The Ten Best THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES Episodes of Season One

Welcome to a new Sitcom Tuesday! This week, we’re starting coverage on the best of The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-1971, CBS), which currently has its first five seasons available on DVD.

The Beverly Hillbillies stars BUDDY EBSEN, MAX BAER JR., DONNA DOUGLAS, and IRENE RYAN. With RAYMOND BAILEY, NANCY KULP, and BEA BENADERET.

One of the ’60s’ best remembered subgenres is the popular “rural” comedy, dominated by the Paul Henning trilogy of shows: The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, and Green Acres, all mid-decade classics that collectively offered countrified characters with folksy charm and good humor. If you’ve been a veteran reader of this blog, then you know Green Acres was among the first series we discussed on Sitcom Tuesdays back in 2014, because it was commercially available at the time, while The Beverly Hillbillies was not (and, unfortunately, still isn’t). I’ve given up waiting, although truthfully, I wish I was covering all three together because not only are they connected by both Henning and the rural vs. urban theme (a tension throughout ’60s programming), but their characters also crossed over and existed within the same “universe,” so putting them in a shared context is more than beneficial — it’s unavoidable. A discussion on The Beverly Hillbillies therefore also requires talk about Green Acres and Petticoat Junction, and no, I won’t be dedicating full weekly coverage to Petticoat, but it will get its own Wildcard treatment soon. First though, I want to zoom out and speak generally about the three in relation to each other, by noting that in the column of ’60s comedies, Henning’s efforts occupy a huge space in our collective conscious, for they exemplify some of the macro interests of the ’60s in contrast to the decade ahead, which saw radical aesthetic turnover that many pinpoint as having begun in tandem with the so-called “Rural Purge” of 1970 and ’71. Now, as we’ve seen, the truth is more nuanced (again, the Prime Time Access Rule had as much to do with these series’ cancellations as demo-targeting did), but it’s certainly true that ’70s sitcoms were more concerned with urban locales and younger people, and they also became more realistic, rejecting the escapism that the ’60s had projected through, in many cases, its premise-based, high-concept constructs. Yet said constructs nevertheless included larger-than-life, but memorably well-defined characters, and as we noted in our recent Car 54 study (and our second look at The Dick Van Dyke Show — a piece you should revisit for more on the decade’s broader sitcom trends), even the most idea-driven of the ’60s’ classic sitcoms had indelible characterizations as part of their designs.

That’s true of Green Acres and doubly so of The Beverly Hillbillies, a premiere example of the decade because of how it personifies this template. In fact, I’ve been set on covering Hillbillies, even after using Green Acres to typify the rural subgenre here, because as the flagship enterprise of Henning’s trilogy and the most watched of the three (it was the most-watched show of the ’62-’63 and ’63-’64 seasons), it does the best job of showcasing both the premise-led-but-character-ripe format detailed above and the conflict-forward clash of the city vs. the country, while also symbolizing how the gap between what was popular and what was lauded became increasingly wide, especially as the decade progressed and the cultural upheaval of the era wasn’t reflected on TV with the medium’s typical immediacy. This hyper-disdain both then and now for many ’60s sitcoms, because of their flamboyant characters, big premises, and sometimes juvenile writing that ignores topical themes — never mind that most counted kids as a major portion of their regular audience — is never more worth mentioning than in association with The Beverly Hillbillies. Incidentally, to deviate from the rural category, the same could be said of Gilligan’s Island, which was vital to examine for many of the same reasons — including its iconic status. But Gilligan was never as big a first-run hit as Hillbillies, didn’t last nearly as long, and wasn’t the first of a mini-dynasty. Also, Gilligan is a fascinating text because it’s a workplace comedy — people of different backgrounds being forced to coexist for the same career pursuit — and it thus resides in a different pile, while all three of Henning’s “hayseed” outings are an outgrowth of the tweaked domesticity that underscored most comedies — everything from Dick Van Dyke to The Munsters. Like those, Hillbillies, Petticoat, and Acres are domestic comedies in one shape or another; they just also happen to use a central family unit to extoll the virtues of rural simplicity. That’s very ’60s. But let’s talk about the three series’ differences, using this as our thesis: Green Acres has the best premise, The Beverly Hillbillies has the best characters, and Petticoat Junction, though inferior, deserves credit for building out the world that all three inhabit.

