"Ghost Town USA" represented a first for The Brady Bunch — the multi-part story arc. Although seen in a number of sitcoms beforehand, notably Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie, the multi-part episode was rarely if ever used in the Dom Com; even episodes depicting vacations were self-contained in a single 30-minute episode. And rarely, if ever, did they go "on location" as the Bradys did; prior to the late 1960s — in part due to production costs but also because they thought the audience wouldn't notice — most "on location" episodes were "on location" ... inside a redressed set on a soundstage.
The Bradys, thus, broke the mold by not only filming an extended story, but going on location ... here, to Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. Filmed during the early summer of 1971, "Ghost Town USA" and its subsequent parts — "Grand Canyon or Bust" and "The Brady Braves" — rank among the top of most Brady Bunch fan's list of episodes. That's even though it doesn't have that much of a plot, except for family togetherness and genuinely having a good time bonding.
The action in this episode ratchets up toward the end of the installment. On their way to Grand Canyon, the Bradys decide to visit a ghost town, where they run into a mentally ill prospector who somehow thinks they are out to jump his "gold claim" (which is non-existent). Even though Mike pleads with the prospector that they're just passing through, this lunatic can't be reasoned with and makes off with the family station wagon. And just so they can't interfere, he locks them in the jail.
Tropes present in this episode:
- Cliffhanger: The Bradys escape jail just as the episode ends ... but will they be stranded forever in a ghost town in the middle of nowhere, with no phone, no car, no food or water ... ? Tune in next week.
- Hilarity Ensues: The prospector locking the family in the ghost town jail, and stealing the family's car to drive into town.
- Hooking the Keys: The Bradys are visiting a ghost town on the way to the Grand Canyon, and a crooked gold prospector locks them in a jail cell. He places the keys on a nail and leaves; the Bradys figure out a way to retrieve them per this trope