There was a time when a vacation episode was a full-fledged TV event
Summer means two things for most Americans: A family trip and a lack of decent TV. However, if you’re currently stuck at home, wishing you could find something better to watch, we’ve got an easy, free solution. You can just ride along with your favorite sitcom of choice!
Remember when sitcoms regularly had group vacations, played out over a series of episodes or even over two-hour movie events?
Sure, Modern Family still does an “away” adventure about once per season, but there was a time when a vacation episode was a full-fledged TV event. Shows you loved would ditch the multi-camera set-up and studio lighting for foreign locales and – gasp! – outside scenes that were actually filmed outside.
Some of these TV adventures happen to be viewable online, and we’ve collected all the ones we could find.
The Facts of Life
The young ladies of Eastland School went abroad not once but twice – to France with Mrs. Garrett and then later to Australia with Beverly Ann – and both outings meant leaving behind the school set and laugh track for a feature-length movie filmed on-location.
And both happen to be viewable in full on YouTube! See Jo find romance in the French countryside! See Tootie find romance with Mario Van Peebles! Learn life lessons in exiting new locations!
Not to be outdone by Blair, Jo, Natalie and Tootie, Blossom also took on Paris in a two-hour movie that syndicated reruns would later chop into a four-part intro to the show’s fourth season. The episodes had Mayim Bialik’s character finally reconnecting with her mother (Melissa Manchester).
I Love Lucy
TV historians can trace many sitcom vacation storylines back to the hilarious odysseys taken by Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel. Perhaps most memorably, the show headed to Hollywood for a celeb-studded, multi-episode arc that had the cast heading across the county. Most of those episodes are viewable on Hulu now. If you’ll remember, I Love Lucy also headed to Europe shortly thereafter, and most of that arc is on Hulu as well.
The Brady Bunch
The Bradys also famously ditched their Clinton Way digs on two separate occasions – once for the Grand Canyon and once for Hawaii. Will Bobby and Cindy be lost forever in the Arizona desert? Will Greg be doomed by the cursed Hawaiian tiki? Of course not. But that doesn’t make it any less fun to watch.
Married… With Children
Even the Bundys got out of the house once in a while. In a three-part English excursion, Al and the family head to the ancestral homeland of Lower Uncton, England, where the townspeople have killed every other remaining male Bundy descendant in an effort to lift a witch’s curse that Al’s ancestor brought upon the land. So typical Married… With Children stuff, despite the change in setting.
You may be thinking “Didn’t Family Ties also go to England?” You’re right. It did for a feature-length TV movie, but the only remnant of it online for the moment seems to be a handheld video of a TV screen playing it. It’s not optimal, but it’s there for you Family Ties diehards.
This show’s big two-part episode had the family doing what nearly every back-in-the-day ABC sitcom did: Going to Disney World. But that one’s not available online. What is? The Tanner family’s excursion to Hawaii, which taught a generation of TV viewers all about the magical menehune.
Hawaii seems to be the go-to destination for the sitcom wanting escape its traditional stomping grounds. Following an episode on which Mama competes on Jeopardy!, complete with guest appearance by Alex Trebek, the crew departs Raytown for Hawaii. Highlights include Naomi Oates getting a terrible (but deserved) sunburn.
Yep, George and Weezy took on Hawaii too – in a futile effort to lower George’s blood pressure. You have four half-hour installments to find out if it ended up working out.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch
Just like Full House, Family Matters, Step by Step and Boy Meets World all did, TGIF sitcom Sabrina made the trek to Orlando for some humid Disney fun. But how many of these other ABC sitcoms can boast plotlines where characters got turned into zebras? Sabrina also headed to Rome and Australia, but those don’t seem to be currently available online.
If you’re not going to Hawaii, then you’re going to Vegas, per the sitcom vacation rules. In its fourth season, Roseanne did it right, with Roseanne and Dan heading to Sin City for the wedding of Arnie (Tom Arnold) and Nancy (Sandra Bernhard) for a two-part adventure. Highlights include Roseanne, drunk, heckling a Wayne Newton impersonator that turns out to be Wayne Newton. Later in ABC lore, Ellen, Coach, The Drew Carey Show and Grace Under Fire would each participate in a four-series crossover that had characters from each show converging in a casino.
Honorable mentions that aren’t currently available online: both the Saved by the Bell adventures, which had the Bayside crew heading to Hawaii and Las Vegas; The Simpsons in England, Italy, China, Japan, Brazil, Australia, Ireland, Cuba, Tanzania, Iceland and Antarctica.
What’s your favorite vacation episode from classic TV? Tell us in the comments!