We’ll set aside Petticoat for a moment to focus on Green Acres and The Beverly Hillbillies, which seem like mirrors of each other. In the former, the city folk are transplanted to the country. In the latter, the country folk are transplanted to the city. Yet because the “hayseed” ethos instinctively flatters itself, it gets to “win,” meaning both shows find their drama in how the urban adapts, or doesn’t, to the rural. But their premises shoulder this differently. Green Acres is straightforward about it: the New York couple, Oliver (Eddie Albert) and Lisa (Eva Gabor), will have to get used to their new Hooterville residence and its residents, while she, in particular, is poised to have the hardest adjustment… Well, that’s how the show begins. Over the first year, and certainly by Season Two, their positions reverse, and Lisa grows more amenable to the unusual, unfamiliar ways of Hooterville, while stuffy Oliver becomes even more the odd man out. Accelerating Lisa’s integration into Hooterville is, beyond the initial premise, the most important decision made by creator and chief architect Jay Sommers, the Petticoat Junction scribe who adapted Green Acres from his own 1950 radio comedy, Granby’s Green Acres (which starred Bea Benaderet), with Henning serving merely as a largely non-creative executive producer. You see, by putting the entire fish out of water onus onto Oliver, the series aligns its objective completely and exclusively with its central character, heightening the principal urban vs. rural conflict and bolstering the world around him, so that it literally becomes Oliver vs. The World. With this understanding, Green Acres is then free to do WHATEVER IT WANTS, as long as life is difficult for Oliver, because everything from the leading lady to the guest star to the talking pig are all working in tandem for a singular dramatic purpose, with big laughs as a result of sanctioned extremes. That is, there’s a broadness to this show, and a touch of surrealism — a term I don’t apply to many sitcoms because viewers often use it to excuse lazy writing that can’t be funny without disconnecting from reality, but it’s actually earned on Green Acres. Metatheatricality, silliness, and dream-like absurdity (without explanation) are condoned because the comedic goal of exasperating Oliver is rooted in the premise.

In contrast, The Beverly Hillbillies isn’t so aligned, for now the fish out of water — the Ozark family (wise Jed, irascible Granny, childlike Jethro, and tomboy Elly May) — has to get the better of Beverly Hills, as again, the rural must win, and the Clampetts have to function like the Hootervillians: extreme, unyielding forces whose foes have no choice but to mollify, humor, and surrender. Oh, sure, there’s a gradual increase in their understanding of Beverly Hills — particularly in the first half of Season One, which is more fluidly serialized in tracking how the “hillbillies” settle into their new digs, consequently evolving them more believably than the rest of the run — but their depictions remain impenetrable by circumstance, and so do the ways they embody their part of the structure, regardless of whether we’re talking about Season One or Nine. Accordingly, the series’ main objective comes from somewhere outside the core characters. It comes from the emissary for the big city: the Beverly Hills banker determined to keep the Clampetts from going back to the Ozarks with their cash. (Yes, Jed wants to stay so the youngins can have a better life, but his aim is passive after their initial move — it’s Mr. Drysdale, and his lackey Jane, who have to do the heavy lifting in premise-affirming story, with Mrs. Drysdale as the most prominent player in opposition.) This construct has its strengths and weaknesses. Because the Clampett family doesn’t waver from its well-established characterizations, everyone is beautifully delineated and clear to the audience — from the premiere to the finale, we know who they are, and why they’re funny. However, like the Hootervillians, in order to maintain use of the premise, or status quo, in episodic story, the Clampetts have to stay extreme, which means they have to remain unbelievably ill-fitting in their new environment… in spite of what common sense tells us: that their evolved awareness of this new world should make life easier for them. This is a problem because, unlike on Green Acres, which can progress Oliver’s understanding of Hooterville because there’s no limit to how Hooterville can change and vex him, Beverly Hills (or its ambassadors) can only be vexed by the Hillbillies in a limited number of unchanging scenarios, before story runs out. Also, punishing a world (or even symbols of it) is not as comedic/dramatic as punishing the leads themselves.

