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.
This is another strong collection of episodes that represents the series in its prime. While Season Two saw this sitcom strike the right balance between realism and surrealism, Season Three continues the show’s descent into the latter, with fantastical stories and looney extended gags that you would honestly find on no other situation comedy. Though the wackiness sometimes misses the bark, the originality is a refreshing (and often, too rare) treat. Meanwhile, the ensemble continues to shine brighter than ever. (This is also the last season with Ms. Barbara Pepper as Doris.) If you were a fan of Season Two, you’ll probably also adore Season Three. So, I have picked ten episodes that I think exemplify the year’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 Three. (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 65: “Love Comes To Arnold Ziffel” (Aired: 09/20/67)
Hooterville is captivated by the romance between Arnold Ziffel and Cynthia the basset hound.
A classic installment that also happens to be a fan favorite, this episode, like many from this season, has a plot centered around Arnold, the pig. What makes these installments so funny, beyond the use of the hilarious Ziffels, are the interactions that are spawned between the contemptuous Oliver and the maternal Lisa in relation to Arnold — just wonderful. This episode is prime evidence that there is no other sitcom like Green Acres.
02) Episode 69: “Don’t Count Your Tomatoes Before They’re Picked” (Aired: 10/18/67)
While Oliver dallies with his tomato crop, Haney assumes control of the Douglas phone company.
As with other Paul Henning series, the early third season contains a four-episode story arc in which Oliver buys the phone company. This is the final aired episode in the storyline, and definitely the funniest. Buttram’s Haney is particularly choice here! (Note that this episode and the previous one are in inverted order on the DVD release.)
03) Episode 73: “Won’t You Come Home, Arnold Ziffel?” (Aired: 11/15/67)
When Arnold goes missing, Lisa is convinced that the poor thing has been kidnapped.
Eva Gabor really sells this episode, one of the lesser (comedy wise) Season Three installments to be centered around Arnold, by her sheer commitment to the material and the character. Fred’s usage of Lisa’s hotcakes to shingle his roof is a well-remembered and truly outstanding gag. Such imagination! A well remembered episode from the series in its prime.
04) Episode 75: “Haney’s New Image” (Aired: 11/29/67)
A new honest Haney offers to buy back the farm when he learns it’s to be the site of a highway.
Written by Bobby Bell & Bill Lee
Written by a pair of freelancers, this is one of my favorite episodes of the season. Its plot returns to the pilot of the show — Haney sold Oliver this rundown farm — and now that the land is worth something, Haney wants it back. His ‘going honest’ routine is a real hoot — because we (and Oliver) know not to trust him, and the episode climaxes quite brilliantly with the discovery of… SPOILER ALERT… not oil on the property, but water.
05) Episode 76: “Alf And Ralph Break Up” (Aired: 12/13/67)
Ralph moves in with the Douglases after she and her brother Ralph split.
As I mentioned last week, I’m a sucker for a good Alf and (particularly) Ralph Monroe episode. This is surely their best installment of the season, which sees the pair splitting up following a row. Of course, Ralph comes to stay with the Douglases, and Oliver wants her out. But he has a change of heart when he realizes how good of a cook she is. Then he tries to keep the brothers from reconciling. Great, classic installment.
06) Episode 81: “How To Succeed On TV Without Really Trying” (Aired: 01/24/68)
Oliver becomes a TV sensation after a boy genius spiffs up the farm with gadgets.
This truly riotous episode’s success comes primarily from the ingenious self-referencing that arises when Oliver becomes a TV star. Of course, the script is loaded with laughs, and though this may be fairly obvious, the entire cast is stellar. A memorable installment. (Green Acres‘ self-reflexivity is the most endearingly zany facets about this series. It’s quite overt here.)
07) Episode 82: “Arnold Ziffel, Boy Hero” (Aired: 01/31/68)
Arnold comes to the rescue when the Douglases are taken hostage by a pair of bank robbers.
This series can be so delightfully campy sometimes without even knowing it! (Or do they?) In this installment, featuring a plot that would — knowingly — be more appropriate for Lassie, Arnold saves the day when Oliver and Lisa are stuck at home by a pair of men who have just robbed the bank. Gabor once again gets the MVP award, but Arnold is a close second!
08) Episode 83: “Flight To Nowhere” (Aired: 02/07/68)
The residents of Hooterville prepare for a charted governmental flight to Europe.
All I wrote down in my notes while viewing this episode was: “wonderful interactions between the residents of Hooterville.” The ensemble is used quite effectively in this installment, but my two highlights include: Haney’s attempt to sell off his bogus traveler’s checks, and the initial meeting in which the Hooterville residents think the flight to Europe will only cost them $30 a piece. Such amusing interplay — well constructed and funny.
09) Episode 86: “Our Son, The Barber” (Aired: 02/28/68)
Eb hopes Oliver will fund him at a do-it-yourself mail-order barber school.
Written by Dan Beaumont
This is probably the best Eb episode of the season. The jokes about all the colleges with shared acronyms are memorable, but truly, the premise alone is one of beauty: a mail-order barber school in which the students trim toupees and mail them in. Hilarious? You bet. And again, I commend the writer of this installment on his imagination. This series always delivers in that department!
10) Episode 87: “Oliver’s Jaded Past” (Aired: 03/06/68)
Oliver agrees to keep his promise of taking Lisa to New York for their two year farm anniversary.
This may be the biggest surprise. I could have easily put the amusing “The Rutabaga Story” in this position. But I liked the narrative here: Lisa wants Oliver to take her on a vacation back to New York and he reluctantly agrees. After some typical GA shtick, Lisa decides she’d rather be in Hooterville than New York. There’s a nice full-circle in this moment, and it’s beyond appreciated.
Other honorable mentions from this season include: “Lisa’s Jam Session,” in which Lisa tries to make her own jam, “Eb Elopes,” in which Eb gets a temporary replacement, “Jealousy, English Style,” in which Lisa hopes to make Oliver jealous, “Eb Returns,” in which Eb tries to pretend that he’s married, “Not Guilty,” in which Eb is accused of theft, “The Rutabaga Story,” in which Hooterville launches a rutabaga campaign (most deserving to be the on the list above), and “A Star Named Arnold Is Born (II),” in which the Douglases take Arnold to Hollywood.
*** The MVE Award for the Best Episode from Season Three of Green Acres goes to…..
“Haney’s New Image”
Come back next Tuesday for the best from Season Four! And tune in tomorrow for a new Wildcard Wednesday post!