(This is a repost of a past email).
A still from the Green Acres/Beverly Hillbillies crossover episode.
Driving to work a few weeks ago with Tom with the radio on, I had the radio tuned to John Stanley and Sandy Aloisi as usual. I’m not as fond of the 2UE breakfast radio show since Mike Carlton left but still have it on, despite Tom’s protests about it being a FOP station, meaning an old person’s station. On that show each morning John Stanley nominates 3 separate items, listeners winning a prize if they are the first to telephone with the common link. This particular morning the 3 items were Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies and Mr Ed. The common link, something that I wouldn’t have worked our even with Googling, was that they all finished with the words “This has been a Filmways presentation.”
The point of my story is that I told Tom that these were great comedy shows and I began singing the Green Acres theme. The more he protested the louder I sang, moving on to The Beverly Hillbillies and then Mr Ed.
Memories came back of watching those shows after school. I winder did I ever do any homework? It seems that my time was filled by TV shows.
Green Acres and The Beverly Hillbillies were classics and would probably be a hit again, although lines such as “You are my wife! Goodbye city life” would need revising. It’s a shame some TV station does not have one evening per week devoted to the past classics.
In discussion this with Kate, my wife, she raised some other favourites: Get Smart, Hogan’s Heroes (would they make a comedy sitcom today set in a Nazi POW camp?) and F Troop. From there we moved on to the British classic oldies: Steptoe and Son, Open All Hours, All In The Family, When the Boat Comes In, Porridge, Benny Hill and Dad’s Army.
So set the Wayback Machine to 1965 Sherman, to look at the start of Green Acres, then to 1962 when The Beverly Hillbillies began…
(Am I the only one that ever had a problem imagining Oliver Douglas getting it on in the cot with Lisa Douglas???)
- Because of the success of The Beverly Hillbillies, CBS asked producer Paul Henning to create another half hour comedy show. Not having time, Henning engaged Jay Sommers to do so, who based the show on his 1950’s radio show “Granby’s Green Acres”.
- Unlike the The Beverly Hillbillies, which has country people moving to the city, Green Acres has city people moving to the country.
- Insofar as the same people made The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction, there were frequent references in one to the others and crossovers of characters and events. In one episode of The Beverly Hillbillies, the persons in the three programs share a Thanksgiving meal when the Clampetts visit Hooterville.
- Much of the humour of the show was derived from Oliver Douglas trying to make sense of the absurd world around him, a world that the others, including Lisa, accept as totally normal. Another running gag is that the oily salesman Mr Haney, who sold Oliver the rundown farm, is always there to sell something when needed, or even when not needed. When the Douglases decide to go on a picnic, Mr Haney asks if they want to buy a rubber apple pie, so that the ants will go for that and then will dislocate their jaws when they bit on it. Oliver says that is ridiculous. Thereafter various members of the community who hear he is going on a picnic ask him if he has his rubber apple pie.
Another Green Acres continuing gag is the breaking of the fourth wall, the pretend wall that is between the audience and the actors. This means that the actors should not normally acknowledge that they are other than in a genuine situation. In various episodes Oliver Douglas makes long-winded patriotic speeches. A fife and drum begins playing Yankee Doodle. Those listening start to wonder where the music is coming from and begin looking for the source of it. In other instances, sometimes sound effect words appear on screen as in the old Batman TV show. In one episode a generator sputters and dies, with the word “Drick” appearing onscreen. Lisa then asks Oliver what Drick means.
- Oliver, who has always dreamed of becoming a farmer, is hopeless at it. He is unable to grow anything and his efforts always come to nothing. He farms in his 3 piece suit and the local residents think him a weirdo, although he wants to be a part of the farming community. Lisa, on the other hand, who wants to go back to New York, adjusts to the life quite well, much better than Oliver. Notwithstanding that she is always glamorous and wearing bling and false eyelashes, the locals of Hooterville, or “Hootersville” as she pronounces it, accept her and she accepts them. She is part of the absurd world that Oliver cannot understand.
Some further links:
Oliver, Lisa and Mr Haney when Oliver wants to rent a plane:
If you want to see and hear Green Acres as though it’s on a bad acid trip, scissors and paste the following: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtakUulufNk&feature=related
It has the Green Acres lyrics set to the music of the Beatles “A Day in the Life”. Well worth looking at, plus a bonus of Lisa giving the Filmways ending.
The Beverly Hillbillies
- The show aired from 1962 to 1971 and comprised 274 episodes, of which 106 were in black and white.
- Max Baer Jnr, who played Jethro, was the son of world heavyweight boxing champion Max Baer. (Baer won the title in 1934 after defeating Primo Carnera. Baer had almost given up boxing after killing a man in the ring in 1930 and giving a brutal beating to another in 1932, which led to speculation that that this contributed to that man’s death in another bout with Primo Carnera 5 months later. Baer lost the title in 1935 to James J Braddock in a boxing upset and bout that is now legendary. Braddock was dubbed the Cinderella Man and was portrayed by Russell Crowe in the movie of the same name).
- In its early years the show had topped the ratings. By 1971, ratings had declined but were still reasonable. CBS decided that it wanted to depart from the rural, folksy image and to attract a more sophisticated urban audience. There was also pressure from advertisers to that effect. To make room for new urban shows, it simultaneously cancelled all of its rural-themed shows and those which appealed to a rural audience. This was dubbed the Rural Purge and it included The Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres. Pat Buttram, who played Mr Haney in Green Acres, said that “It was the year that CBS killed everything with a tree in it.”
- Buddy Ebsen was offered the role of Jed Clampett on the strength of his playing a similar role in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961).
- The original screenwriting portrayed Jed as a dumb hick. Buddy Ebsen agreed to take the role only if the character was rewritten. The character Jethro was introduced so as to be able to give him the dumb lines.
- Series creator Paul Henning developed the idea for the show while on a trip through the South in 1959, visiting Civil War sites with his mother-in-law. He wondered what it would be like to take someone from the rural South in the Civil War era and put them down in the middle of a modern, sophisticated community. Originally it was to have been set in New York, but because of cost considerations the setting was changed to Beverly Hills.
Some further links:
See Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing” done with The Beverly Hillbillies’ lyrics at:
Sharon Tate, who was butchered by Charles Manson and The Family, appeared in some Beverly Hillbillies episodes. See her at:
Jed and Granny doing an ad for the sponsor, Winston cigarettes:
(And if the younger Byters find it hard to accept cigarette advertising from the old days, take a look at the following ad which was in the middle of a kids’ program: