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Many in my generation (too young to be a boomer and too old to be an "X"er) think this is one of the funniest shows ever. It doesn't have any deeper meanings or ramifications or redeeming social importance. It's funny, and for the sake of being funny. This show proves that humor rises from character. Too often a show gets by on a series of insults, or double entendres, or one-liners. "Green Acres" had characters who were rich and diverse, who might be funny by what they say, or by the fact that they're saying it, or just because they show up at a certain moment. "Hooterville" could, I suppose, be construed as a Kafkaesque construct where even the woman who doesn't want to live there understands what's going on there, and only the man who wants to live there can't comprehend what's going on, or understand what the pig is saying. But why bother with such interpretation? This show is funny, well-written, and performed by fine actors. Shot on a sound-stage, "Green Acres" nevertheless opens out where most shows seem claustrophobic -- there are fields, roads, houses, barns, cows, jeeps, tractors, and all the great outdoors. I'm a country boy myself, and I appreciate that, unlike most shows written by high-handed cityfolk that show country folk as either ignorant bumpkins whose foolishness is the basis of laughs, or makes them more sagely inscrutable than smugly-superior urbanites, "Green Acres" gives the people of Hooterville thier own mindset that is neither better nor worse, just different. And the show itself is different from anything else on television until the arrival of "Newhart" which, for all its humor, nevertheless remained stagey and claustrophobic. "Green Acres" is funny. Enjoy it.
"Green Acres" was one of the trio of "rural comedies" created and
produced by Paul Henning (the other two being "The Beverly Hillbillies"
and "Petticoat Junction"). The premise was built around a big city
lawyer (Eddie Albert) and his fashionable wife (Eva Gabor) that abandon
their affluent and hectic life for the rustic and more "civil" world of
farming in the fictional Midwestern town of Hooterville.
Though Oliver Wendell Douglas (Albert) is happy to make the transition to farm life, his wife Lisa (Gabor) is less enthusiastic, though she adapts the best as she can. One of the running gags throughout the series involves her inability to prepare anything other than "hotcakes," and even those leave much to be desired. Another running gag centers around the frequent visits by Douglas's mother (Eleanor Audley) who sides with her daughter-in-law in regards to her own son's desire to live the simple live. Audley is best known for her vocal work as the wicked stepmother in Disney's "Cinderella," as well as Malificent in the studio's "Sleeping Beauty". Her occasional appearances on "Green Acres" show the comedic side of the actress.
By having the series set in the same locale as Henning's "Petticoat Junction" allowed frequent crossover appearances by Edgar Buchanan ("Uncle Joe") and Frank Cady ("Sam Drucker") who would become a regular on "Green Acres".
The other cast members were a mixed bag of crazies unlike anything else on television at the time. Farmhand Eb (Tom Lester) was like "The Beverly Hillbillies" Jethro, a doofus without the muscles. The Monroe "Brothers" (Sid Melton and an androgynous Mary Beth Canfield) were the carpenters from hell, forever starting construction on the Douglas's farmhouse but never quite finishing a project. Traveling salesman Mr. Haney (veteran cowboy sidekick Pat Butram) was forever plying his wares at a significant and unreasonable price.
And who can forget Fred and Doris Ziffel's "son," Arnold the pig. The porcine star had his own fan base the perhaps accounted for much of the show's success during its six-year run.
Though Eddie Albert's character was the most "serious" of the bunch, there were bits of lunacy centered around him, also. One ongoing bit involved his frequent monologues on the greatness of the American farm, while a patriotic fife plays in the background, for no apparent reason to the audience, as well as the listeners to his speeches.
Another inspired bit was during the opening credits of one installment. As Lisa was gathering eggs from the hen house, she discovered writing on the eggs: the names of the episode's writer, creator, and director.
One could best describe "Green Acres" as being the flip-side of "The Beverly Hillbillies" or "The Andy Griffith Show" on acid.
