Producer Paul Henning had struck gold when Jed Clampett hit oil on The Beverly Hillbillies. The show became a massive ratings success and CBS repaid him by giving him another timeslot without requiring a pilot. This became Petticoat Junction, a sitcom about a hotel near the town of Hooterville. This show also became a hit for Henning and CBS once more offered him a timeslot without hoops to jump through. Instead of coming up with a new idea, Henning went back to radio to revive a concept that bookended perfectly with Hillbillies. Jay Sommers was a writer/producer on Petticoat that had created the short lived radio comedy Granby’s Green Acres. The show wasn’t a hit even with Gale Gordon (Here’s Lucy) and Bea Benaderet (Petticoat) as the leads in a tale of a banker who makes a drastic career choice. What was a failure on radio, flourished on television as Henning produced another hit in Green Acres so he dominated primetime with country fun. Green Acres: The Complete Series contains all six seasons of a show that reversed The Beverly Hillbillies and reaped a bumper crop of laughs.
Oliver Wendell Douglas (Roman Holiday‘s Eddie Albert) was born on a farm and never forgot his roots. Although they aren’t really his roots. He’s from Manhattan and he was born in the farm house because he dad wanted to stay for the last horserace at Saratoga. While he dreamed of tilling the soil, his parents made him go to law school and become a lawyer. He married the Hungarian Lisa (The Rescuers‘ Eva Gabor) and moved into a swank apartment on Park Avenue. But Oliver felt he was living a lie every day he showed up to court. On a business trip to Chicago, he made a major detour and bought the Haney Farm in the remote community of Hooterville. He was TV’s big follow your bliss guy. During the end of “Oliver Buys a Farm,” he talks Lisa into moving to the country with him for six months. She quickly realizes this won’t be easy on her. Things go ugly quick during “Lisa’s First Day on the Farm” when she realizes that there’s zero creature comforts in the farm house that is ready to fall over. They don’t even have a phone in the house. This is a woman who has no desire to rough it for the sake of being the backbone of America. “The Decorator” has Oliver do his best to make things nicer for her by getting the place fixed up, but there are issues so by the end of the episode we aren’t given a Property Brothers reveal. It’s more like a crime scene exposed. “The Best Laid Plans” has the town a buzz when Lisa returns to New York City without Oliver. They fear their new neighbor’s passion for being a farmer has cost him a marriage. None are quite sure why he’d stay in Hooterville instead of fleeing back to Manhattan.
Lisa slowly comes to enjoy her life in the country through kind qualities of the locals. Eb Dawson (Tom Lester) is the eager helper yet naïve farmhand that Mr. Douglas hires. He gets so attached to his bosses that he calls them Mom and Dad. Things develop well for Eb including towards the end of the show when he gets engaged. There’s a great joke when he asks Mr. Douglas about the proper way to bed shop with his wife-to-be. Mr. Haney (Pat Buttram) must be the patron saint of any sleazy salesman. After selling Mr. Douglas his worthless farm, Mr. Haney returned quite often in hopes of selling in something equally as worthless. He’s one of the iconic supporting characters of sitcoms. He’s the kinda guy that you’d see on an infomercial today pushing a nuclear holocaust seeds and gold bars. Hank Kimball ( The Wild One‘s Alvy Moore) is the county agriculture agent who attempts to help Mr. Douglas, but ends up flustered on his own words. He doesn’t have much faith in the newbie’s ability to raise crops. Sam Drucker (Frank Cady) runs the general store, post office and pretty much any service necessary for the people of Hooterville. He also did the same job on Petticoat Junction. He was an extremely busy guy. Sam is close to sanity on the show although he has his own goofiness. He likes to appease the city slickers. The massive star of the show was Arnold Ziffel. He lives with his parents, wanders around town, gets into a little trouble and loves TV. What makes that so special? Did I mention he’s a pig that people swear they understand? Arnold could pump up an episode with an appearance like Larry, Darryl and Darryl or Lenny and Squiggy. Quite a few characters crossover from Petticoat Junction to Green Acres makes it feel like this was almost a reality show.
The best part about watching Green Acres on DVD is that you can get lost in the episodes and not rudely interrupted with commercials. You can get absorbed into the action of Hooterville. You can feel bad when Mr. Douglas’ corn crop looks so pitiful. There are so many fun moments. Arnold gets his big chance to become a Hollywood star like Babe and Gordy. The racetrack where monkeys chase a wooden banana. All the crazy devices that Mr. Haney pulls off the back of his truck. There’s just so much weirdness that it’s easy to hit Play All and relocate your mind to Drucker’s store.
Green Acres was one of the shows axed when CBS had the rural purge after 1970-71 season that also took out Beverly Hillbillies (Petticoat Junction had been canceled the previous season). While it’s easy to be bitter about such a moment, Green Acres ended at just the right time. It didn’t go lose its mojo like Hillbillies did during the final season. The ratings still had it in the top third of shows. The sixth season is still hilarious especially when the town secedes from the USA and appoints Oliver their King. The true victim of the purge was Henning who was never able to get another show on the network after having three major hits for several years. Why did this happen? The last two episodes of Green Acres were sneaky backdoor pilots. One had the Oliver and Lisa fly to Hawaii to stay at a fancy resort and the other was about Oliver’s old secretary. Neither are ready to be more than odd episodes that put the cast in secondary positions. They weren’t going to be fighting All In the Family, Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Bob Newhart Show for a timeslot on CBS. Henning had just come to the end of his lucky streak.
Green Acres: The Complete Series charts Oliver Douglas’ unlikely desire to be a farmer and connect with the soil. He follows his dream even if his dream doesn’t want him following it. Green Acres remains a classic sitcom.
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers look so much better than the versions that have been running on digital subchannels over the last decade. The image has sharp color and definition to let you absorb the life on the farm. Seasons 4 – 6 which are new to DVD look fine. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The theme song sounds great. The episodes are Closed Captioned.
Pilot Episode Commentary By Pop Culture Historian Russell Dyball has him break down the background on the shows creation.
Green Acres Is the Place to Be (38:03) is an interview with Stephen Cox author of The Hooterville handbook. He provides all the necessary details about the show including the first actor seriously considered for the role. The most interesting fact is finding out that Eddie Albert really was into farming and hand a garden in his backyard that didn’t resemble the sad crops of Green Acres. There’s also outtakes from a few commercials shot on the set.
Merv Griffin Show (33:18) has Eva Gabor and Eddie Albert drop by the talkshow. Merv and Charlie Callas are smoking it up on the set. Eva can’t stand it. Arthur Treacher is also on the sofa. This was done before the second season premiere. The duo are so at ease with each other.
Awake Orange Beverage (1:10) is a visit from Carol Channing to Oliver and Lisa Douglas. This isn’t quite as weird as her visit to the POW camp on Hogan’s Heroes. This was a variation on Tang.
Original Granby’s Green Acres Radio Shows includes six episodes of the short lived series. It’s not a bad show, but it really needs visuals.
Photo Gallery (2:20) are promotional pictures featuring the cast.
Shout! Factory presents Green Acres: The Complete Series. Directed by: Richard Bare. Starring: Eddie Albert, Eva Gabor, Pat Buttram, Tom Lester & Frank Cady. Boxset Contents: 170 Episodes on 24 DVDs. Released: October 17, 2017.
Tags: Beverly Hillbillies, Eddie Albert, Green Acres, Shout! Factory