Posted by: Kirsten | Friday, 15 February 2008

A Very Brady National Park Trip

I’m almost afraid to admit it (not really but it feels like that needed to be said, so keep reading to find out why) but since I’ve been home with the flu most of the week and the latest Netflix DVD came in the mail, I watched the first three episodes of season three with my daughter yesterday.  Season three of what?  Oh, uh, sorry didn’t I mention that already?  Gosh I don’t know how that could have slipped on by with me saying that yeah we were watching… the Brady Bunch.

We watch a lot of the old classics like The Addams Family, The Monkees, The Andy Griffith Show, Gilligan’s Island, The Flintstones, and many others.  Most of them reflect decent family values, and they’re also priceless cultural time capsules, so my son and daughter can look back and laugh at the time when men actually had the nerve to say things like “That’s just like a woman.”  Priceless teaching opportunities, if you ask me.  Yep, even the Brady Bunch had its misogynistic moments — that previous quote was from Greg Brady himself.

So with that wonderful thought in mind, I’m watching the trio of Grand Canyon episodes with my daughter where the whole family packs it up and hits the dusty trail for Grand Canyon National Park. Having worked there in 1985, I immediately had my radar up looking for things that didn’t pass the smell test.

One of the first things I noticed was the family car and popup trailer, driving along the road to Grand Canyon, was shown driving along the rim road (US89) long before they ever reached the Canyon.  The telltale evenly spaced boulders to prevent people from pulling off the road in unsafe or overused locations was the first clue.  The second clue was there there was nothing above the pinyon pines along the roadway visible on the horizon.  Nothing but sky above (and surely canyon below).  The kids actually tolerate my dissection of tv shows and movies like this.  Freeze frame on DVDs makes it so easy, too!  The first episode got the Bradys no further than some fictional ghost town with Jim Backus (see kids, that’s Thurston Howell the Third from Gilligan’s Island, but with a beard!) as the local prospector with more than a screw loose.

The second episode gets the Bradys to the park (finally), complete with a roadside potty stop for Bobby who dashes off into the trees and hopefully had nothing more than number one on his mind.  The quick stop at the entrance gate brought back fond memories as they didn’t pay a cent at the gate (you’re old if you can remember that!) and wow, check out the early 70s mini the gate gal — uh, I mean Park Ranger was wearing.  I could see her dancing on Laugh-In with Arte Johnson popping out of the bushes with his Nazi helmet and his trademark “Verrrrry, intereshting.” (if you don’t know what that means, you’re not that old after all).  Ah but I digress — and way off course!

Anyway, there are plenty of things in the show that just aren’t accurate.  They took the mule train down and got dropped off, pretty close to what I suppose was to be the Havasupai tribe’s runaway boy Jimmy, but when they finally meet the entire clan (within walking distance of their impromptu camp) they looked more like other tribes from around the country… the full headdress of feathers and other glaring discrepancies.  Just your standard tv “injun” for the most part. But that was acceptable back then — another great teaching moment for the kids.

Yeah, I got a good laugh out of it all, and my daughter once again became enthralled with the story of the Brady family adventure, but even after all my analysis and frame-by-frame replays looking for errant boom mikes and other continuity issues, there’s one thing about the show they nailed DEAD ON ACCURATELY.  When the family stops at a viewpoint to get their first glimpse at the Canyon, you get to see 9 jaws hitting the top railing as they stare out in wonder and amazement.  I was on a Trailways Bus when my jaw hit the ground floor that first time.  It’s one of those places that no matter how many times you go or how long you stay, you don’t grow tired of looking out into that peaceful space.  It’s something we’ll all need at least once in our lives, so if your family hasn’t seen it yet, get ta plannin’, pardner!

Parke Diem!
— Jon

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