureen McCormick (Marcia) did not appear in The Bradys.