Paul Henning & Other Rural Sitcoms

Favorite Paul Henning Rural Comedy

  • The Beverly Hillbillies (1962─1971)

    Votes: 2 66.7%
  • Petticoat Junction (1963─1970)

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Green Acres (1965─1971)

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • All of them

    Votes: 1 33.3%
  • None of them

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    3

Caproni

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Paul Henning was the mastermind behind three of the biggest ratings-winners for CBS during the mid-to-late sixties --- The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, and Green Acres.

Which was your favorite of Henning's three rural-based comedies? Being TV lovers, as I'm sure many of you here are, do any of you have any thoughts on the infamous "Rural Purge" that swept the TV landscape in the early seventies?

Concerning Henning's television comedies as aforementioned, I have voted for all three of them. I have the complete series of The Beverly Hillbillies, while also owning the first three seasons of both Green Acres and Petticoat Junction.

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Snarky's Ghost

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BEVERLY HILLBILLIES was a show I never remember not knowing about, and it could be funnily ridiculous (as opposed to ridiculously funny) but could also drive me into angsty claustrophobic malaise as so many of those shows from that period could. GREEN ACRES was probably the one I found funniest, although Mr. Haney would compel me to leave the room.

Although it was the dullest and the least funny by far, PETTICOAT JUNCTION's opening theme, especially from the B&W first season, was a bit ghostly and nice.

But all those shows were time killers, highly formulaic things which gave you the premise in the opening theme lyric and then proceeded to repeat that premise with every canned-laughter-infused episode.

Relics of an era. None of them had the valid character-base of ANDY GRIFFITH.

So, yeah, I'm fine with the 1971 purge of the rural sitcoms. The westerns were dying out on both the big and small screens, too, so having the Clampetts and the Oliver Douglases airing alongside Mary Richards and Archie Bunker would have just seemed anachronistic somehow.


^^Horoscopically similar to Farrah...
 

Caproni

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@Snarky's Ghost
I am to young to have seen any of these shows during their initial runs. However, I fondly recollect my family watching reruns of THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES a lot when I was a kid, and I vaguely remember having knowledge of GREEN ACRES. The one I didn't anything about was PETTICOAT JUNCTION when my father brought it's theme song into the conversation one day. Naturally, being the curious TV nerd I am, I had to look this show up.

As aforementioned, I can't seem to remember not knowing about THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES. And, also agreeing with you, I think I find GREEN ACRES the funniest of the batch. Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor were a hilarious comedy duo on the show---he the hothead and she the naïve wife. No one really liked him, but every one loved her. GREEN ACRES also had a surrealistic humor that I really liked. The Hooterville townspeople were funnier on GA than they ever were on PETTICOAT JUNCTION.

Now, I agree/disagree (or straddle the fence) with your opinion(s) on PETTICOAT JUNCTION. While I will semi-agree that it was the least humorous of the three (I don't think the word dull fits... not to me anyhow), it does hold a special little place in my heart. The first three seasons had some pretty good episodes, but it offered a more "sedate" comedy than GREEN ACRES or THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES were putting out there. Season 3 was probably the show's best year, but the change in tone that occurred in season 4 (that stayed until its cancellation) by adding the multiple musical numbers just weren't my cup of tea. Keep in mind, however, this opinion about PJ's later seasons comes from a viewer who hasn't seen but a only a small percentage of the show's episodes post-Season 3.

THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW is a show I've seen quite a bit of. There are several episodes within it that I enjoy thoroughly, but I somehow always get the feel that its a tad overrated. Similar to PETTICOAT JUNCTION, it is broken into two sections (at least in my mind): the Barney/B&W years and the post-Barney/color years. The B&W seasons with Barney as Sheriff Andy's slightly "off" deputy were definitely better, although the color seasons do hold some gems, too. In saying that, however, I do see it as overrated. It is a good show, but I think it gets the acclaim that simply alludes other classics from the same era that aren't as well-known but were just as good or, in the view of some, perhaps even better.
 

Snarky's Ghost

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There is no question that the first five B&W seasons of ANDY GRIFFITH were superior to the louder, color episodes with their crasser late-'60s TV vibe.

That's a pretty common viewpoint and I share it.

I sort of wish the show had ended in 1965, for the same reasons it was a good thing that DICK VAN DYKE closed up shop in 1966: a fundamentally Kennedy era show doesn't adjust well to what came later in the decade.

BTW: and what about GILLIGAN'S ISLAND? -- I know there's already a Ginger versus MaryAnn thread, but the show is sort of a rural sitcom, if you think about it, and it was funnier than all of them!

 

Caproni

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There is no question that the first five B&W seasons of ANDY GRIFFITH were superior to the louder, color episodes with their crasser late-'60s TV vibe.

That's a pretty common viewpoint and I share it.

I sort of wish the show had ended in 1965, for the same reasons it was a good thing that DICK VAN DYKE closed up shop in 1966: a fundamentally Kennedy era show doesn't adjust well to what came later in the decade.

BTW: and what about GILLIGAN'S ISLAND? -- I know there's already a Ginger versus MaryAnn thread, but the show is sort of a rural sitcom, if you think about it, and it was funnier than all of them!

It does seem that many have the same attitude that THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW should have ended following Don Knotts' exit. I'm sure some might even refuse to acknowledge the last three seasons. Some TV channels that rerun the show don't even show the color seasons.

I've never been a fan of THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, so I couldn't comment on it.

As for GILLIGAN'S ISLAND, yes, I created the Ginger or Mary Ann thread to discuss and poll which island beauty was favored among the majority here. As for the show itself, it's one of my favorites from the 1960s. As you have said, I do prefer over all the rural shows that have been mentioned above here. And I've actually never thought of it as a "rural comedy," but in a sense I guess it kinda is.
 

Seaviewer

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They all had their moments but The Beverly Hillbillies was the original. Green Acres was the same idea reversed. I'm not sure if Petticoat Junction was originally a spin-off or if they connected it retroactively by saying that Bea Benaderet's two characters were related.
 

Caproni

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PETTICOAT JUNCTION wasn't a spinoff of BEVERLY HILLBILLIES. Bea Benaderet, a veteran of TV, was always a second banana. In 1963, she left BH for PJ, starring as Kate Bradley. Later, following Benaderet's real life demise, Granny from BH visited the Shady Rest Hotel to help Steve and Betty Jo with their newborn daughter. While visiting, she sees a picture of Kate and remarks as to how much she looks like Jed's cousin Pearl (Bea Benaderet was Pearl Bodine on season one of BH.)

GREEN ACRES was set in Hooterville, apparently just up the railroad tracks from PJ's Shady Rest Hotel. Evidently, all three comedies existed in the same TV universe, but GA and PJ were the most closely intertwined, especially during GA's earlier seasons. (GA and PJ shared several characters and [to my guessing] some of the same sets.) GA was ultimately more successful than PJ, in first-run and syndication. PJ slide from the top rather quickly, and went down particularly fast following its mid-series change in tone/direction.
 

Snarky's Ghost

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PETTICOAT JUNCTION was always recasting those three trollops bathing in the railroad water tower and yet I never noticed.

I guess THE REAL McCOYS with Walter Brennan, which I found unwatchable, started the rural sitcom craze, predating even the much more endearing ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW by three years.

 

Seaviewer

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PETTICOAT JUNCTION wasn't a spinoff of BEVERLY HILLBILLIES. Bea Benaderet, a veteran of TV, was always a second banana. In 1963, she left BH for PJ, starring as Kate Bradley. Later, following Benaderet's real life demise, Granny from BH visited the Shady Rest Hotel to help Steve and Betty Jo with their newborn daughter. While visiting, she sees a picture of Kate and remarks as to how much she looks like Jed's cousin Pearl (Bea Benaderet was Pearl Bodine on season one of BH.)
Thanks for the clarification. I remembered the BH/PJ crossover but wasn't sure how it all fit together.
I guess THE REAL McCOYS with Walter Brennan, which I found unwatchable, started the rural sitcom craze, predating even the much more endearing ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW by three years.
Ah, yes, The Real McCoys. I remember that quite fondly although now I can't remember why. :lol:
 

Caproni

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You're welcome @Seaviewer for the clarification. Anytime.

I've noticed the mentioning of The Real McCoys here. I don't believe I've ever seen it. Is it any good?
 

Caproni

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PETTICOAT JUNCTION was always recasting those three trollops bathing in the railroad water tower and yet I never noticed.
Yes, I know of many who watched the show sporadically in reruns, but never really caught the changing faces on the three Bradley girls.

Betty Jo (the redhead), the youngest, was always the same; played by show-creator Paul Henning's daughter Linda Kaye Henning (billed as just "Linda Kaye" in the earlier seasons).

There were two Bobbie Jo's (the brunette), the middle daughter. For the first two seasons, Pat Woodell was Bobbie Jo, an occasionally socially awkward bookworm. Starting in season three and staying until the show's final seventh season, Bobbie Jo was played by Lori Saunders, although she became increasingly daffy and bubble headed.

And as for Billie Jo (the blonde), the oldest sister, well, she had three faces. For the B&W first two seasons, she was Jeannine Riley, a bit of a light-header whose main focus was boys. For season three (the first in color), she was Gunilla Hutton, still boy crazy, but now a little more level-headed and future-minded. (Gunilla Hutton made the smallest impact as Billie Jo. Due to illness, she missed perhaps a dozen episodes of season three and her contract was not renewed at the season's close.) Starting in season four and staying until show-wrapup after season seven, Meredith MacRae played Billie Jo, who was now a more sophisticated and mature young woman with singing aspirations.

There were many other cast/character changes within the show's secondary and minor cast members over its seven-year duration, too.

I read somewhere on the web where an author was explaining the changing faces at the Shady Rest Hotel and its surroundings: "If you got confused when they changed Darrins on Bewitched, then Petticoat Junction is not the show for you."
 

Seaviewer

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I've noticed the mentioning of The Real McCoys here. I don't believe I've ever seen it. Is it any good?
I remember it as being enjoyable at the time. It was a 30 minute sitcom which as Snarky said starred Walter Brennan. He played "grandpappy Amos", the patriarch of a farming family. Richard Crenna was also in it - as his married son if I'm not mistaken.
 

Caproni

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I just got the complete series of GREEN ACRES for my birthday.

A couple of weeks back, I watched the episode called "The Ex-Secretary" of GREEN ACRES, and I was puzzled at how little it had to do with the main characters. It concerned a woman named Carol Rush, played by Elaine Joyce, an ex-secretary of Oliver's who he contacts to figure out the name of the place where she once sent for his watch to be fixed. The story revolves entirely around this Carol character and her life in New York, where she's working as a secretary to another businessman.

While watching the episode, I remember thinking that this must've been some attempt by the network and/or producers of GREEN ACRES to evolve this episode into its own series. Almost immediately thereafter, when I browsed the internet, I found out the episode "The Ex-Secretary" was the finale episode of GREEN ACRES, and was also an attempt by creator Jay Sommers to kickoff a new show he was calling CAROL. Ultimately, the CBS network and producers ended up passing on CAROL as a series, and GREEN ACRES was quietly canceled as a part of the now-called "rural purge" of television shows in 1971.

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The penultimate episode of GREEN ACRES, entitled "Hawaiian Honeymoon", which was intended as a spin-off series called PAM, starring actress Pamela Franklin. CBS also passed on this idea.

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The general consensus is that Jay Sommers knew that CBS was preparing to cancel GREEN ACRES in 1971, and he pitched two other ideas near the end of the show to hopefully spark network interest in keeping him on the payroll as the producer of another series. His strategy backfired, and CBS took no notice to either "Hawaiian Honeymoon" and "The Ex-Secretary" episode.

