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Normally I don't critique sitcoms because, frankly, it's not worth the effort and are so crassly superficial that they don't require any serious attention. But in the case of "The Beverly Hillbillies" I will make an exception. This is because of one character: Jed Clampett, played by Buddy Ebsen. Jed Clampett is one of the most endearing yet complex characters ever created by the television industry. Superficially, Jed Clamptett doesn't seem to be the type of character that warrants much serious attention. After all he's just a simple, uneducated backwoodsman from the hills who's lived in a shack all of his life, and by pure dumb luck comes into a pile of money which doesn't seem to change him one bit. Which is what makes Jed Clampett such a wonderful character. For Jed Clampett has dignity and integrity and nothing will divert Mr. Clampett from remaining true to himself or altering the way he treats everyone - with openness, honesty and a real desire to be hospitable. Further, Jed Clampett commands respect, and is respected, not only by his immediate family who are utterly devoted to him, but even by that crass and conniving banker who, despite his air of superiority, reveals, episode after episode, what a buffoon he is compared to the calm and self-assured Mr. Clampett. Also, it should be noted the Jed Clampett protects and cares for not only his daughter, but his nephew and mother-in-law, the latter two a constant challenge to Jed's patience, which he never loses. If there were more Jed Clampetts in this world, then maybe we'd all be living in shacks, but at least we'd be getting along with each other and treating each other better.
This is a hilarious 1960's comedy that I grew up with and still never
tire of every time I chance to encounter it in re runs. It surely
stands among the best of its genre. The series revolves around the
sidesplitting culture clash that ensues when the country bumpkin
Clampett family moves to Beverly Hills after father, Jed Clampett,
stumbles upon oil on his land and becomes a multi millionaire. The rest
of the family joining him at their new Beverly Hills mansion include
Jed's mother-in-law Granny, pretty daughter Elly May, and nephew Jethro
The Clampetts are of course...something else...as they enter this alien world, where their mansion has every luxury imaginable including a cement pond. The superstitious & feisty Granny makes certain her kin always have lots of vittles, especially such delicacies as hog jowls and possum belly. She hangs out her shingle for the purpose of imparting her unique brand of down home doctoring & dentistry, and firmly believes that the South won (or at least is winning) the Civil War. Much of her time is spent chasing her great nephew, Jethro, out of her kitchen with a broom, trying to curtail his endless appetite. The dim witted Jethro is a scheming would be playboy, who's all proud that he graduated sixth grade and can cipher. Jed's sweet, innocent, & beautiful daughter, Elly May, has a penchant for critters, including a pet chimpanzee named Bessie. Granny is terrified that Elly's destined to become an old maid, as alas, she's still unwed at the ripe old age of eighteen. Much of Granny's energy is put into seeking out suitable beaux, although any courtin' & sparkin' in the Clampett parlour must be suitably chaperoned (or rather, cheered on) by spying through the closed door's keyhole.
The gem of the series is Jed, around whose unfailing integrity this ongoing saga revolves. He always seems blissfully unaware that he's wealthy, feels and acts no differently than he did back in the hills, and treats everyone the same (whether rich or poor). He gives generously to country folk and city slickers alike, is equally kind to both neighbours and total strangers...all the while dealing with the crazy antics of both Granny and Jethro and seeing to the lovely & rich Elly's various suitors, not all of whom have the most honourable of intentions. As another commented, if only everyone was like Jed Clampett!
In dramatic contrast to these hillbillies are the wealthy and status conscious Beverly Hills citizenry, as personified by Jed's banker, Mr. Drysdale, whose life revolves around maintaining the favour of his bank's main customer, Mr. Clampett, and protecting that thirty million dollars (or whatever the figure). His wife, Mrs. Drysdale, is a superficial & snooty dame who comes into frequent conflict with her neighbour, Granny. Jane Hathaway is Mr. Drysdale's very properly spinsterish but man hunting and bird watching secretary. She is the constant victim of her boss's greedy schemes and actually becomes quite a genuine friend to the Clampetts.
The actors are all stellar in their roles...Irene Ryan (Granny), Donna Douglas (Elly May), Max Baer Jr. (Jethro), Raymond Bailey (Mr. Drysdale), Nancy Kulp (Miss Hathaway), and especially the wonderful Buddy Ebsen (Jed).