This show was to be the obverse of "The Beverly Hillbillies" and instead
turned out to be perhaps the most surreal TV show ever done in on American
Oliver Wendell Douglas is the button-downed, successful New York lawyer who longs to be a farmer (he even grows corn on the balcony of his Park Avenue apartment). So off he goes to Hooterville with his glamorous Hungarian wife where they begin to farm Green Acres and live a house so ramshakle that even the Joad family in "The Grapes of Wrath" probably wouldn't live in.
Oliver tends the farm every day in suit and tie and Lisa wears elegant gowns while cooking the only meal that she knows how to make---"hots cakes" which possess extraordinary qualities---some are like granite, others bubble like sulfur mud baths, and others are stickier than any adhesive known to science. The house itself is hilarious---the bedroom closet sliding door which flys off its runners each and every time Oliver touches it, the phone which is at the top of the telephone pole, the "pore-key" hole for the house which makes it impossible to paint the place. And occasionally Arnold the Pig, perhaps the smartest inhabitant of Hooterville, regularly comes in to watch television which is always showing the same show--a wild Western gunfight between cowboys and Indians.
That's just the house. The townspeople are an assortment of extreme oddballs. Hank Kimball, the memory-gapped county agent, Ed and Doris Ziffel who are the parents of Arnold, and Mr. Haney who is the biggest flim-flam man since P.T. Barnum (he sold Oliver the house in the first place) and who has a seemingly unlimited assortment of things to peddle to Oliver. Meanwhile, the Monroe Brothers, Alf and Ralph, are perpetually trying to repair Oliver's house. Ralph is a woman and probably the first female tradesman in the history of American television, decades before women were welcomed into the construction industry. Oliver's hired hand, Eb, lives in the barn. Even Eb gets surreal---one great episode has him trying to win a radio "name that tune" call-in show. Every song snippet that is played is exactly the same as the previous one but Eb always comes up with some bizarre new title which turns out to be right.
The entire world around Oliver is insane but he gamely struggles along, erupting on occasion but absolutely determined not to give up farming and regularly trying to inspire his neighbors with stirring speeches about the nobility of the American farmer---the backbone of the economy, while his neighbors keep wondering where the patriotic music-- which always accompanies Oliver's speeches--comes from.
This programme was traditionally thought of as just another of the cornpone
country comedies that CBS used to be noted for, like "Petticoat Junction" or
"The Beverly Hillbillies". But with its button-down straight man, Eddie
Albert, surrounded by a wild assortment of extraordinary oddballs, "Green
Acres" looks both backwards to the screwball comedies of the '30s and ahead
to the Bob Newhart series of shows which followed a similar premise.
I am a fan of the British absurdist tradition, as exemplified both by university humour, like "Monty Python" and "Fawlty Towers", with its basis in the antics of the Goons (and Alfred Jarry), and by John Lennon's disassociated imagery, with its basis, probably, in Edward Lear (and Hilaire Belloc), but I personally happen to believe that this particular show belongs to a distinct comedy continuum, one that's entirely American. But I do agree completely that where these two styles are concerned, fans of one are bound to appreciate the other.
I always thought that if Salvador Dali wanted to do a TV sitcom, he'd
come up with something like "Green Acres".
This show was a lot of fun, and thank God it never took itself seriously. It was also one of the first to really break the "fourth wall", making self-referential remarks, such as the characters pointing to the credits as they rolled, or having the characters refer to background music being played--I don't think any sitcom had ever done that before! Anyway, Eddie Albert did a great job as perennial straight man to the lunacy around him, with everyone else in on the strangeness. I watched this show as a kid and never really appreciated Oliver's predicament, but now, as a middle-aged man, I know exactly how he feels.
Forty years after its heyday, the show holds up very well. Give it a look.
I've been a fan of GREEN ACRES as long as it's been on the air. When my
wife says "how can you watch that? " I'm not worried because she just
doesn't get it. This show is not for everyone but for the ones who do
"get it" it's a ball to watch.
