How The Brady Bunch captured that legit Joe Namath toss on a very small stage
The episode of Bobby's (and every kid's) dreams. But how did they get that shot?
A standout episode from the fifth season of The Brady Bunch starts out with Bobby fast asleep in bed. In the scene, we watched as Bobby's resting face suddenly rises into a giddy boy's grin, and the screen started to wobble to represent we were diving into his dreams. This episode was called "Mail Order Hero," and it dropped us into the best dream of Bobby's young life, finding him on the receiving end of a toss from Joe Namath that ends in a glorious touchdown. (Yes, Robert Reed / Mike Brady is the referee.)
This episode spoke to every kid who ever had a sports idol, making the perfect pick in Namath, or "Broadway Joe" as he was known. Not only was the Jets quarterback a Super Bowl MVP, but he also appeared in commercials, selling Ovaltine and using Noxzema shaving cream in an ad that featured a young Farrah Fawcett holding his razor. He was the football icon who kids most looked up to, and the director of The Brady Bunch episode, Bruce Bilson, knew he wouldn't be able to fake a Joe Namath football toss for his audience of Broadway Joe's adoring fans.
Bilson told the Archive of American Television how important it was to him to capture an authentic-looking pass from Joe Namath to Bobby Brady, to make sure this episode was as magical as possible for the kids watching at home.
Namath, of course, was a natural in this role. The only problem was that the stage on which The Brady Bunch was filmed was far too small for Namath to responsibly throw the ball as hard as he would need to sell the scene.
Bilson said, "We were on a stage, and I wanted him to really toss that pass that the kid was going to catch in his dreams."
So the director, also known for his work on Get Smart and Hogan's Heroes, devised a plan to pull off the perfect pass.
Bilson said, "There was not enough room. So I sent the prop man way up in the rafters, and I said, 'Throw it to him.'"
Namath did as directed, chucking the ball with full force skyward. Bilson's camera captured the rocket pass. The director noted, smiling, "Joe just went back and went 'Wham!' and it looked right." Watch the full dream sequence at the top of this post.
Which guest star from The Brady Bunch was the bigger idol to you, Joe Namath or Davy Jones?