It's a hilarious and side splitting romp, each episode funnier than the last. Through it all, Jed's integrity and honesty always shine through. The humble and good hearted neighbourliness of the Clampetts stands in sharp contrast to their affluent environment. It's Jed Clampett's desire for the simple pleasures of home, family, friends, and hard honest work versus Milburn Drysdale's blatant materialism. Every viewer realizes that, despite all the absurdity and the utterly ridiculous scenarios, the Clampetts know exactly what's important in life and that this family of uprooted hillbillies has a real life lesson to teach us all.
If only there were more TV shows like it today! Alas, our society has become far too sophisticated for its own good.
The Hillbillies was the funniest show of the 60's. In fact, I'm in my 20's and I prefer the classics to the sitcom wasteland of today. I catch them atleast twice a day on TV Land and they always make me laugh hard. The best episodes were the ones where somebody (or some critter) drank Granny's moonshine by accident. Then the fun would really begin. I didn't see anyone mention Harriet MacGibbon as Mrs. Drysdale and that's a shame because she was hilarious, always getting into fights with Granny and fainting. The comedy team of Raymond Bailey and Nancy Kulp had some of the best chemistry in TV history. Their reactions as they played off each other (and off the Clampetts) were side-splitting. Drysdale and Hathaway were a major factor in the show's success. I agree with someone else who commented that Irene Ryan should be up there in the same class with Lucille Ball. It's tragic that her name is all but forgotten today. But Granny lives on in the hearts of her fans.
If anyone's mind is pickled on older TV series, it is mine. And I know
millions of others as well cherish "The Beverly Hillbillies" among the
top of them all. The cast of this show fits so well with each other
that they become the real deal. They became a part of our family
somehow. Each regular character goes beyond typecast. The Scruggs/Flat
music simply adds more of the same quality. I sometimes practice my
guitar while watching the show so I can pick up a few licks each time.
I think that one of the most endearing qualities is that most any viewer can find something to identify with. The most obvious things are Uncle Jed's wisdom laden observations and Granny's energy and willingness to take up a cause. Jethro keeps her busy, but she never lacked for time to pick up her doctoring bag and charge full steam ahead to cure whoever might be ailing. From childhood to this day, I never seem to tire from watching this show. I can't say that about many others. Perhaps the Western series, "Bonanza", is one other that comes to mind. In both shows the characters own personalities forge their way into immortality.
Several series have tried to be funny based on the "misunderstanding" principal, but "The Beverly Hillbillies" did it first and funniest. The characters included Jed, a poor but wise mountain man who used his good old country wisdom and saying to rationalize everything, Granny, the world's oldest Confederate widow with moonshine in one hand and a shotgun in the other, Jethro, the idiot savante who thought he was a genius and then Elly Mae, the demurely sexy tom boy who could fight like a wild cat. Add to this the cheap and opportunistic banker Milburne Drysdale and his voice of reason, Jane Hathaway, who starts out as the only normal person in the series but who later turns out to be as crazy as the rest because of her Birdwatchers Club, and you have a recipe for disaster. This show had a great cast and numerous wonderful episodes and storylines that continued sometimes for eight to ten episodes, a thing unusual for a Sixties series. My favorite character is and always be Shorty Kellums, the short innkeeper from back home who was quite the ladies man up until the next storyline.
I remember The Beverly Hillbillies from when I was a little kid, and
then when I was 12 years old we had cable TV for the first time and I
was able to catch it three times a day! That's when one of the stations
decided to run all the episodes in their original sequence, starting
from the first episode. Now Walmart has been selling Beverly
Hillbillies' DVD's of 16 episodes at a time for around $10. It's a
great deal, but the only drawback is that whoever puts out these DVD's
didn't get the rights to use any of the opening and closing theme
songs. There's plenty of good banjo playing, but no narration by Jerry
Scoggins and no closing tune. Still the episodes are extremely
Of course some of it is cornball and dated, but this sitcom beats the pants off any current shows I've seen. Contrary to what some reviewers here have said, the Clampetts always seem to come out on top of every situation by simply being themselves. If that means they're stupid and backwards, then I'd rather be that than something else. By being themselves, decent and simple, they unintentionally expose everyone else's agenda's, phoniness, and crookedness, whether it's Mr. Drysdale's love affair with Clampett money or just some interloper trying to seduce Elly Mae, or whatever. I also find their unabashed Southern pride to be refreshing in today's stifled and overly-militant PC world. Again, they're simply being themselves. Maybe it helped that Irene Ryan was from Texas, Donna Douglas was from Louisiana, and Buddy Ebsen was from rural Illinois. I guess Max Baer was just a natural as Jethro, and he later dwelt on mainly Southern themes in his post-Jethro life as a film producer. PC or not, the show is funny!!
