The Beverly Hillbillies (1962–1971)
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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.
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.
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!!
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.
This series under the created brainchild of Paul Henning,who also served as executive producer along with Al Simon,about a poor backwoods family from the hills of either Missouri or Tennessee are transplanted to the wealth of Beverly Hills,California after striking oil on their land. Produced under Filmways productions,creator and writer Paul Henning made it "a fish out of water" of themed television shows that spawned two spin-offs that were also country cousin shows for CBS-TV,among them were "Petticoat Junction" in 1963,and in 1965 he reversed the rags to riches model for "Green Acres". The show paved the way for later culture-conflict programs such as "McCloud", "Carter Country","The Dukes of Hazzard", "Doc", "The Nanny",and "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air". The reason why "The Beverly Hillbillies" are still a favorite among some of the great TV shows is because the episodes in their own right were hilariously funny. Jed Clampett was a wise poor mountain man who used his good old country wisdom in saying anything that came rational. Granny Moses,the world's most Confederate widow was tough but rational too,but when she gets riled up with people who want to tested her,when she has a jug of moonshine in one hand and the shotgun in the other. Jethro had the be one of the dumbest characters in the history of television..was the village idiot who basically got by on a sixth grade education,and then there was Elly Mae,the sexy tomboy who was gorgeous on one side and a fighting wildcat on the other. Add to this the cheap and opportunistic banker Milburn Drysdale and his voice of reason while Jane Hathaway(Mr. Drysdale's assistant)was just as normal as the rest of them,but later on turns out to be as crazy as the rest of them,especially in some of the episodes where she turns her vixen charms to seduce Jethro. Add in a variety of characters including Cousin Pearl(Bea Benaderet), Mrs. Drysdale(Harriet MacGibbon),and other zany characters and you have one hell of a funny sitcom that remains hilarious today as it was when audiences saw it back in 1962.
Its no wonder "The Beverly Hillbillies" was ranked among the top twelve most watched series on television for seven of its nine seasons,twice ranking the number one series of the year(It went straight to Number One three weeks prior to its debut in 1962). Several episodes do stand out as vintage classics,but this was a series that still brings on the laughs! The final episode on March 23,1971 was an end to an era of classic TV shows that were brilliant during the 1960's.
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.
Needless to say, the Clampetts were fish-out-of-water, living in their mansion among the filthy rich denizens of Beverley Hills. The humor of this show, centered on the extreme culture-clash between the salt-of-the-earth Clampetts, and the privileged folks that they encounter in their new home, in Beverley Hills.
When they arrive in Beverely Hills, the Clampetts are taken under the wing of sophisticated, wily Banker, Milburn Drysdale. Drysdale is also the Clampetts neighbor. It was particularly hilarious, to watch super-snob Drysdale having to bow-and-scrape to the Clampetts, because they were his bank's most wealthy customers.
The cast for this show, were all perfect for their roles. The chemistry between them, jelled superbly. And each episode, was always side-splitting funny. The writers for this show, had to have been the most talented in the television industry.
The fish-out-of-water theme of this show, was common for 60s TV series. The 60s was about shaking-up the status quo, and television shows certainly reflected that trend. Many 60s shows had this fish-out-of-water theme, such as Bewitched, My Favorite Martian, and numerous others. But none of those other shows could compare to the loose-cannon style of comedy, that characterized The Beverley Hillbillies.
You can catch The Beverley Hillbillies on cable, on the TVLand network. You owe it yourself to watch it, and see why this show is one of the best classic sitcoms ever.
The series had continuity as it would refer back to previous episodes very often throughout it's run. The show had very good production qualities, great locations, & was in a way spun off & in conjunction with Petticoat Junction & Green Acres. When Fred Silverman canceled it in the early 1970's, it was one of the most stupid things ever done by a television executive.
Irene Ryan was the kind of Granny who was like nobody else. She was a ball of fire who could hold her own with anyone. Jethro (Max Baer Jr) was the 6th grade graduate who was more like a college egghead except that routine was naive, not political. Donna Douglas (Elly Mae) was the tomboy everyone wanted to love but whose only love was her critters (animals).
This original series was so good that when a movie of it was tried with different actors, it just could not work. Lots of people popped into this show as guests. Everybody who was anybody would pop up from John Wayne & many other well known actors to athletes like pitchers Don Drysdale & Sandy Koufax of the Dodgers.
Animals from Giant Jack Rabbits to Possum, porpoises, poodles & a whole menagerie of animals were on the show. This series never lacked for variety either as almost everything us city folks do was on there. The show never lost it's freshness, even finding new ways to make banker Drysdale (Raymond Bailey) look like more of a Scrooge & even making him into a soldier when he and Jethro face off in tanks!
This is a show that never lost its naivety, charm, or ever wore out it's welcome with the American public when it ran on CBS. The last line of the shows credits always reverberates through my mind:
"Sit a spell, take your shoes off. You all come back now, hear?"
Thanks for all the good laughs you brought me and still do whenever I watch the shows, Kim
Granny had 'pride' in her Southern Heritage, as she welcomed all into her home for 'vittles'. The networks in their infinite 'wisdom', and bowing to the pressures of the budding 'P.C.' movement we 'enjoy' today canceled this show and others like it, Petticoat Junction, and Green Acres by the early to mid seventies. Irene Dunn(granny) died soon after, but, the Beverly Hillbillies had the last laugh, they are still on the air and enjoyed by Millions.
I also wondered if their last name "Clampett" was a reference to Bob Clampett who directed some Looney Tunes cartoons. Anyway, this is a classic show.
Some Guy: This Jethro is amazingly smart. Where he comes two plus two equals five! (or something like that)
What makes the humor in this show work so well is the contrast between the Hillbillies and the rich Beverly Hills folk. Even though there are always a lot of laughs directed at the Clampett Clan, most of the most cutting jokes are playing fun at the rich people who just can't relate to them. Although this is basically a rip-off of "The Egg and I" type of humor, it works particularly well here because the writing and the players are so good.
Can I just say also that the episodes where Granny becomes a Beatnik icon are the best? I wish I could catch these ones on the air again, because they were really funny. That's another mark of the show's excellence: unlike most sitcoms in which situations are always wrapped up by show's end, the BH show often carried over plotlines from episode to episode, and made note of any changes in the characters and their situations (such as the inclusion of the "critters" through the middle of the first season).
Also, it should be noted that in general the black and white episodes are superior to the color episodes, which means that (owing to programmers' tired insistence for decades on showing color episodes of borderline shows like this one and "Gilligan's Island") only the lesser episodes of the show have been seen for years. Thanks to TVLand for airing the black and white episodes with great frequency.
Too bad they don't make 'em like this anymore.