Welcome to a new Sitcom Tuesday! Today we’re continuing our series on the best episodes from another fondly remembered single-camera show of the ’60s, Green Acres (1965-1971, CBS). The first three seasons have been released on DVD, but every single episode (from all six seasons) are available for purchase on iTunes, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.
Oliver Wendall Douglas, a New York lawyer, gives up his law practice to follow his lifelong ambition of becoming a farmer. He and his reluctant wife, the Hungarian Lisa, move to the tiny town of Hooterville, where they try to assimilate to country living. Given the kookiness of the town’s residents, that may be difficult — for Oliver, that is.
Green Acres stars EDDIE ALBERT as Oliver Wendall Douglas, EVA GABOR as Lisa Douglas, TOM LESTER as Eb Dawson, PAT BUTTRAM as Mr. Haney, FRANK CADY as Sam Drucker, ALVY MOORE as Hank Kimball, HANK PATTERSON as Fred Ziffel, BARBARA PEPPER as Doris Ziffel, MARY GRACE CANFIELD as Ralph Monroe, and SID MELTON as Alf Monroe.
The second season of Green Acres is probably my favorite. The series has finally tapped into its trademark absurdity and has found a nice balance between good storytelling and hearty laughs. The cast is even better than they were last season, and there’s just an outpouring of joy that overflows throughout this collection of episodes. Newbies, this is the season with which to begin. So, I have picked ten episodes that I think exemplify the season’s strongest installments. For new fans, this list will give you a place to start. For seasoned fans, there might be a few surprises.
Here are my picks for the ten best episodes of Season Two. (They are in AIRING ORDER.) Note that every episode of this series is directed by Richard L. Bare, unless otherwise noted, and every episode of this series is written by Jay Sommers and Dick Chevillat, unless otherwise noted.
01) Episode 35: “I Didn’t Raise My Pig To Be A Soldier” (Aired: 09/28/66)
Arnold is drafted while Oliver and Lisa have agreed to pig-sit for his honeymooning parents.
Story by Elon Packard & Norman Hudis | Teleplay by JS & DC
The series, firmly out of the growing pains of Season One, is in full force now. Sit back and delight in the pure ’60s goofiness — as Arnold, the pig, gets drafted into the army. Of course, the army refuses to believe it could have made a mistake, and we’re treated to 25 minutes of hilarity. Clever ending too — with Ralph Monroe being drafted. (That one may be a little more understandable!)
02) Episode 36: “How To See South America By Bus” (Aired: 10/05/66)
Lisa becomes jealous when Oliver spends time with an attractive lady farmer.
Story by Walter Black | Teleplay by JS & DC
Eva Gabor is hilarious in this episode which allows her play drunk while trying to impress Oliver and the new lady farmer with her knowledge about agriculture. Then the ever hilarious Doris Ziffel confounds the situation with her silly soap opera that sends Lisa packing. I very much like the episodes of this series that deal with adult situations — albeit, zanily. Jealousy is a common sitcom story, but it’s done freshly here.
03) Episode 37: “The Ugly Duckling” (Aired: 10/19/66)
Lisa gives Ralph a makeover so that the lady carpenter can finally snare Hank Kimball.
I may have mentioned last week that I’m a sucker for a good Ralph Monroe episode, and boy, this episode sure delivers on that front. For years, the image of Mary Grace Canfield with that over-exaggerated eyelid has never failed to provoke a laugh from me. And her valiant pursuit of ‘Hanky’ Kimball never falls short of hilarity. This is her episode, and she shines.
04) Episode 41: “The Hooterville Image” (Aired: 11/16/66)
The residents of Hooterville fear that Oliver’s suit and tie is ruining their image.
This episode is probably one of the best of the series, for it deals with the central struggle: Oliver, the city man, and his attempts to acclimate to country life. This episode specifically addresses Oliver’s decision to dress formally while doing his farming. The residents of Hooterville decide to teach him a lesson — with hilarious results. (Those frou-frou fur-lined overalls Lisa gives him are a riot!)
05) Episode 44: “A Square Is Not Round” (Aired: 12/14/66)
As one of the hens begins laying square eggs, the toaster begins operating to a strange command.
Written by Elroy Schwartz
From my understanding, this is one of the series’ best remembered episodes. I won’t spoil it for you, except to say that this is an incredible example of the series at its most surreal: a hen is laying square eggs and they can’t figure out which one it is, while the toaster pops up every time someone says “five.” Totally bonkers, and undeniably funny. (Oh, and no surprise — given the writing credit!)
06) Episode 48: “His Honor” (Aired: 01/11/67)
A misunderstanding erupts when Oliver is chosen to judge an apple competition.
Written by DC & Al Schwartz
This is another funny episode that finds its success in a premise that brings everything back to the idea that Oliver will always be the “fish out of water.” He’s elected to judge an apple contest, but he incorrectly assumes that he’s been appointed to the court of appeals. Gabor and Albert are (as usual) sublime in this very satisfying installment.
07) Episode 52: “Never Take Your Wife To A Convention” (Aired: 02/08/67)
Oliver and Lisa attend a farm convention where they meet a not-so-ex gangster and his wife.
Gangsters and their molls have long been associated with sitcoms, dating back from the screwball comedies, and even before that, the vaudeville stage. This fan favorite episode benefits from great guest casting and bold performances all around — never a bad thing in a ’60s sitcom (which requires boldness). In fact, this one is jam-packed with laughs.
08) Episode 53: “The Computer Age” (Aired: 02/15/67)
Oliver and Lisa both enter a computer matchmaking service to settle an argument.