I'm a long time fan of The Beverly Hillbillies. I recently did some research on the internet to find out more about the mansion used in the series. "The Kirkeby Mansion" built in 1938 is actually in Bel Air. the 1938 French neoclassical-style mansion at 750 Bel Air Road, built by Lynn Atkinson (and later sold to hotelier Arnold Kirkeby after Atkinson's wife refused to move into a house she thought too ostentatious.) Kirkeby agreed with the production company to let them use his estate on the condition that the actual address was not given out to the general public. The address (750 Bel Air Rd.)leaked out and before long tourists became a problem. I've found a satellite view of the property recently and found out that the front gate was completely taken out and the house can no longer be seen from the street. The new entrance is down the road. Too bad really because the estate with it's still meticulously manicured spectacular seventeenth century style formal french garden is among the most beautiful in California.
I think the Beverly Hillbillies is one the funniest T.V. shows. The funny part about those Hillbillies is when they move from the Hills to California (Californie). They are so naive about the city life. Especially Jethro, the Dumbest Hillbilly of all who thinks he's a genius with his sixth grade education, along with his enormous appetite. My favorite episode is when the Clampets rush back to the Hills to find Elly May a husband after they heard about Elverna Bradshaw's daughter getting married, Granny wanted to make sure Elly beats Elverna's daughter to the Altar. One of the funniest scenes is after they arrived at the Hills, they dropped by the emporium to buy a wedding dress for Elly, where Granny runs into Elverna, They get into a large fight which attracted the whole crowd. Granny storms back to the hotel and tells Jed about making a bet with Elverna that Elly will get married ahead of Elverna's Daughter, and if she looses, Elverna gets to kick her up the top of the mountain. So she begs Jed to help her win the bet, but Jed refuses, and tells Granny that it's her own fault for making a bet with Elverna in the first place. The hilarious part is when Granny paints a couple of pictures of Elverna by making fun of her, and posting it on the town. Elverna spotted those pictures and gets furious. Elverna then storms over to the hotel where Granny, Jed, and Elly are sitting on top of the balcony. Elverna stops where they're at and starts yelling up at Granny, looking to pick a fight with her by calling her vicious names. Finally it was the last straw for Granny, she then jumps from the balcony and chases after Elverna.
The "Hillbillies" has vaudville like gags. Nothing but pure comedy. Just
plain great. It's stood the test of time.
The casting was perfect. Buddy Ebsen is a favorite. Donna Douglas is the most beautiful woman I've seen. Could be my favorite TV show of all time.
The original series THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES was probably the most
genuinely funny sitcom ever made with the possible exception of I LOVE
LUCY. This endearingly wacky comedy is both audaciously cutting edge
and family-friendly wholesome, no mean feat. I would put some of the
finest Hillbillies episodes up against the best films of Preston
Sturges for sheer pandemonium glee. Most of the episodes are excellent,
several are brilliant. The cast is superb, especially Irene Ryan as the
hot-tempered yet sentimental Granny, a five-foot elderly spitfire who
was afraid of no one - and had no reason to be. Miss Ryan was twice
nominated for the Best Actress Emmy award for Granny - she should have
WON at least four times! Buddy Ebsen is excellent as Jed but Donna
Douglas and Max Baer were equally fine as the "young uns". Donna's
free-spirited, tomboy with curves Elly May is a total joy while Max is
hilarious as the dim-witted Jethro (and quite wonderful in drag as his
twin sister Jetherine, playing the character seriously as an over-sized
female, not going for cheap "man-in-a-dress" laughs.) Raymond Bailey
and Nancy Kulp are fine as their city friends and I cherish the
episodes in which Harriet MacGibbon (as Mr. Drysdale's snooty socially
prominent wife) and Bea Benaderet (as Cousin Pearl) appear - Mrs.
Drysdale and Pearl often had to go head-on against Granny and both
actresses rose to the challenge beautifully.
The Beverly Hillbillies are often closer to the classic comedy shorts of the 1930's and 1940's than a conventional sitcom. Their importance on television history can not be overstated - not only for the "country comedies" that came along after them but for opening the door to an "alternative universe" on television where 'real life' was thrown out the window and fantasy prevailed. THE MUNSTERS, BEWITCHED, I DREAM OF JEANNIE, STAR TREK, GREEN ACRES, WILD WILD WEST, THE ADDAMS FAMILY, GILLIGAN'S ISLAND, etc. - all the shows of the 1960's that pushed the reality envelope owe a debt to the Hillbillies and they probably wouldn't have been around with out the pioneering work done on this series.
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