If there’s a main criticism of The Beverly Hillbillies then, it’s that its premise won’t let the series explore its great characters, for the show refuses to bend one or the other to sustain itself in a healthy way. And this is disappointing because Henning, who oversaw all nine years of Hillbillies, doesn’t get enough credit for how he crafts his regulars. Although we know his time writing for the radio and TV versions of Burns & Allen refined his pronounced sense of humor, and the show he created, Bob Cummings, revealed an understanding of television’s innate ability to be simultaneously episodic and serialized with its narratives, it’s Hillbillies that proves he knew how to create funny roles for funny actors — making him a sitcom auteur on the level of some of the decade’s other titans: Nat Hiken, Carl Reiner, Leonard Stern, etc. Because of his regulars’ foundations, The Beverly Hillbillies is a stellar example of fine ’60s character writing (in its first two seasons anyway), and, to be fair, all high-concept shows are enamored of their premise and prioritize it — even Green Acres, which uses its design better and is probably funnier as a result, but is also hit-and-miss because it relies on the strength of its episodic ideas and doesn’t have characters as solidly built, for the absurdity of the world makes them inherently porous, susceptible to flimsiness. Additionally, I can’t say I think Arnold the Pig is more of a character than a gag extended well beyond its life — however famous, a little goes a long way. What’s more, even with some premise-ordained comic heightening, there does come a point where Hooterville is so loony that it obscures the fish out of water setup and therefore offers no rewards for anyone, not even Oliver. In other words, it’s like a balloon: it’s meant to be filled with air and thrives on it, but if you blow too much, it’ll pop. Again, though, that happens to all shows in this idea-driven category — a premise can only produce worthwhile story for so long. The Beverly Hillbillies loses some luster with every passing season after its second, and Green Acres is essentially only good from 1966 to mid-1969, but you’d be hard pressed to find many sitcoms from this era that manage to extend their freshness and buck this trend.

As for Petticoat Junction, I’ll save most of my thoughts for our upcoming Wildcard essay and merely say here that the series operates with a more low-concept premise, in which the conflict as implied in the surprisingly strong premiere is not present every week and, as such, is less available to create sparks (both dramatic and comedic), while the characterizations, despite what’s initially suggested, are never as clear and reinforced in story as they should be. The show’s earned value with regard to Hillbillies and Acres is the cultivation of a universe known as Hooterville, which is filled with an ensemble of eclectics — an element of Petticoat that’s kind of there from the beginning but truly starts to get played with during the second season, the first with Jay Sommers as its head writer. Sommers stayed on board for the third season as well, during which Green Acres premiered and the two enjoyed crossing over (with Petticoat becoming slightly funnier and like Acres in the process). Eventually, Hillbillies would join in this intermingling during the fall of 1968 — its seventh season, Petticoat’s sixth — establishing that all three have an official narrative link. So, one could say that Hillbillies and Acres wouldn’t formally be related if not for Petticoat facilitating the connection. We’ll explore this more later, but one more thing to note is that these crossovers began so that Petticoat could increase its viewership and find story following the death of star Bea Benaderet, with whom Henning had worked on Burns & Allen and who he initially wanted to play Granny on Hillbillies. As the story goes, when Irene Ryan auditioned and walked away with the part, Henning decided to create for Benaderet the character of Pearl Bodine, Jethro’s eager-to-marry mother. For fans of this wonderful character actress, Season One is a special treat simply for her inclusion, as outside of a brief scene in a 1967 entry, Pearl only appears this year — in a little over half its output — and it houses easily the funniest material she was ever afforded the opportunity to play on TV. (Petticoat acquitted her as a bona fide star with appreciable warmth, but she never got much comedy there.) Those who determine this year as their favorite often do so, if not for the novelty of the still-story-sustaining premise, then merely because of Pearl.

