Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by the week’s new releases or premieres. This week: The unofficial start of summer has us thinking of TV road trips.
The Brady Bunch, “Ghost Town, U.S.A.,” “Grand Canyon Or Bust,” “The Brady Braves” (season three, episodes one to three; originally aired 9/17-10/1/1971)
During each of The Brady Bunch’s five seasons on ABC, the show sent its central family on an annual vacation. The first two years saw the Bradys enjoy camping adventures, but creator Sherwood Schwartz and company decided to open season three in epic fashion: A three-part trip to the Grand Canyon.
“Ghost Town, U.S.A.,” “Grand Canyon Or Bust,” and “The Brady Braves” sell the Canyon as a vacation paradise. A scene of the clan gazing at the landscape at sunset is probably what all families dream their group vacations will be like. At the bottom of the canyon, the Bradys are still Bradys, sticking together, rarely quarreling, and having housekeeper Alice do most of the work—even on the camping trail, she is forced to feed eight other people fried chicken and go to the river to get water. And they never stop singing, from their interminable car trip to the campsite fire. Even guitarist Greg has to fight an eyeroll when someone suggests “Home On The Range” and his dad asks, “Can you play that one, Greg?”
The best parts of this three-parter, then, involve a side of the family viewers rarely got to see: Bradys in peril. Because a few cliffhangers were needed to carry through week to week, at first they’re trapped in a ghost town by evil prospector Jim Backus, locked up in an old jail cell and stranded without food or water. They escape that dusty prison, only to misplace a few of their younger members at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. In short order, Bobby and Cindy are discovered, someone puts franks and beans in a flashlight for some reason, and the Bradys are made honorary members of a Native American tribe.
Their Southwestern misadventures did not dissuade the Bradys, who entered season four with another three-episode excursion. That time, they traveled to Hawaii, where the family was menaced by a cursed idol. Perhaps waning ratings and smaller budgets led to season five’s more modest outing: Kings Island outside Cincinnati, where the misplacement of a Yogi Bear poster is the worst thing to happen to the family.
Availability: “Ghost Town, U.S.A.,” “Grand Canyon Or Bust,” and “The Brady Braves” can be streamed on YouTube, Hulu, and cbs.com.