Wisdom from the Brady Bunch Auteur, Sherwood Schwartz
Anyone who values American culture appreciates Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch. Even if they were not critical successes when they first aired, because they have endured, you have to begin to wonder why. Here at BrandlandUSA, we are also curious about their perfection and classic status. What makes a classic? Is it chance? How do you make the chance happen? How do you recognize what will work?
Schwartz appeared on Mark Simone’s 77 WABC radio show Saturday Night Oldies. Schwartz gave some insight into his work, and explained a few things. We gathered up the best; we think they are very good life lessons.
- The obvious is often ignored. The eternal question of Gilligan’s Island is why the Professor could devise all these crazy ways to get off the island, but he could never do the obvious, namely repair the boat. The usual, intellectual English lit answer is that it was a sitcom, and you are supposed to have a willing suspension of disbelief. But Schwartz says it actually did make complete sense: “That’s true of mankind. They can do except what they cannot do.”
- Bad stuff turns good. Somebody can screw up something good for no reason. Gilligan’s Island was set for another year, but William Paley, chairman of CBS, had a wife, Babe Paley, who liked Gunsmoke. There is probably alot more to the story. But only two years later, Schwartz had the time to create The Brady Bunch, a show that has arguably been therapy to millions of kids around the world.
- Ignore critics. The Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island were successful, but never a critical success. That’s true much of the time: “People got the message before the critics got the message.”
- You can do things. Overnight. Schwartz wrote the Brady and Gilligan themes, though he wasn’t a composer. The problem was that CBS had to set up the premise, but they didn’t have time in the show to actually tell the story, so they did it in the theme song. Schwartz had to write it overnight; he was told by CBS that “tomorrow, you better have the song.” So he went home, sat down at the piano, and wrote it.
- Mix up the same pieces and make something new each week. The secret of both of the shows was to “use the same pieces of material” over and over again, but keep “readjusting those pieces” to make something different. It allowed the cast to have the time to relax, be funny, and practice lines.
- Use what you have. Take the total of your experiences in life, and make them work for you. “You only know life from the way you experience life.”
Thanks to Mark Simone for getting Schwartz on the show. If you want to read more about Sherwood, go to his website at www.SherwoodSchwartz.com
Almost 90, he has a wife of 67 years and grace to say that he’s been terribly lucky, when it is plainly obvious that he has made his luck, all along the way.
He said on the show that he gets letters daily from folks who enjoyed the show. If you did, write him.