I get it. Benaderet is an asset to any series and especially this one, where her character is rich enough to both be funny and meaningfully contribute to the weekly narratives. Specifically, Pearl’s social climbing ambitions, and her desire to remarry, are unique enough to have provided additional fodder for Hillbillies in the seasons to come. But Henning was as enamored of Benaderet as we are and when CBS asked him for another series, creating a vehicle for her was his first choice, so away she went, leaving Hillbillies without one of its biggest laugh-providers. Yet this is not entirely a sad story, for as wonderful as Benaderet is, she’s, quite frankly, a star, and she pulls focus from the series’ high concept just by being there. And when she goes, the other Clampetts end up shining, getting to anchor premise-led stories more freely. Also, Pearl’s not well-integrated until she finally makes it out to Beverly Hills and joins the rest of her clan. When she spends the year’s first 15 episodes back home in the hills, trying to land Mr. Brewster and pimping out her obnoxious daughter Jethrine (Max Baer Jr. in drag), the series is not only disconnecting itself from the rest of the cast and the setting, it’s also ignoring the year’s most rewarding engine: its premise. At the same time, she’s also foisting upon us one of the series’ only bad decisions in this early era: Jethrine, who like Arnold, is a gag that goes too far, a delegitimizing joke that’s not worth it. Nevertheless, for fans of Benaderet, any episode or scene with her is fun, even if the series only benefits from Pearl when she can support the concept by being in the mansion with the rest of the family — as a character, not a star. To wit, when she and the Clampetts return from the hills of the Ozarks to the hills of Beverly around the year’s midpoint — episode 16 — things finally settle into place and the series begins firing on all cylinders. This isn’t just because of Pearl, though, it’s also because, by now, the characters have settled enough into the premise (Mrs. Drysdale has been introduced), running jokes have accrued (like Jane’s crush on Jethro), and we get a feel for what the series will be like on a regular basis, sans a reliance on narrative threads directly related to the move itself.

It’s the start of what I’d call the series’ finest era — when the show is able to exploit its conflict, showcase Drysdale’s objective, and reinforce its fundamental belief that rurality should always “win out” over urbanity, while also delighting comedically by utilizing well-defined characters who have not yet been forced to heighten (because of an inability to evolve). That is, there’s a logic and truthfulness here that’s missing in later years — with writing from Shuken and Wesson, it’s reminiscent of Henning’s work on the more sophisticated Bob Cummings, on which Nancy Kulp had a recurring role — and once this natural sincerity is mixed with mounting humor courtesy of an evolved understanding of these characters within an enjoyable framework, The Beverly Hillbillies goes into the last half of its first year as one of the funniest comedies on the air. Fortunately, this continues without Benaderet into Season Two, for the show maintains its ability to provide stories that take advantage of the premised clash and Drysdale’s overarching goal (and even gets better at it), yet with even more individual narratives that “up” the comedic ante and earn big laughs with help from some very funny characters. Thus, if you were to ask me for the best season, I’d likely say Two, as it’s the strongest year when examined as a whole from start to finish. But if you ask me to name the period when the show is at its best, then I’d expand my sights and mention everything that aired in 1963 through the first half of 1964 — we get it all that way: a little bit of time with Pearl, and then a lot of time with the regulars who matter more… Unfortunately, I’m afraid I can’t be as enthusiastic about the series’ remaining seven seasons as I am these first two, but I’ll tease now that I try to be mostly optimistic up until around 1968. We’ll talk more in the weeks ahead about why. In the meantime, Season One of this classic rural comedy is great — it’s the first of the Henning trilogy and is forever its finest ambassador, even with the tension existing from its premise. Plus, the year also has Bea Benaderet, and although the first part of One feels like a necessary warmup, the last half has many gems. So, sit a spell and get ready for my picks of the ten best episodes from the four-time Emmy-nominated first season of The Beverly Hillbillies. 

