There are times when an actor joins an existing series as a supporting character and takes over the show. Heather Locklear transformed Melrose Place. Dennis Franz energized Hill Street Blues. Petticoat Junction was a sweet rustic show about people on a rail line connecting Hooterville and Pixley. The show had three cute daughters (Linda Henning, Pat Woodell & Jeannine Riley) helping their mom (Bea Benaderet) run the Shady Rest Hotel. The first season was nice, but the series lacked that pow personality. In the sophomore outing, were blown away by a new superstar: Higgins the Dog. You might know him better as from his international cinema hit Benji. Petticoat Junction: The Official Second Season has the series improve when it went to the dog.
“Betty Jos Dog” lets us know that this new co-star isnt going to be merely a prop dog like Duke on The Beverly Hillbillies. Hes a stray that follows Betty Jo (Linda Henning) back to the hotel. But hes not merely any mutt looking for a mouthful of food. Hes got personality and charm. The dog also has ears that shoot up in surprise. Kate (Benaderet) wants the animal out, but the critter appears to do more work than Uncle Joe (Edgar Buchanan). Will Higgins be a one episode guest star when his real owners arrive? Of course not. “Race Against the Stork” has a pregnant woman star at the Shady Rest. The big problem with the hotel is that it doesnt have a phone line (since itd cost a fortune to get connected. Uncle Joe comes up with a disturbing system of alerting the doctor when the guests water breaks that involves a shotgun. This phone business crops up with “A Matter of Communications.” Uncle Joe refuses to pay a fortune to hook up with Ma Bell. He figures a way to get around this former-monopoly by hooking up old Army field phones to the barbed wire on the nearby farms. Uncle Joe was a pioneer in the internet phone system.
“Theres No Flame Like an Old Flame” rekindles Uncle Joes desire with a recently widowed old friend. Turns out shes not merely a friend, but his former fiance. On the eve of the wedding, she ran off with the Best Man. Now that guy has died and Uncle Joe is ready to take a second shot at love with her. Its a sad saga for Uncle Joe. “Billie Jos First Job” has the daughter land gainful employment when a famous writer relocates to the area to work on his new tawdry novel. Everyone in the town is outraged that this smut scribbler is coming to defile their town. The guys book is already banned at the library. Kate fears what will happen to Billie Jo (Jeannine Riley) when shes alone with the writer. Turns out that you cant judge a book by its cover nor a writer by his book jacket photo.
“Modern Merchandizing” predicts the arrival of Wal-mart in the rural communities. Sam Druckers general store loses serious business to a modern supermarket in Pixley. Can he lure back his customers? Or will he be doomed like so many small stores that used to litter small town America when the national retailer arrives? “A Tale of Two Dogs” brings Higgins to the forefront. Betty Jo feuds with a neighbor about who has the better dog. This episode is all about letting Higgins shine. He demonstrates who has the real talent at the Shady Rest.
Petticoat Junction: The Official Second Season reminds us that Higgins was more than the dog in Benji. He was a star of TV. His barking shook up the sleepy little region that tried so hard to avoid the atomic age.
“Betty Jo’s Dog,” “Race Against the Stork,” “Have Library, Will Travel,” “The Umquaw Strip,” “As Hooterville Goes,” “My Dog the Actor,” “The Great Buffalo Hunt,” “Betty Jo’s Pen Pal,” “Bedloe’s Nightmare,” “Kate’s Bachelor Butter,” “Mother of the Bride,” “The Lost Patrol,” “Smoke-Eaters,” “The Curse of Chester W. Farnsworth,” “There’s No Flame Like an Old Flame,” “Billie Jo’s First Job,” “A Matter of Communication,” “Kate Bradley, Girl Volunteer,” “Hooterville Crime Wave,” “For the Birds,” “Modern Merchandising,” “Visit From the Governor,” “A Borderline Story,” “The Shady Rest Hotel Corporation,” “A Tale of Two Dogs,” “The Black Box,” “Bedloe’s Most Fiendish Scheme,” “Bedloe Gets His Comeuppance,” “The Mayor of Hooterville,” “Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Jinx?,” “The Chicken Killer,” “Why Girls Leave Home,” “There’s No Stove Like an Old Stove,” “The Brontosaurus Caper,” “The Hairbrained Scheme,” and “There’s No Biz With Show Biz.”
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The black and white transfers are good enough to see the shaggy fur on Higgins in detail. The audio is mono. The levels are just right for the sweet rural tones. The dog barks are never too heavy.
Introductions are done by Pat Woodell and Linda Kaye Henning for every episode.
Interview with Pat Woodell and Linda Kaye Henning (38:06) has two of the daughters talk about their experiences in the second season. They detail their trip to JFKs grave. They give a good sense of the world outside the Shady Rest at that time.
Photo Gallery (1:03) is a montage of the publicity pics. Benji gets plenty of posing moments.
Petticoat Junction: The Official Second Season keeps this slow moving rural comedy barking with the infusion of Higgins. The dog somehow adds a level of character to the action that wasnt quite there with the numerous characters from the first season. Hes the “normal person” in the midst of the flighty comic events in the town. Easy to see why Higgins would become an international superstar instead of merely another TV pet.
CBS DVD presents Petticoat Junction: The Official Second Season. Starring: Bea Benadere, Edgar Buchanan, Linda Henning, Pat Woodell, Jeannine Riley & Higgins the Dog. Boxset Contents: 36 episodes on 5 DVDs. Released on DVD: July 14, 2009. Available at Amazon.com
Tags: Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres