Lunchtable TV Talk: Granite Flats

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“Holy smokes!” Yes, this is a “golly gee” exclamation that a couple of Granite Flats characters utter throughout its three-season run. I hoovered up all three, eight-episode seasons recently, and did not expect much. I was pleasantly surprised.

Some time ago, I read about the show but never quite got around to watching. It got some coverage after the first two seasons were over – suddenly when Parker Posey joined the cast, the show got a bit more attention. Christopher Lloyd had joined in the second season. Otherwise mostly stocked with virtual unknowns, the show came from nowhere. Or rather, it came from Brigham Young University productions (BYUtv). I suppose these two things made it more noteworthy in a sea awash with content, both good and bad.

The show at first comes off as ABC family, but less racy. Can you imagine? It’s a really wholesome production from the creative team at BYU. Yes, the Mormons.

It’s the dawn of the 1960s in small-town Colorado, and while the show starts by focusing on a group of three kids (who continue to form the core of the show throughout its run), it eventually unfolds to reveal the inner lives of several adults as well. Granite Flats invites you into its small-town atmosphere, and while it starts off a bit awkward and stilted, it hits its stride in the second season. The third season, though, is where things actually feel like they have gelled into place. It could easily have continued. The story was solid, could actually help you build your vocabulary (I do believe the word “mendacious” was used in one of the last episodes, and most treated us to words we don’t normally hear), entertained and was actually substantial family-oriented fare but without overt moralizing or creating something that felt as though it was “dumbed down” for family audiences. Created by BYU, of course, it lacks a lot of the darker, more salacious aspects that one might expect from modern television – no drinking (allusions to it, mostly), no smoking, no swearing, no sex. Its drama comes from other sources – mystery, intrigue, the “Red Scare” paranoia of the time and family relationships. And it comes off as surprisingly engaging.

It does shine through in the performances as well that this is something of a passion piece for the people involved. As the article cited above explains, someone like Christopher Lloyd can cash in in so many other ways, and this show was not really going to line his pockets. Clearly, it was a show that many people believed in.

A well-done period piece – and well-done enough overall to make you realize that you don’t miss the salacious bits. That’s no small feat. Sadly, though, BYUtv decided to channel its resources into other projects and ended the show after season three (all of which are up for streaming on Netflix and other sources).

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