 

01) Episode 5: “Jed Buys Stock” (Aired: 10/24/62)

Jed purchases stock — livestock — while Granny and Elly May try to “cure” Mrs. Drysdale.

Written by Paul Henning | Directed by Richard Whorf

Early episodes mine the bulk of their laughs from the novelty of the premise, as the family gets acclimated to its new surroundings, but this one gives us our first indication of what a typical story will be like, as it’s driven by misunderstandings that stem from the Clampetts’ limited knowledge of urban customs — for instance, when Jed is told to go buy some stock, he fills his tennis court with livestock. Additionally, this entry continues the gag of the previous, extending these initial outings’ continuity, as Granny believes that Mrs. Drysdale — who’s not yet her great foe, just, according to her husband, a hypochondriac — is also a raging alcoholic.

02) Episode 12: “The Great Feud” (Aired: 12/12/62)

The Clampetts start a feud with the Drysdales over Sonny’s treatment of Elly May.

Written by Paul Henning & Phil Shuken | Directed by Richard Whorf

One of the series’ most memorable, “The Great Feud” concludes the subpar guest-star-led Sonny Drysdale arc with a comedic premise that’s perfect for characters who come from the hills, as the legendary Hatfield and McCoy feud is evoked when Granny leads a crusade against the Drysdales to demand justice for Elly May. Okay, it’s the idea that propels this one’s value, but it’s an idea that works for the series and its particulars. Bob Cummings’ Lyle Talbot appears.

03) Episode 18: “Jed Saves Drysdale’s Marriage” (Aired: 01/23/63)

The Clampetts think Mr. Drysdale has left his wife for Pearl.

Written by Paul Henning & Phil Shuken | Directed by Richard Whorf

Now that Pearl is in Beverly Hills, almost every story from the latter half of Season One works, and her rivalry with Granny — developed in the two prior outings — is a hoot. This one is a cut above, however, for aside from weaving in their back-and-forth, the entry also incorporates other important gags from this era, like Pearl’s yodeling and her dogged pursuit of a man, which contributes to a fun mix-up when the Clampetts think Mrs. Drysdale has been sent away by her husband so that he can pursue the woman he truly loves: Pearl. This is a showcase for Benaderet — and outside of the premise-ignorant “back home” shows, this is her character’s apex.

04) Episode 21: “Jed Plays Solomon” (Aired: 02/13/63)

Granny feels guilty when she calls the cops to report Pearl’s yodeling.

Written by Paul Henning & Phil Shuken | Directed by Richard Whorf

While the above puts a spotlight on Pearl, this installment features the rivalry between her and Granny but zeroes in on the former’s perspective for a unique change, making it the best of the “Granny vs. Pearl” lot, as the structure of the series prefers this chosen focus. Once again, there’s a lot of fun to be had with Pearl’s yodeling, but even bigger yuks come from Granny’s penchant for making moonshine, which is illegal in the hills of Beverly. Good character stuff here.

05) Episode 23: “Jed Buys The Freeway” (Aired: 02/27/63)

A conman sells the Clampetts local landmarks.

Written by Paul Henning | Directed by Richard Whorf

This comedic story is reused several times in later years with guest star Phil Silvers, who takes the Clampetts both to New York and D.C. and sells them famous monuments. But those gaudy location shows are overblown imitations of this original, as Jesse White portrays a conman who pretends to be an old friend from the hills, playing upon the family’s trust to sell them iconic L.A. landmarks, like the Hollywood Bowl. The corresponding location footage is a treat for those who appreciate TV as a time capsule, but the central idea is what makes it a classic, for it’s perfect — the Clampetts are so honest they naturally assume others are as well, and unlike the Silvers offerings, this one takes advantage of the series’ premise, for the family is so unaccustomed to Beverly Hills that we can believe they think the freeway is buyable.

06) Episode 25: “The Family Tree” (Aired: 03/13/63)

A society woman believes that the Clampetts are one of America’s first families.

Written by Paul Henning | Directed by Richard Whorf

Rosemary DeCamp, who previously worked with Henning on The Bob Cummings Show, guest stars in this, the first of a two-parter, as the head of a “first family” society that Mrs. Drysdale is determined to impress. As usual, the lady goes against expectations and is fascinated by the Clampetts and their hand-me-down relics, leading her to believe that they may all be descendants from one of the first founding Americans. The joy of this entry comes from seeing Mrs. Drysdale suffer through manual labor with rustic tools — she and Granny are somewhat enemies here for perhaps the first time — and while the follow-up outing is good also (see below), it milks the same comedic ideas dry and diverts attention away from the premise (although Pearl’s faux sophistication act is grand). But I digress… this story is quintessential Beverly Hillbillies — Mrs. Drysdale is embarrassed by the rubes, but their intrinsic goodness wins out — and for this reason, it’s my MVE: the best sample of Season One.

07) Episode 29: “The Clampetts And The Dodgers” (Aired: 04/10/63)

Leo Durocher wants to sign Jethro to the Dodgers.

Written by Paul Henning & Dick Wesson | Directed by Richard Whorf

Leo Durocher, who guest starred on a handful of other ’60s sitcoms (The Munsters, Joey Bishop, Mister Ed, Donna Reed) appears here, starting with an extended on-location golf sequence where he’s confounded by Jed and Jethro. The plot takes a turn when Jethro proves to have a hot throwing arm, and of course, Durocher wants to sign the boy to the Dodgers, making for an amusing premise that basically creates the episode’s value. But it’s legitimately worthwhile because the use of a celebrity as himself makes sense based on the setting (and stars aren’t overused), while the comedy is derived from the Clampetts being uninformed, but not yet stupid. Note, this is the first script by future Petticoat Junction head writer, Dick Wesson.

08) Episode 32: “The Clampetts In Court” (Aired: 05/01/63)

The Clampetts are sued by a couple falsely claiming damages from a car accident.

Written by Paul Henning & Dick Wesson | Directed by Richard Whorf

Another of Season One’s most memorable, this story-driven outing takes the Clampetts to court, when a low-class couple schemes to bilk money from the wealthy family by erroneously suing them for damages following a car accident. While this pair — played by Kathleen Freeman and Murvyn Vye — is lying scum, the Clampetts exasperate the judge (Roy Roberts) with their disregard for convention and a basic honesty that wins out in the end. I still can’t say I’m crazy about this plot, which any sitcom could do, because I think putting these characters in a courtroom is a little too easy, but by golly, it gets big laughs and reinforces the series’ belief in the moral superiority of its rural leads, without being too sticky about it.

09) Episode 33: “The Clampetts Get Psychoanalyzed” (Aired: 05/08/63)

Jethro visits a psychiatrist.

Written by Paul Henning | Directed by Richard Whorf

Herbert Rudley guest stars as a shrink Jethro visits in this, the first of a two-parter that delivers boffo hahas courtesy of a simple yet ingenious premise, as the childlike sincerity of the Clampetts fascinates a cynical egghead who at first is baffled by what he sees but then becomes determined to explain, and study, them. It’s one of the funniest ideas of the entire series, acknowledging the characters’ extremes without discrediting them. Dick Wesson appears.

10) Episode 34: “The Psychiatrist Gets Clampetted” (Aired: 05/15/63)

The Clampetts try to matchmake between Pearl and Jethro’s psychiatrist.

Written by Paul Henning & Dick Wesson | Directed by Richard Whorf

Continuing from the above, this installment furthers the shrink’s interest in studying the Clampetts, particularly Granny, while another classic Hillbillies misunderstanding develops when Pearl (in her final appearance aside from a one-off scene in 1967) sets her sights on courting the doc and Granny creates a love potion that she thinks has accidentally attracted him to her, not Pearl. Again, there’s lots of comedy here, thanks to big characters in a big premise — but, hey, that’s what this series does best, and near the end of Season One, it’s in peak form. If I was basing it purely on humor, this would have been selected as my MVE.

 

Other notable episodes include: “Getting Settled,” the year’s sophomore excursion, which I prefer to the premise pilot because the Clampetts experience their Beverly Hills mansion for the first time, finally exploring the series’ main setting, “Jed Throws A Wingding,” which is the first guest turn by Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs (and Joi Lansing), “Jed Cuts The Family Tree,” which is the conclusion of the outing highlighted above (and was closest to the list), and “The Clampetts Entertain,” which is mostly enjoyable for the guest performance from Jim Backus as a banker who thinks the Clampetts are putting on an act. There are lots of Honorable Mentions, like the first two shows with Pearl out in Beverly Hills as her rivalry with Granny erupts, “Back To Californy” and “Jed’s Dilemma,” along with “The Clampetts Meet Mrs. Drysdale,” which introduces the series’ main antagonist, “Jed Becomes A Banker,” which is one of the first with a scheming Drysdale, and then three so-so entries with great moments, “Trick Or Treat,” “Duke Steals A Wife,” and “Jethro’s Friend.”

 

*** The MVE Award for the Best Episode from Season One of The Beverly Hillbillies goes to…

“The Family Tree”

 

 

Come back next week for Season Two! And stay tuned tomorrow for a new Wildcard!

14 thoughts on “The Ten Best THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES Episodes of Season One

  1. I am laughing remembering some of the episodes described above. Although it might seem as if they would not be compatible, having HILLBILLIES as a lead in catapulted DVD into Top 10 territory!

    • Hi, John! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Absolutely — though it’s worth noting that DICK VAN DYKE’s performance in summer reruns had insiders predicting a minimum Top 40 (and therefore safe) finish for the next season, even before it was known what an immediate phenomenon THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES would become. I think it’s likely that both of these funny half-hours would have had decent showings in ’62-‘63, regardless of whether they were together or apart, and no matter where they were on CBS’ schedule — short of being opposite BONANZA. But of course, HILLBILLIES was an even bigger hit than expected and having the #1 new comedy as a lead-in certainly hastened the series’ ascent!

  2. Yesss I’ve been looking forward for this day for a long time. Growing up this is always been one of my favorite sitcoms how originally was at its time. Just like out of all of the paul henning shows, this was my favorite. Green acres grew on me in recent years to be honest. I always thought Irene ryan should be discussed as well too when it comes to physical comedy.

    • Hi, Track! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Irene Ryan is a very funny character actress who totally committed to the Granny persona and shouldered the majority of the series’ comedic burden throughout its run.

        • Yes, she’s a unique performer with an innate understanding of comedy — and her character is vital to the weekly narrative projection of the series’ premise, often relying on her to mediate and/or enforce Drysdale’s guiding objective.

  3. Love “The Beverly Hillbillies”. Seasons 1 and 2 are my favorites. Loved the rivalry between Pearl and Granny. Pearls insinuations about Granny’s house keeping and cooking are hilarious. Irene Ryan should have won an Emmy as Granny. Thanks Jackson for covering this series.

    • Hi, Smitty! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I’m afraid it would have been very hard for Irene Ryan, no matter how stellar, to have been awarded an Emmy for her work on a series that most voters disdained and with competition from bona fide stars/darlings like Lucille Ball, Shirley Booth, and Mary Tyler Moore. As a character actress in a disrespected vehicle, the only thing Ryan could realistically win was the favor of fans who adored the hit show and her Granny character. And, fortunately, that’s all that really mattered.

  4. I love The Beverly Hillbillies first three seasons and have been looking forward to your assessment. I don’t know if I could pick just 10 great episodes in the first season or second season as they are all great, but the episode where they take their first plane ride is a personal favorite.

    • Hi, JC! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      The episode you’re thinking of is “Home For Christmas.” I share your enthusiasm for the memorable airplane scenes (flying is a notable first for these characters, like many moments from the opening half of this season), but I think there’s too much time spent back in the hills, where the show actively ignores its central premise, and with overly broad characters like Homer and Jethrine, who steal focus from the regulars and yield surface, situational laughs independent from the series’ typical strengths. I would have much preferred a whole half-hour about the Clampetts’ experience in the airport and on their flight — that would have been a winner!

  5. Another show I’m glad to see featured. I wish they had called it day after Season 7 for sure; the last two years were really lacking.

    I guess I’m more of a Sonny Drysdale fan, since I loved Louis Nye’s performance and the scenes with Nye and Bailey were priceless. That said, it probably helps that he was limited to 5 appearances over the run of the series. As was the case with Ernest T. Bass, it left you wanting more.

    Speaking of Bailey, he gets overlooked because Ryan, Baer and Kulp leave such vivid impressions, but he’s great, even in the more cartoonish middle seasons. Legitimate contender for TV’s funniest cheapskate–he can at least give Frawley and Alexander a run for it.

    I agree with the MVE, but my runner-up might well be “Jed Throws a Wingding”. “Pearl, Pearl, Pearl” always brings a smile to my face,

    • Hi, Hal! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Well, YOU may be left wanting more of Sonny Drysdale (and Ernest T. Bass), but I’m not. I think he’s a star presence who takes over the show and diverts attention away from the things about which I care more: the regular characters, including Mr. Drysdale, whose motivating goal is diluted the longer the Sonny arc continues.

      I also think his character comes at the wrong time in the season, when we’re still looking for plots directly about the Clampetts getting used to their surroundings, not shows with a secondary aim featuring an ostentatious guest star and Elly May, arguably the least comedic member of the family. To wit, “The Great Feud” is so much better than the preceding Sonny episodes because the focus is back where it belongs (on the Clampetts as a collective) and the narrative is rooted in the fish out of water premise — a custom of theirs that’s common in the Ozarks, but not so much in Beverly Hills.

      However, I share your enthusiasm for Raymond Bailey. I can’t say I prefer or even condone how he’s used in the middle/later years, when his character is heightened and distorted for easier laughs, but considering that Drysdale has the series’ guiding objective, the more he can be featured alongside the Clampetts, the more likely we are to have premise-affirming (or adjacent) story — and that’s beneficial. (Although I should say that I think the genre’s best miser is the contemporary reference point for the archetype: Jack Benny, whose radio show helped hone the identity of the situation comedy as we still know it today, in large part because of his characterization.)

      As for “Jed Throws A Wingding,” my appreciation of the Flatt & Scruggs entries is qualified — I don’t like any episode that devolves into a musical show (at the expense of character comedy) — but I like the continuity of their annual appearances. And, in the black-and-white era, their offerings are above average. In fact, this year’s isn’t even my favorite; stay tuned…

      (Oh, and, by the way, I wish I was as generous as you — to find only the last TWO years lacking. I struggle with Season Seven, in particular; stay tuned…)

      • Totally agree about Sonny. He was over the top and drew more attention to him than the other characters.

        I completely prefer “Green Acres” but I enjoy both. I even like “Petticoat Junction” but only its first few seasons.

        I think its amazing that this show got four Emmy nominations in its first season. Most critics hated it but it seems like it at least got some credit this year.

        Question: do you think watching “The Bob Cummings Show” is helpful before watching “The Beverly Hillbillies”?

        • Hi, Elaine! Thanks for reading and commenting.

          Yes, to be fair, the smash success of THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES was hard to ignore, but after Season Two (and six nominations between both years), there was only one other nod from the Emmys — to Nancy Kulp in 1967. And with zero wins, there was clearly no love for the series from the Television Academy, even when it was still firing on all cylinders as a highly enjoyable comedy.

          As for THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW, no, you don’t need a knowledge of that series in order to appreciate THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES. Aside from the use of several of the same actors, the only important carryover is Henning’s use of mini-arcs and semi-serialized storytelling, which it should also be noted, is not unique to these two shows, and actually came from his days writing in radio.

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