Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.
MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: The Brady Bunch’s dog was replaced mid-episode because the original dog was killed.
Audiences are very familiar with actors being written off of television shows for all sorts of odd reasons (like Jay Thomas’ off-air insults of Rhea Perlman leading to him being fired from Cheers), but an odder phenomenon on TV is when characters just disappear from the show without any explanation, like Richie and Joanie’s older brother, Chuck, on Happy Days or the youngest Winslow sibling on Family Matters (whose abrupt departure ultimately led to her doing adult films to make ends meet). An example of this phenomenon are BOTH household pets on The Brady Bunch from the pilot episode, but the most tragic departure is that of Tiger, the Brady’s beloved dog.
Read on to learn why Tiger was written off and why they kept his doghouse around long after his departure!
The very first episode of the beloved family sitcom, The Brady Bunch, aired in 1969. The show quickly introduced viewers to the set-up of the series through the famous theme song, about a man with three boys marrying a woman with three girls. In the pilot, “The Honeymoon,” there is a conflict between the girls’ pet cat, Fluffy, and the boys’ pet dog, Tiger.
The whole thing is resolved by the children (and their pets) all ending up tagging along on their parents’ honeymoon after a wedding marred by dog/cat fighting. Fluffy never appeared after the pilot.
Tiger, though, was prominently featured in early episode of the series and was even prominently displayed when the show was spotlighted on the cover of TV Guide in the show’s first season.
In the fifth episode of the series, “Katchoo,” the plot of the episode was that Jan (the middle of the three girls) appears to be allergic to Tiger.
Ultimately, after trying a number of solutions, the Bradys are set to give the dog up to go live with their grandmother. In the end, however, the family discovers that Jan is actually allergic to Tiger’s new flea powder! So the dog gets to stay. However, the dog that stayed at the end of the episode was NOT the dog who began the episode!
The great Sherwood Schwartz, who created the series, wrote about the episode in his book about the series, Brady, Brady, Brady: The Complete Story of The Brady Bunch as Told by the Father/Son Team who Really Know (written with his son, Lloyd Schwartz):
There is a heartfelt sequence that has each of the boys saying good-bye to Tiger. The dog was placed in the boys’ bedroom set, and I retrieved Mike Lookinland from the schoolroom. Bobby Brady was ready. The dog was ready (so I thought) and the camera rolled. The director said, “Action!” And the dog promptly ran off the set.
Dogs aren’t people. They are entitled to an aberration. The trainer put the dog back on the set. Same scenario. After the dog ran off again, I went to the trainer. “What’s with the dog?” The trainer then said words that you never want anyone to say in any situaiton, especially not when the lights are on and you’re filming an expensive network TV show.
“I was afraid of this,” he said.
“That’s not Tiger. Tiger was home, and he got out. He was hit by a car and killed.”
I was taken aback. “That’s terrible. I’m really sorry.”
“Me too. He was a good dog.”
Then I realizd that if this dog wasn’t Tiger, who was it?
I asked, “Then what dog is this?”
He confessed, “I didn’t know what to do, so on the way in I stopped off at the pound and…”
“You put an untrained dog in the center of a set and we’re filming?”
“I was hoping it would work.”
They would end up nailing the dog’s collar to the ground to get the dog to stay in scenes where the boys say goodbye to Tiger.
The show then replaced the original Tiger with a lookalike dog, but the new dog was not nearly as trained as the original, and thus they eventually just stopped using the new dog midway through the second season (all told, the original Tiger did three episodes, the fill-in finished up that third episode and the replacement did seven episodes). So there was no Tiger from midway through the second season until the end of the series after season 5.
That then leads to the question, “Why was there a doghouse throughout the series then?”
All the way through the series, Tiger’s doghouse remained.
According to star Barry Williams (who played oldest son Greg Brady), it was because of an accident on set. You see, the grass on the set was clearly artificial grass and one day, a studio light fell on to the artificial grass and burned a hole in the grass. Rather than replace the entire lawn, they decided to just use the doghouse prop to cover up the hole and it remained there from that point forward (Susan Olsen, who played youngest girl, Cindy Brady, would later say that she and Lookinland, the youngest boy, would sometimes hide in the doghouse and kiss when they were nine).
The legend is…
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