Here’s a story about a lovely family whose little cousin showed up just in time to see everything fall apart.
During the fifth and final season of the iconic ABC sitcom, The Brady Bunch. Sherwood Schwartz and his team of producers attempted to breath a little new life into the series by introducing a new character.
Actor Robbie Rist cast to play Cousin Oliver. While he only ever appeared in six episodes, Rist’s brief stint on the series was quite memorable. Unfortunately, memorable in this case wasn’t a very positive thing.
To put it lightly, Cousin Oliver wasn’t seen as a very welcome addition to the cast. In fact, fans of the series almost universally loathed the character as soon as he made his appearance. And while Cousin Oliver wasn’t solely responsible for the show’s cancellation, he certainly didn’t help things.
After The Brady Bunch wrapped up in 1974, Rist kept his acting career going appearing in live-action shows like Big John, Little John, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Whiz Kids. In fact, he’s still active today. Most recently appearing in the 2013 intentionally campy horror film Sharknado playing the relatively minor character Robbie the Bus Driver.
While he has yet to retire from acting, the 58-year-old has found the most success Post-Brady voice acting in cartoons, anime dubs, and video games. Some of his most notable credits in this realm include voice roles in offerings like Batman: The Animated Series, Sonic Boom, Naruto, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Final Fantasy X.
In this video, we’ll be taking a more in-depth look at the life and career of an actor who’s career started in infamy. While audiences initially hated his Brady Bunch character Cousin Oliver. Robbie Rist has managed to carve out a pretty decent niche for himself in the entertainment industry. Stay tuned to learn what he’s up to these days.
But first, let’s take a little trip back in time to see how he got his start in Hollywood in the first place. Join Facts Verse to know more about Cousin Oliver From the Brady Bunch who is unrecognizable today.
Robbie Rist’s Early Years
Born on the forth of April, 1964, in La Mirada, California. Robbie Rist dipped his toes in the murky waters of the entertainment industry at a very young age.
When he was a small child, Rist obsessed with the monster flicks of the 1930s. At some point, he expressed interest in being in a monster movie. Both of his parents were supportive of the idea but were skeptical of whether or not he would really enjoy acting. To put his ambitions to the test. They took him to his first audition to see if acting was something that he would actually be into doing.
To their surprise, Rist landed the Brady Bunch gig at the tender age of 9. Speaking to the Huffington Post in 2016, Rist explained that he was able to avoid some of the common pitfalls that all-too-often plaque child actors.
Knowing that his parent’s would have punished him severely if he got caught up in things like drugs and alcohol. Rist steered clear of these vices and kept on the straight and narrow, so to speak.
Rist even joked that if he had gone down that route. His parents would have killed him and made another kid that looked just like him. He added that he was far too much of a people-pleaser to risk doing anything that would lead to anyone telling him that he was no longer hirable. He loved acting and didn’t want anything to come between him and his work.
After his short run on The Brady Bunch playing what may very well be the most hated character in sitcom history. Rist went on to appear in various television shows like Chips, The Mickey Mouse Club, and The Love Boat.
To be fair, he was never a ‘bad actor’. It wasn’t his talent or lack thereof that made Cousin Oliver a target of Brady fan’s ire. Really it all boiled down to how his character written and his addition to the cast’s perceived pointlessness.
Even though it’s been nearly half a century since The Brady Bunch cast worked together. Rist says that he still keeps in touch with many of his former co-stars. He’s evidently especially close to Susan Olsen, the actress who played Cindy Brady.
Rist told the Huffington Post that since he and Susan were pretty close in age, they hit it off particularly well. He added that his younger self thought of her as being ‘super cool’. Obviously, his warm feelings towards her haven’t seemed to fade since then – more on that, though, in just a minute.
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The Brady Cast Member Who Despised Rist
While most of the cast and crew of the Brady Bunch enjoyed Robbie Rist’s presence on set. There was one actor who wasn’t very fond of the child actor.
Rist explained that Barry Williams, the actor who played Greg Brady, always super angry with him and frequently called him obnoxious. That being said, Rist doesn’t deny that he probably was a bit vexatious. After all, he was a high-energy, prepubescent boy.
Rist couldn’t have joined the cast of The Brady Bunch at a worse time. By the time that he cast as little Cousin Oliver, the network had pretty much already made their decision to pull the plug on the series.
Even though the show is today viewed as one of the most quintessential and groundbreaking American sitcoms in television history. It actually didn’t perform that well in the ratings during it’s initial run.
This isn’t to say that it didn’t have it’s fair share of fans. But really it became the cultural touchstone that it is today only after entering into syndication wth reruns.
