DVD Review: The Beverly Hillbillies (The Official First Season)

There are sitcoms that started out rather shaky and slowly came into their greatness such as Taxi or Seinfeld. The Beverly Hillbillies was a masterpiece from its very first episode. The show can be treated as a massive comedy movie that was delivered in episodic installments. Few sitcoms are as brilliant and perfect as Hillbillies were from the start. The series dealt with massive wealth being dumped on a dirt poor family who must leave their humble cabin for a massive mansion in California. Can they survive the Hollywood lifestyle? Can the Hollywood lifestyle survive them? When Jed Clampett struck oil on his property, America was treated to comedy gold. The Beverly Hillbillies: The Official First Season is as rich in laughter as Jed’s bank account at the Commerce Bank.

The series starts with Jed Clampett (Barnaby Jones’ Buddy Ebsen) dealing with the outside world coming down on him. His poor land has attracted the attention of an oil company. They make an offer to pay the country guy in what he perceives is a different kind of dollar. They are paying him in million dollar bills. His sister-in-law Pearl Bodine (Flintstones’ Bea Benadert) gives him the news that he’s a very wealthy man now. He’s not ready to embrace The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. He gives into the idea of moving to California to live life at its fullest especially for the sake of his daughter Elly Mae (Donna Douglas). In order to not feel lonely, he brings along Granny (Irene Ryan) and Pearl’s son Jethro (Max Baer Jr.) on the trip. They ride cross country on Jethro’s barely street legal truck. Banker Milburn Drysdale (Raymond Bailey) and his secretary Jane Hathaway (Nancy Kulp) have no clue about their largest investor. They imagine the Clampetts as worldly folks eager to live large in Beverly Hills. Little do they know the Clampetts are going to freak out when they see the huge estate that they now own. Even worse is when Miss Jane mistakes the family for the servants.

The show works because Jed and his kin aren’t treated as complete clueless idiots who don’t know what’s good for them. They have their own ways of perceiving things from living deep in the country, but it calls into questions the modern conveniences and items of the wealthy that everyone expects Clampetts to accept as normal living. The audience isn’t asked to ridicule the Clampetts for being backwoods.. Much humor comes from the greed and avarice of Mr. Drysdale. He can’t believe how these people want to hold onto their old ways of life even with they conflict with city zoning ordinances and health codes. There’s also plenty of humor from Jethro doing his hardest to fit in with the environment. You don’t have to feel guilty laughing at the jokes.

The cast is what makes the show so amazing. Ebsen brings a well rounded nature to Jed. Baer has a smile that makes you not question Jethro’s educational background. Irene Ryan captures the craggy nature of Granny. What’s remarkable is how Donna Douglas plays Ellly Mae Clampett as a teenage daughter emerging into adulthood, Douglas was really 30 when the series started. This is a series filled with perfect comedy performances of legendary scripts.

It may seem a bit confusing as to why CBS DVD is finally releasing season one after putting our complete sets for seasons two, three and four. Because of a clerical error, the early episodes of the show lapsed into public domain. Other DVD companies have flooded stores with collections of Hilbillies season one. Many of them had to snip away the musical moments since the “Ballad of Jed Clampett” wasn’t in the public domain. Even the one set that could have the music was only transferred from 16mm. Nothing has looked or felt as good as the transfers on this Official release. You’ll want that extra resolution to truly enjoy the comic genius of this perfect sitcom.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The black and white transfer brings out the detail in a show that mixes the lavish look of Beverly Hills with the rural elements of the Clampetts.

Extended Pilot (32:00) has it called The Hillbillies of Beverly Hills. The extra footage includes highlights from the next episode set up by Mr. Drysdale.

Original Episode Sponsor Opening and Closings are included on many of the episodes. The big sponsor is Winston cigarettes. Don’t smoke kids.

CBS DVD presents The Beverly Hillbillies: The Official First Series. Starring: Raymond Bailey, Buddy Ebsen, Max Jr. Baer and Donna Douglas. Boxset Contents: 36 episodes on 5 DVDs. Released: April 26, 2016.