Some straddle the fence as to whether or not Sommers actually knew that CBS was getting ready to axe GREEN ACRES. While I can somewhat see their doubts, I personally think that Sommers must've seen the writing on the wall. PETTICOAT JUNCTION had been canceled the previous year, and with a host of other "rural-themed" shows getting canned in the early seventies, I think he tried his best at spitting out newer ideas to hopefully get the network to keep him around. It just didn't work for him is all.
 

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Of the Paul Henning rural sitcoms, THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES is the only one I really like. I love the first two seasons, but it went downhill quickly after that. Although the third season does have Granny mistaking a kangaroo for a giant jackrabbit, which is about as close to a live-action "Looney Tunes" as I've seen. In the right mood, I can watch a bit of GREEN ACRES although it's far from a favorite. I've never seen a full episode of PETTICOAT JUNCTION and the very limited bits I've seen haven't given me a reason to seek out more.

Interesting thing about HILLBILLIES' transition to color in the third season is that its tone didn't immediately change; most sitcoms of the era became brassier when the transitioned away from B&W, HILLBILLIES' problem is that its thin premise just ran out; it didn't adopt that loud, tacky tone until later in its color years.
 

Caproni

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Of the Paul Henning rural sitcoms, THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES is the only one I really like. I love the first two seasons, but it went downhill quickly after that. Although the third season does have Granny mistaking a kangaroo for a giant jackrabbit, which is about as close to a live-action "Looney Tunes" as I've seen. In the right mood, I can watch a bit of GREEN ACRES although it's far from a favorite. I've never seen a full episode of PETTICOAT JUNCTION and the very limited bits I've seen haven't given me a reason to seek out more.

Interesting thing about HILLBILLIES' transition to color in the third season is that its tone didn't immediately change; most sitcoms of the era became brassier when the transitioned away from B&W, HILLBILLIES' problem is that its thin premise just ran out; it didn't adopt that loud, tacky tone until later in its color years.
"The Giant Jackrabbit" episode of THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES aired during its second season. (season 2, episode 16) It remains one of the most watched TV episodes of all time. It was the highest-rated episode of THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, and rightfully one of the most culturally popular, too. It's a definitive episode for the show in a lot of ways.

I'm not too familiar with the color seasons of THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES because most networks seem fond of showing those original three black-and-white seasons. I've seen a chunk of the color episodes, but it doesn't seem to same. The premise did wear itself thin, and once they starting sending people back to the cabin, it didn't even make sense anymore. The whole point was them being the "fish of water" in the big city. THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES ran for nine seasons, but probably could've stopped after five, if not sooner. The first three years are next to flawless, but it did get old after a while.

As for GREEN ACRES, I've always preferred it to THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES and PETTICOAT JUNCTION. It's funnier to me and I like the surreal reality they bring into a lot. It fits that zany Hooterville neck-of-the-woods, and it all comes across well. Sure, GREEN ACRES grew stale too, but I personally like it better.
 

Chris2

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Originally, Beverly Hillbillies was not in the same universe as Green Acres and Petticoat Junction. A second season episode has the characters on GA appearing in a charity production of The Beverly Hillbillies. So BH is originally a TV show in the Hooterverse. But once Bea Benaderet passed away, BH was moved into the Hooterverse, with crossover appearances to help prop up the faltering PJ.

I also agree that the first three seasons of PJ are best. After that, producer Jay Sommers left to concentrate on GA full time. That’s when the tone of PJ changed and it became so much more straight-laced, with all the old time music. It’s too bad the first two seasons (in B&W) weren’t included in the PJ rerun package for so long. They are two of the strongest seasons. They also included nearly half of Bea Benaderet’s appearances on the show, and she played the most important character. The quality of the show really plummeted without her.
 
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