Wednesday, June 28, 2017
A Quick Look at TV: THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES
Paul Henning's greatest contribution to television (indeed, world pop culture) history was The Beverly Hillbillies. The premise was extremely simple: a hillbilly family becomes rich due to an oil strike and they move to Beverly Hills, where the city must adjust to them as much as they adjust to the city. The show struck a chord with the viewing public, and quickly became a ratings bonanza. The show's lasting popularity was due to a number of factors. The cast was perfect, the writing was sharp, and the show exuded charm. Rather than poke fun at country folk, the show more often than not showed the Clampetts to be the sharpest ones on the scene, grounded by the simple wisdom of patriarch Jed Clampett. Feisty Granny Clampett was always eager to return to the hills, but Jed felt his daughter Elly May stood a better chance of finding a good fella amid the educated young men of the West Coast. This was largely Mr. Drysdale's argument, for he feared the Clampetts would remove their billions from his bank. Drysdale lived next door to the Clampett's mansion, a condition Mrs. Drysdale was eager to change. Drysdale's secretary Miss Hathaway did what she could to smooth out misunderstandings, while also pining for Jed's nephew, hunky lunkhead Jethro. While Max Baer Jr. came to feel typecast as Jethro, and Donna Douglas wasn't too keen on her status as a sex symbol in the innocently inviting Elly May, the cast came together and filled their parts expertly. Irene Ryan was a firecracker and a knee-slapper as the elderly dynamo Granny. The true linchpin to the whole thing was Buddy Ebsen as Jed Clampett, though. He brought to the role such warmth and heart that Jed never came off as a cartoon character (much differently from the rest of his clan). Ultimately, though the laughs were plenteous, audiences loved the Clampetts because they were just good people. Henning maintained a personal hand in The Beverly Hillbillies rather than hand it off to a staff. The show was such a hit that the network eventually got two more shows from Henning which tied directly to The Beverly Hillbillies. Petticoat Junction told of misadventures in the rural community of Hooterville, just down the road from where the Clampetts lived. Green Acres, meanwhile, told of some city folk who moved to Hooterville to become farmers. All three were popular, as this era saw a real rural craze. Sadly, the network sought a more youthful image in the early 70's and purged everything clean and homespun from it's line-up. This Rural Purge signaled the end of the first golden era of television. The Clampetts would return in the TV movie THE RETURN OF THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES sometime in the 80's. The 90's saw a hugely popular big screen adaptation of the property hit theater screens, which kicked off a wave of movies based on old TV shows.