Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Ryan Neal
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary. Posted by Ryan Neal
The Brady Bunch, Grady
Currently Known For:
Movie Music Producer
The Brady Bunch, Grady
There are certain television characters that weren’t part of the original cast, but ended up making the show better. Characters such as Frank Reynolds (Danny DeVito) on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” or Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) in “Breaking Bad” can help to enhance a show, but there’s not quite a name for that phenomenon. However, when a show adds a new character that does nothing but distract from the original cast, it’s what’s known as a “Cousin Oliver.”
The term comes from the sitcom “The Brady Bunch” that debuted in 1969, and quickly became one of the most popular shows on television. As the Brady kids got older, a younger bespectacled child with a blonde bowlcut was added to the fray as an eight year old, as the ratings started to dip on “The Brady Bunch”. It didn’t seem to make sense at the time why the Brady cousin was finally making an appearance in the fifth season, but it marked what would be the end of the show.
The role was played by Robbie Rist, who was just nine years old at the time that he played Cousin Oliver, and “The Brady Bunch” wouldn’t be the last show that would try to revive ratings with a younger actor. Rist just happened to be that pioneer into a TV hail mary, and now there’s an entire trope named after his character.
“I only did six episodes of that show,” Rist said. “They just happened to be the last six of the series...Let’s say you had a summer job as a kid. You were a camp counselor. You probably only worked there for six weeks, but for the rest of your life people come up to you and say, ‘Hey didn’t you used to work at Lake Walla-Whatever?’ I had to do a huge sort of emotional and intellectual reevaluation on myself, and I got depressed when I was in my late 20s. I was thinking, ‘Is it possible that the only thing I’ll be known for happened when I was nine, and I didn’t even know what I was doing?’”
You might recall some more notable examples of a “Cousin Oliver” coming to town in TV series such as “The Cosby Show”, “Diff’rent Strokes” and even “Married...with Children”. Still, the same way Henry Winkler will always be associated with “Jumping the Shark,” Rist will always be associated with being the original Cousin Oliver. He even had a similar role just a few years later when he became an adopted son on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”, marking the end of another popular series.
In between the end of “The Brady Bunch” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”, Rist would find himself on TV shows such as “Big John, Little John” and “Lucas Tanner”, neither of which lasted for an extended period. He had a more prominent role in the series “Grady” that was derived from the popular show “Sanford and Son”, but it was another notch in the belt for Rist’s shows that came to an abrupt end.
In the 1980s, Rist would appear on television shows such as “CHiPs”, “knight Rider” and “Simon & Simon” to name a few. When the 1990s came along, Rist got more into voice work, acting in many cartoons and even lent his voice to Michelangelo in the live action “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” films and the cartoons. Most of Rists’s work since then has come from voiceovers, which certainly isn’t a bad way to make a living.
The young Rist was very busy during this decade, and was always plugging away to find anything to fill up his schedule. “It was always just another gig,” he said of his roles during this time. “Not in a negative way, but I credit my small town European World War II era parents for this. They made it all about the work. I was appreciative of every job and I think that kind of helped me not get jaded. I was always just happy to be working.”
He’s still doing voices for the “Ninja Turtles”, and has even made the occasional live action appearance thanks to his roles in the “Sharknado” series in cameo spots. The multi-talented Rist is also a music producer, working for several different TV shows and movies in the sound department. So although he might not be a big star and in front of the camera like he was at nine years old, Rist has been keeping busier than just about anyone since “The Brady Bunch” came to an end.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, as Rist had quite the extensive resume as a child actor having appeared in many TV shows in guest spots and dozens of commercials by the time “The Brady Bunch” came calling. He hasn’t been involved in many of the reunions, though, but that’s been a network decision. “I think the wisdom among the Brady higher-ups is my character was a network decision, thus making it not really a part of the show,” he said. “I’m cool with that.”
As for how he’s enjoying success now, he said that voice acting wasn’t a passion at first, but has turned into a career. “It’s all work to me,” he said. “I started doing voiceover because I was getting fewer on-camera roles. I just drift where the work takes me. At the end of the day, I just like making stuff. My whole life is about art. I have been an actor, writer, director, producer, musician, recording engineer...you name it. I just like being creative.”