Eddie Albert was great as the lawyer turned gentleman farmer who seems to be the only one not affected by whatever was in the water in that strange place called Hooterville. A wonderful actor, the veteran of dozens of movies he played the straight man in a company of wacky characters that could have come from the mind of Rod Serling. Probably the only show on American television with this particular kind of absurdist humor, landing in Hooterville was like going through a tunnel and coming out in TOONTOWN where people understand pigs, can leave a written egg order for a hen and predict the weather with a coo coo clock.
The beautiful Eva Gab or was perfect as the Hungarian airhead who for a city girl had no trouble communicating with chickens, cows, pigs and all the off the wall locals. She made a name for herself in movies as the two timing, suicide prone mistress Liane d'Exelmans in the multiple Oscar winning GiGi. She was a good sport about all the humor involving her accent. I remember an interview where the reporter asked her why she still had such a heavy accent after living in the United States for so long and she replied without a seconds thought, "what are you trying to do, blow my act?" She was a class act all the way and although this show took place late in her career she was never more beautiful. Who can forget the situation where Lisa was determined to ruin the Governor's deer hunting party by flying over in a crop dusting plane shouting from a megaphone "RUN FOR YOUR LIVES, THE HUNTERS ARE GOING TO SHOOST YOU!"
For all the other fans out there who "get it" it's good to know we can get our Green Acres every day thanks to cable television. I predict that this show along with THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, and I LOVE LUCY will still be on the air and people will still be laughing in the year 2050.
I kinda re-discovered GA after having watched it as a kid. Back then, it seemed funny enough, but I wasn't intelligent enough to appreciate the show's genius for absurd situations and dialogue. Of course it helped tremendously that the cast was perfect, and that the chemistry among the actors was ideal. I watch the re-runs nearly every day and am freshly amazed at the wacky plots and how Oliver (Eddie Albert) always finds himself virtually alone on this distant "planet" of Hooterville. Even the lamer shows are still very funny. Too bad television had to "grow up" and produce "serious" comedies like "All in the Family" and "MASH", two distinctly shallow and smart-alec shows, void of all of Green Acres' charm and endearing insanity.
Watching this as a child during the late 1960's I didn't like this show. I didn't find it funny because it frustrated me! With all of the locals frustrating Mr. Douglas endlessly, they frustrated me too. Stumbling upon the show years later, the frustration was gone and I could finally enjoy the humor of it all. This was light years ahead of the tame (and boring) "Pettycoat Junction." This was life with "The Three Stooges." I always loved the on-going home improvement projects with the closet doors opening to the outside, the telephone poll phone, the over-blown big chic New York City furniture stuffed into a little farmhouse, Lisa's pink appliances, her cooking, Arnold the pig and many more. When they say they don't make 'em like they used to, they don't, and that's a darn shame.
I'll admit it. I must be pretty low-brow because I am a huge sucker for
this series. The chemistry and silliness are really hard to beat. When
you do watch the series, you'll notice that at the beginning Lisa
wasn't stupid at all and the show was a lot more conventional. However,
as the show continued, the episodes got sillier and
sillier--introducing Arnold the pig, a neighbor kid who went to the
moon, the town of Hooterville trying to host the Olympics, etc. The
show got a lot of criticism for its dopey humor, but if you watch it
you can't help but laugh--and that is what makes a great TV series.
By the way, if you have watched Petticoat Junction, do not assume this spin-off is similar at all. I never particularly liked Petticoat Junction, as it lacked the humor and silliness of Green Acres. Comparing the two is almost like comparing The Andy Griffith Show (great show) with Mayberry RFD (duller than watching paint dry).
When I was a kid, back in the 60's, there were two shows that I never
missed. "Lost In Space" was one, and "Green Acres" was the other. Funny that
both were on CBS, and I remember that my parents watched CBS's national
I always loved Mr. Haney, and when Mr. Douglas begins some story about "The American Farmer", and the patriotic music begins playing in the background. On one episode, the other actors begin looking for where the music is coming from. Priceless gag.
I am looking forward to the DVD of this series. I hope that they are cleaned up, as what we see on TV now are fairly faded prints of the show.
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