After airing for five years, Sherwood Shwartz said that their contracts had ended. And that meant they had to basically renegotiate new ones for everyone involved to keep the series going. Since it had experienced declining ratings in it’s last couple of seasons, ABC seemed to be totally fine with throwing in the towel and letting the show come to a close.
Cousin Oliver basically thrown into the mix as a last-ditch effort to give The Brady Bunch’s ratings a boost. Since this plan seemed to fail miserably, the term ‘Cousin Oliver Syndrome’ has since coined and used to refer to a cute child actor added to a show to try and save it from the ax of network cancellation.
It’s not every day that you get a trope named after you! But that’s one claim to fame that an actor probably doesn’t want to mention on their resume.
Another excellent example of the ‘Cousin Oliver Syndrome’ trope on network television was the addition of the character Olivia Kendall on The Cosby Show, who casted at the start of the show’s sixth season. While fans of the show found her character to be unnecessary. And forced, the role did help launch the career of actress Raven Simone.
But to avoid getting too sidetracked, let’s get back to Robbie Rist and his time on The Brady Bunch.
Sure, audiences were less-than-thrilled by his presence on the Brady set. But looking back on things, Rist says that he had a lot of fun doing that role.
To him, it meant that he got to get out of going to school whenever he was needed to come in. Stand on a piece of position-marker tape. And say a few lines that would every now and then make people laugh. It was great fun to nine-year-old Robbie, but then again, at that age, practically everything is fantastic.
Rist’s Relationship With Susan Rist Started On A Sour Note
As we mentioned before, Rist and Susan Olsen have enjoyed a life-long friendship. But according to him, things between them got off to a pretty rocky start. At first, their professional relationship resembled something more akin to a rivalry than a friendship.
Rist was 9, and Olsen was 12, and evidently Susan treated him pretty poorly when he first arrived on the set. In fact, Rist even claimed that she had hit him on the chin with the seat of a seesaw on one occasion. Fortunately, in time, Olsen warmed up to Rist, and today, he considers her to be one of his closest friends.
The thing that they ultimately bonded over was music. Olsen played the guitar, and Rist plays all sorts of musical instruments. So, whenever they got the opportunity, Robbie and Susan would sing and create music together. Rist says that Olsen even introduced him to what would become one of his favorite musical groups, Queen.
For some time, the gossip rags speculated that Rist and Olsen were romantically involved. But Robbie has emphatically denied these claims.
Rist did, however, eventually find love in the Tulsa, Oklahoma-born artist and life coach, Ali Riseling, to whom he got engaged in November 2018. The two have yet to tie the knot, but they live together happily in a house they share in LA.
Rist’s Musical Career
Since Rist has such a profound love for music, in addition to acting and voice work, he has also worked as a musician and producer. He has played guitar, bass, and drums and has served as lead singer in several Los Angeles-based bands. Including Wonderboy, Cockeyed Ghost, The Andersons, Nice Guy Eddie, Steve Barton and the Oblivion Click.
He has had the opportunity to perform with hundreds of West Coast pop and indie bands over the years and continues to split his time between music and film production.
Rist has additionally produced several records for groups and artists like Backline, Suzy & Los Quattro, Jeff Caudill, and Kingsizemaybe and The Mockers. Currently, he’s the drummer for the rock outfit Your Favorite Trainwreck.
Rist teamed up with director Anthony C. Ferrante to provide music for the 2013 film Sharknado, which he also appeared in. He wrote six songs for the film’s soundtrack. He and Ferrante joined forces again to provide tunes for the film’s 2014 sequel, Sharknado 2: The Second One. And once again, he provided the track ‘Crash’ for the Sharknado 3 soundtrack.
In 2019, Rist and musician Don Frankel’s power-pop band Sundial Symphony recorded two covers of the Paul Levinson songs Looking for Sunset and Merri Goes Round.
Robbie Rist has done a pretty commendable job at keeping his career as an entertainer afloat in the five decades that have transpired since he played Cousin Oliver on The Brady Bunch. Even though that character was universally panned, he doesn’t seem to have any regrets about it. From 2016 to 2019, he even tapped into his Brady notoriety by promoting reruns of the series on the MeTV network.
Anyway, you’ve heard me ramble on for several minutes now. So why not let your voice be heard by dropping us a line in the comments.
What are your thoughts on Cousin Oliver’s addition to The Brady Bunch cast? Do you think that Robbie Rist’s character was really as bad as people say he was. Or do you think that he wasn’t all that bad? Also, let us know what your favorite episodes of The Brady Bunch were. We’d love to see which installments you found to be the most memorable.
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