Another trope: ’60s sitcoms seem to have a fascination with computer dating. I think this series may even do it the best, as the delightful Ralph Monroe is back in action. While Oliver champions computers, Lisa is skeptical. So they decide to enter themselves. Naturally, Oliver is paired with Ralph. (She always had a thing for Oliver anyway.) Funny, funny, funny!
09) Episode 58: “Getting Even With Haney” (Aired: 03/22/67)
Oliver agrees to represent the Ziffels in court against Mr. Haney.
There are many reasons to like this installment, but I can narrow it down to two things here. First of all, it’s always a strong comedic choice to feature a lot of the Ziffels. He can crack me up with just a word, and she is one of those bawdy character actresses that you just don’t see anymore. Secondly, it’s comedically satisfying to see the characters go after the irascible Haney, who, after two seasons of scamming, deserves some comeuppance.
10) Episode 62: “Music To Milk By” (Aired: 04/26/67)
Eleanor the cow swallows Eb’s new radio during a big on-air contest.
Written by Elroy Schwartz
This is another episode that many fans consider to be the best of the series. Written by Sherwood Schwartz’s brother, it reminds me of the Gilligan’s Island pilot in which a fish swallows the transmitter, so they start talking inside the fish to find it. This episode is an exercise in surrealism and is hysterically funny from start to finish. Great end to the season!
Other notable episodes (and there were plenty) that didn’t quite make the list above include: “Water, Water Everywhere,” in which Haney drains the water from the Douglas farm, “Eb Discovers The Birds And The Bees,” in which Eb tries to romance one of the Bradley girls, “You Ought To Be In Pictures,” in which the Hooterville residents think Jimmy Stewart is coming for a visit, “School Days,” in which Lisa goes to school to learn the art of homemaking, “It’s So Peaceful In The Country,” in which Mother Douglas returns to the farm, “Exodus To Bleedswell,” in which the residents of Hooterville are offered lucrative jobs by a rival town, “It’s Human To Be Humane,” in which Lisa becomes the local Humane Officer, “Lisa’s Vegetable Garden,” in which Lisa decides to plant crops of her own (this one most deserves to be included in the above list), “Kimball Gets Fired,” in which Kimball is replaced, and “Who’s Lisa?” in which Lisa possibly gets amnesia.
*** The MVE Award for the Best Episode from Season Two of Green Acres goes to…..
“The Hooterville Image”
Come back next Tuesday for the best from Season Three! And tune in tomorrow for a new Wildcard Wednesday post!
I vaguely remember some of these episodes. From your descriptions some of them sound like they’re lough out loud. I too like Ralph and Arnold. Another excellent top ten list.
Thanks for reading and commenting, Adam!
I think most (if not all) of the episodes are available for free on YouTube.
The Hooterville Image is hilarious, but it isn’t one for newbies to start with. I think you need to get comfortable with Oliver’s approach to farming (and Lisa’s pampered sensibilities) to really get into the groove of that episode. I’d suggest starting with the episodes that deal with the farm life (i.e., not #1 or #5-8) first. Then move on to the others. Particularly by the second season there’s little sense of continuity, so jumping around in order doesn’t matter.
You Ought to Be in Pictures has a nice twist on the old trope of rural people going Hollywood crazy. It is mostly predictable, but the ending is one of the funniest of the series.
Hi, sm5574! Thanks for reading and commenting.
Yes, much of the comedy in “The Hooterville Image” only exists from an understanding of the show and the characters. The same can be said, in total, of shows like THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW and THE BOB NEWHART SHOW, which actually become funnier as the characters become more ingratiated to the audience. In fact, I think TMTMS is one of the few shows that was better in the second half of its run than its first. Interestingly, I think, GREEN ACRES (and most of the single camera shows of the decade), needs less time to breed familiarity. In addition to the basic premise being summed up neatly in the opening credits, the characters are typically defined in broad strokes, so the jokes aren’t easy to miss. But you’re absolutely right, as with every show, starting somewhere in the first season (if not the pilot) makes most sense with regard to establishing the characters and their world. When it comes to quality, however, that’s often a different story. As we see here, the second season is a much sharper comedic property than the first!
What are your thoughts on the second season of Petticoat Junction (and the show as a whole)? I think it’s the best and definitely on par with this season of Green Acres in terms of comedy and absurdity.
Hi, Matt! Thanks for reading and commenting.
Regardless of season, I think PETTICOAT JUNCTION very rarely competes on the same comedic level as GREEN ACRES, or for that matter, THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES. But that’s perhaps an unfair comparison to make; after all, I think PETTICOAT JUNCTION aims to be gentler. It succeeds, and in its early seasons in particular, is quite charming and, for those seeking this style of comedy, worthy of some attention.
When I come back around and cover THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES — a promise I made and absolutely intend to keep — PETTICOAT JUNCTION is an amiable companion that you might see here as well.
Love your season 2 commentary. “A Square is Not a Round” is one of my favorite episodes of the whole run.
I think one of the most clever conceits of the show was the fact that Oliver was so gung-ho regarding the move to Hooterville, while Lisa was horrified. Yet, Lisa ends up fitting in with the madness of it all while Oliver becomes irritated by many of the local residents.
Hi, Brandon! Thanks for reading and commenting.
Agreed — this evolution was vital to the series’ comedic viability and its transition into the most tonally unique of all the era’s rural comedies. Also, I think Gabor is perhaps the most underrated leading lady of the decade’s successful sitcoms, which “golden era” GREEN ACRES (this season and the following) proves over and over again.