The Brady’s Grand Canyon Vacation, September 17 – October 1, 1971

Written By: Greg Howell - Aug• 18•16

The Brady Bunch, Grand CanyonThe Brady Bunch occasional writer, Tam Spiva, perhaps was running out of ideas for the Brady Bunch by early season 3; as, most sitcoms begin travel arc episodes later in a series’ run. Nonetheless, no other sitcom before or after has created such a gigantic cultural touchstone regarding family vacationing as the Brady’s 1971 trip to the Grand Canyon.

This 3rd season opening story arc is still referenced in media and journalism, even as recent as a 2009 USA story regarding the mules’ hooves wear and tear on the canyon.  Mentioning house assistant Alice’s iconic ride down the canyon, the episodes related to the Grand Canyon have lived on well beyond 1971.  While a few television shows had, by 1971, incorporated travel episodes, going back as far as I Love Lucy‘s Hollywood and European vacations, and as recent as Bewitched‘s Salem journey and I Dream of Jeannie‘s Hawaiian shows, the Brady’s set off a wave of pop culture awareness of the family vacation, complete with station wagon and pop-up camper.

The three-story episode arc aptly captured the rising interest in family vacations across America, and also pinpointed the Grand Canyon as a major, growing tourist attraction.  While the exact numbers are difficult to credit to any one source, the attendance of tourists at the Grand Canyon mushroomed by almost a million visitors in the two years after these episodes aired.

As most television critics and historians know, The Brady Bunch was never a major hit.  Their 15 million viewers a week, while huge by today’s standards, were not enough to ever land the show in the yearly top 30.  This third season, however, found the Bradys at their peak, ranking #31 for all shows at the end of the 1971-72 season.  The show’s huge cultural impact became apparent with its long syndicated run.  Hardly an American conversation about family excursions to national parks can occur in this country without a Brady Bunch reference of the Grand Canyon episodes, even if hardly no one can recall the exact plots of the shows.  The Brady’s vacation created idyllic, iconic family images, such as the family viewing the canyon from high above, the mule ride dow the canyon, the lost kids in the vast, rocky desert, and of course, the all-American dream of hanging with American Indians for a good old fashioned pow-wow!

The success of these shows sent the Brady’s packing again in season 4 to Hawaii, with similar success; however, it was the Grand Canyon family vacation that has held up over the years, perhaps because it was attainable by mid-American families over the years that too traveled that long trek into the desert via their Plymouth Satellite station wagon pulling a Coleman trailer, complete, of course, with 6 kids, 2 parents and one house keeper.



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